Job Shadow Your Way to A New Job Or Business

Job Shadow Your Way to A New Job Or Business

Job Shadowing Tips From Founder of A New Job Shadowing Service


Lucy Standing, founder of Job Shadowing site ViewVo shares why job shadowing is the way to get a feel for a potential job, business or career and how to go about it…

Would you buy a house without viewing it?  If you’ve never tasted a rambutan before, how will you know if you like it?  Trying things out and getting a feel for them gives us such good insight into whether or not we’ll like something – it seems not only odd, but a hugely missed opportunity to not try out and observe and experience different jobs before we take (in some cases) drastic measures.

Think about it – people give up jobs and do degrees for jobs they won’t know they’ll like.   People invest life savings in business ideas they don’t know they’ll be able to make successful. We take careful measures in most other areas of our lives but when it comes to selecting a job, we don’t typically have the luxury of trying something out before we commit.

This is why I started ViewVo, which is a service I’m developing to help people shadow successful business experts doing jobs they are dreaming about.  Let me share a short story of a true example of Mary who shadowed Susannah just last week.

Job Shadowing At Work


Mary read about ViewVo in the Sunday Times and got in touch with Susannah Hunter.  Mary is an accountant and has had a hobby of sewing and creating handbags and accessories for years and years. Susannah runs a successful handbag design and accessories business.  She’s taught at Central St Martins, she exports to her huge following in Japan, her studio has developed and trained over 30 people over the last 25 years.  Featured in Vogue, Grazia, the Evening standard and many many more, what Susannah doesn’t know about this industry simply isn’t worth knowing.

Susannah tailored the day around Mary and what she wanted to learn. They went through Mary’s ideas for her business and Susannah gave in depth guidance on costs – how to develop business, which journalists to speak to, what suppliers to use, how to brand and develop a following.  If you imagine, after 25 years, Susannah has learned which zips work best, what studs still look good after 5 years, who is likely to call back – and who isn’t.  All this, Mary learned and understood in one day.  She even went to meet one of Susannah’s suppliers the next day.  In Mary’s own words: ‘I found the day with Susannah absolutely brilliant’.

The reality of different jobs isn’t found in a blog post or in our imaginations. When we are frustrated in our current jobs or dreaming of a new one, we fill in the blanks we don’t know with hopes and optimism: the optimism bias. To ensure we aren’t making career moves based on bias, the only way to really find out what is the perfect career for you is to try it out.  Even a day can be informative. Why? Because we already know a lot about ourselves. Going back to our house and Rambutan analogy above, how long does it take you to make a decision about whether or not you like a house you’re viewing? How about eating a rambutan?  How long does it take before you realise you do or don’t like it?

job shadowing

ViewVo didn’t invent job shadowing.  Anyone can find their own job shadowing opportunity and what we’ve found over the last 18 months is some great tips on how to go about finding your own shadowing opportunity.

Approach people who are already doing the job

Don’t approach anyone – there are hundreds of people out there and some are doing it far more successfully than others. Do your research and approach the best.  If you shadow someone who is working in a half hearted manner, they are less likely to agree to you shadowing them.  It is the passionate ones who are doing well who are more likely to want to share and give back – sharing their passion is in itself rewarding for the right person.

Be prepared to get rejected

For every 5 people I approach, 4 don’t want to do this. It isn’t for everyone and don’t take it personally if someone can’t make the time for you. Think about it – if someone asked you if they could shadow you at work, would you like it?  You’re opening yourself up to scrutiny and let’s be honest, it’s a hassle.  People are busy.  Some struggled to get where they are and they don’t always want to help others.  This isn’t you and it doesn’t mean you are a bad person.  Don’t lose heart – trust me, you will get there.

Understand their fears

If you are wanting to go into a new industry, you might ultimately be a competitor. By being up front and addressing the fear by indicating you will be operating in a different sector or location, will massively help to put people at ease. For example, if you want to shadow a florist, indicate you have no intention of setting up in their town/village area. To this end:

Be prepared to travel

This is your life!  If the best person to shadow lives in Newcastle and you’re based in London, go an make a short break out of the opportunity. Where and who you shadow should be based on their expertise and their ability to help – not how convenient it is for you.

Offer them something in return

I’m Vice Chair of the Association for Business Psychology (a not for profit professional body).  I  get asked a lot by students and those switching into business psychology to go out for coffee. Yes – I do like helping others, but I simply don’t have the time and the harsh reality is, there isn’t really anything in this for me. I know others feel the same.  You can’t expect people to give up valuable time and share details which will ultimately make you more successful if you offer nothing in return.  So you have to evaluate – how can you ‘earn’ your time?  If you’re an accountant can you offer to review what they pay their accountant for their service?  If you are a customer, can you write them a review?  If you are a blogger can you write about them?  Can you tell your friends about their product or service?  There is a way you can help back and even if you can’t the fact you are trying and making a gesture is likely to go down well.

Don’t shadow your friends or family

You really want to know about income, what staff get paid, how much they spend on advertising, what rent they pay, what clauses to look out for and so on.  If you have a friend, they are very likely not going to want to share this sort of detail with you – it’s too personal.  Whereas someone who you don’t know, where you’ve asked if this is something you can discuss is more likely to be willing to share.

Sign an NDA (non disclosure agreement)

I must confess, I’ve not done my homework here as on my site, we’ve had a bespoke one drawn up by our lawyers, but I’m guessing there are standard on legal documents you can download.  The point is, be up front about the advice and guidance being for you personally and you agree not to share it beyond your own immediate circle (partner, best friend).  If someone thinks you’re about to blog and blast out all their hard earned industry insights, I’ll tell you this for nothing – they won’t do it.  By sharing this and giving them a copy, it shows you are taking their guidance seriously and treating it with the value and respect it deserves.

Give Thanks

Obviously, it goes without saying that if you spend time with anyone, thank them. Tell them 6, 12 months down the line how you are getting on. If someone has invested time with you, they will love hearing how they’ve helped. But don’t overdo it. Unless they’ve made the offer or unless you’ve developed a relationship where you feel certain of the parameters, keep your distance and respect their time.


In summary, the right next career for you is something you will learn through experience. You won’t ‘find’ your passion by reading, dreaming or thinking. You will find it when you invest time and energy in doing. I hope this advice gets you one step closer to the doing part. Find out more at ViewVo including a chance to job shadow yours truly!


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