Category Archives: Job Shadow

Reminder: Job Shadow Project Guidelines

WPC Job Shadow Project
Due Wednesday, March 6, hardcopy in class

“How am I supposed to know about a culture I’m not already in?”

That’s the question many new graduates have when applying for that first post-college job, or when listening to career counselors speak about “knowing your field.” If you aren’t yet in a career path, how will you know the right things to say, the people to know?

This project is an opportunity for you to gain entry into your prospective field, or to learn about a career you are interested in. It’s also a chance to network.

Your assignment is to interview a person who has a job you’d like someday and find out just what it is s/he does. This project is predicated on a face-to-face meeting with this person so you can learn not just procedural information, but also see what his/her office looks like, how the person acts in said work environment and how you react to the work place. If you can follow the person for a part or the entirety of their workday, that would be ideal.

You will develop a list of questions to ask this person. See the class blog for tips on interviewing, in addition to the advice in your textbook. Keep in mind you may want to give your subject the list of questions ahead of time so s/he can prepare. (I am also happy to look at your questions beforehand and offer suggestions—just ask!) What you’ll find more and more is that everyone is busy, no matter what their job, so do as much as you can to help this person help you. Arrange this meeting with plenty of notice so you can meet the due date.

What your paper MUST have:

  • The person’s name, place of work and position in the company—the basics
  • A detailed and critical description of the place itself
  • Some sort of explanation of the job
  • Your perspective on what you observed
  • At least two sources beyond your interview contact that contextualize the job, the company, the field, etc.
  • A separate sheet that lists the times you visited and the person’s contact information
  • Been proofread

Your paper should be 5 pages in length (approx. 1500 words), double-spaced, 12-pt. font, 1 inch margins. Use APA style for formatting and citing your sources.

The way you organize and present this paper is up to you. The only format I will not accept is a transcript of your interview; there’s not enough room to show critical thinking in that context. You should be reflective and critical about your experience, not simply saying that it was “great” or “unexpected,” but show that you’ve thought about what it means to enter a career culture and what you might need to do to join that group. If the job is somehow related to your major here at Pitt, what did you think about the workplace application of your education? Are you prepared to enter that world? What might you need to do or learn? How can you further prepare for that career?


What you will be graded on:

  • Did you explain the job—a typical day, main responsibilities, annoyances and great parts?
  • Did you characterize the person you interviewed?
  • Did you describe the place in such a way that is telling of the atmosphere and so that your readers can picture it?
  • Did you explain the job in context of your studies or what you already know about the field?
  • Did you reference at least two academic, governmental or other reputable sources (NOT Wikipedia) to help contextualize the job in the wider world?
  • Have you spoken from your perspective? What did you expect? What surprised you? What did you leave excited (or upset) about?
  • Did you address how this experience might affect future actions toward your career goals?
  • Is the paper proofread, in APA style and error free?
  • Did you avoid interview format and craft a standalone, interesting piece of writing for an audience beyond this class?
  • Did you include a separate sheet detailing when you visited your subject and his/her contact information?
  • Did you post an excerpt of your project to your blog, if relevant? This does NOT count as a regular blog post.)

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In Class Activity

Interviewing – and being interviewed – is a key skill to develop for professional situations. Based on the advice in your reading for this week (particularly p. 157-158), work with a classmate on one of the following mock interview scenarios.

Option 1: Suppose you want to know your partner’s views on media representations of 20-somethings in the workplace. What specific movies, books or other media does s/he think best show young adults’ struggles and experiences?

Option 2: How does being either a commuter or resident student affect one’s college experience?

Once you’ve decided which topic you’ll discuss, each of you should separately develop a list of 5-10 questions to ask each other. There should be some mix between open-ended and yes/no, between basic and follow-up. Once you have your questions ready, start the interview. Try to make it as natural as possible, with small talk and unscripted follow-up questions. Take notes as you chat.

When you feel you have a good idea of your partner’s views, do a short write-up of the conversation. Imagine this will be published in Pitt News – make it interesting and relevant to that audience. Also be sure to describe your partner and use quotations.

If you have extra time: Develop a list of potential secondary sources you could include in your write-up. What kinds of additional contextualizing information might be useful? Who else might you interview? Consider the checklist on p. 166 for ideas.

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Interviewing Tips, How to Google

Interviewing Advice

Perhaps the most important tip to take from this article is:

Open conversation. Unlike simple yes-or-no questions, open-ended questions invite the respondent to talk — and enable you to gather much more information. “What do you like best about this company?” is likely to generate more valuable information than “Do you like this company?” Another tactic is to ask a question in the declarative format — “Tell me about that.” People who won’t answer questions sometimes respond better to a direct order.

How to Google

Think you know everything about searching the internet? Think again.

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