In the Spotlight: Job Shadow Day

Exploring New Interests at Dartmouth College

By Kayla Wade '16, UVBEP Intern

April 2, 2013 marked the 15th annual Job Shadow Day event sponsored by UVBEP. This year, over 400 eighth grade students from 10 different middle schools in the Upper Valley shadowed a variety of careers at more than 100 local businesses. UVBEP has offered over 8,500 middle school students the chance at an in-depth experience in a specific career path since 1999 in order to help participants begin to figure out jobs they might be interested in early on.

At Dartmouth College, students shadowed a wide array of careers across several of the college’s departments. Divided into small groups, students spent the morning with a host whose career matched their current interests. For some, that connection was clear. One student who shadowed at Tiltfactor, Dartmouth’s game research lab, said the career matched his future plans perfectly. “I'm going to college for game design,” he said. “So I wanted to see what the career is like.”

While others may not have had a bold connection, all of the students gained a new perspective of a job they might not have otherwise considered a “good match.” One student shadowing at the Hood Museum of Art explained that he was interested in art, but his focus was on drawing, animating and writing books. However, by the end of the day his host drew the connection from drawing and writing to her job dealing with the works at the museum. “A lot of these pieces follow a narrative,” she said. “So you have to be able look at a piece of art and figure out the story behind it.”
As I continued my tour of other Job Shadow sites around campus, I saw the light bulb going off over countless students’ heads as they realized how the job they were shadowing related to their specific interests. One student who shadowed a chef in the Hanover Inn explained, “I have always liked to cook, and this job is actually really fun.”

After the students got a taste of a specific job, the Dartmouth hosts gathered the participants for a collective lunch, so the kids could share their experiences with one another and reflect on their shadows as a whole. The lunch started with a Human Resources representative offering some insight into the event and Dartmouth careers. She explained that an overwhelming majority of employees at Dartmouth aren’t academic professors like many might think, which shows how you can never know exactly where you will end up. “You just have to keep your options open,” she advised. “Always explore new interests.”

Overall, I saw Job Shadow Day as a refreshing day for hosts and students alike. Hosts got the chance to remember what it was like to be in 8th grade and how they got into the jobs the currently hold, and students learned a little bit more about a career they may find themselves pursuing in the future. As one host put it, “I think [Job Shadow Day] opens the minds of the children.”

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