Cornell University

Student Overview

Congratulations! You are ready to connect with a Cornell alumnum, in a field of work that you are interested in exploring, in a location you are excited to visit. But you're not sure where to start. What is job shadowing, really? What questions should you ask? Where do you start? If you are asking yourself questions like this, check out the options below.

Job Shadowing

An activity that enables a person to spend some time observing a professional on the job. These observations can help you to see how textbook learning can be applied in the real world.

To have an effective job shadowing experience, you should be prepared with questions. Imagine you are a journalist or researcher: you are trying to dig deep into your own career exploration. What do you want to know about? Challenges? Purpose? Important issues within an industry? What keeps the alumnus up at night? How the alumnus got to where they are?

Spend time developing strong questions to ask to ensure you have a positive experience.

When you initially set up your job shadowing experience, be honest with your alumnus contact about what you hope to learn from the experience. Ask questions and provide suggestions for what would make the experience most meaningful to you. For example, are you hoping to see a client interaction? Ask if this would be possible! Do you want to meet other Cornellians that work for the same organization? Ask if your contact can put together a lunch-time meet and greet. 

Informational Interviews

Information interviewing is a specific networking tool for learning firsthand about a career path, employer, industry, or other career information. It is the process of conducting exploratory conversations with those in your career network who can give you career advice and introduce you to others who can help you define your goals. Unlike a job interview, an information interview should be a low-stress situation where you decide whom to interview, what questions to ask, and how to evaluate what you learn. 

Information interviewing helps to achieve several goals:

  • Gather information to determine whether or not a potential career or company is a good match for your skills and interests.
  • Make a lasting impression and develop long-term relationships.
  • Obtain referrals (contacts or opportunities), follow through on advice, and stay in touch.