Last Updated: Aug 20, 2020
As summer approaches, high school students (and their parents) are trying to find the best, most productive ways to spend their time away from school. Many students are asking, "What can I do this summer to boost my college applications?" Instead of applying for that job at Burger King, how about creating an experience that will supercharge your college application? Try job shadowing—spending a day or week observing a person in a career field—or multiple fields—that interests you.
Finding job-shadowing opportunities
Many students wrongly believe that job shadowing is hard to come by. That’s because most students approach it the wrong way. The best opportunities won’t be found on Monster or Indeed—they’re created. Start with the people you know, people your parents know, and family friends. You’d be surprised how resourceful your inner circle is and just how far a referral goes. If you aspire to be a dentist, shadow one. A pediatrician? Job shadowing is a perfect way to observe what it’s like in a clinical setting. Not only will job shadowing create a worthwhile summer, it also looks amazing on college applications. It shows a college you aren’t just saying you want to be an architect or doctor or whatever; you’re showing them you took the initiative to explore this passion. Contact your family dentist. Explain to her that you’re an aspiring dentist, and ask if you can observe in her office for a week or two. Then explain the value you intend to add to her practice. (Remember, job shadowing must be mutually beneficial.)
Related: Top Tips for Summer Job Shadowing
Getting familiar with LinkedIn
When approaching job-shadowing opportunities, utilize LinkedIn to highlight your leadership skills. Think of LinkedIn as an online portfolio. Instead of emailing a boring résumé, send your LinkedIn profile. A LinkedIn page is more personal than a résumé. Think of it as making your one-page résumé come to life and highlighting who you are as an individual. Do you play the violin? Why not post a video of one of your performances. Are you a soccer player? Post a video of your winning goal. Take your time and make your LinkedIn page personal, highlighting your goals, accomplishments, and why a university would be happy to have you as one of their students.
Creating a LinkedIn page is a task that needs to be nurtured: a constant work in progress. It’s a great use of time for students to build up their profile and start networking while on summer break. Make connections, get endorsements, and ask for recommendations. This way, when you approach job shadowing or internship opportunities, an employer can learn more about you and your leadership skills through your LinkedIn profile. Once you obtain that coveted job-shadowing opportunity, you can stay in touch with colleagues through LinkedIn too. Build your relationships; one opportunity often leads to the next.
Perseverance is key when seeking a job-shadowing opportunity. If the first person you contact says “no,” keep calling other prospects. Hands-on learning experiences are out there for ambitious students, but it takes diligence and hard work to obtain them.
For more advice on summer work opportunities, check out our Internships and Careers section.