University of Bath

Use job shadowing to develop your role or career

Understand the benefits and types of job shadowing and how you can use it for your personal development, or to benefit your team.

Job shadowing: an overview

Job or work shadowing is where an individual from one area of the organisation has the opportunity to work alongside:

  • more experienced colleagues so they can learn and develop within their current role
  • another individual to gain an experience of their role and an insight into that particular work area

For example, job shadowing opportunities could occur:

  • between different areas of the University
  • between different or similar job roles
  • between related roles in external organisations

How job shadowing can help

Benefits for individuals

Job shadowing can help individuals:

  • broaden their experience
  • develop a deeper knowledge and understanding of how other roles, teams and departments work
  • reflect and learn from others
  • view processes they are involved in from a different angle
  • “test out” possible career options

As a result, job shadowing might be a useful development solution for individuals who wish to develop in their current role or career.

Benefits for departments and hosts

Job shadowing can help:

  • improve communication across departments and faculties
  • encourage continuous improvement
  • provide opportunities to share best practice
  • allow hosts to reflect on their own work and see their role through “fresh eyes”

How job shadowing works

Key roles

The host

The host is the person who agrees to be shadowed. If you are a host you should:

  • give the role preparation and thought (it isn't about having someone follow you around for an agreed time span)
  • consider whether the time requested is the best time for the shadowing to take place
  • decide how long each period of shadowing should be for
  • consider their own work obligations to ensure the shadowing experience doesn't disrupt their day-to-day responsibilities

The Shadow

The shadow is the person shadowing the host. If you are a shadow you should:

  • consider why they are doing the shadowing
  • what you hope to achieve
  • set some objectives for the sessions with your line manager or the host before starting the shadowing
  • review and discuss outcomes and what happens next with your line manager after the shadowing

Types of job shadowing

Job shadowing can involve either:

  • ‘horizontal’ shadowing, where the host and shadow work more or less at same level
  • ‘vertical’ shadowing, where one person is more senior than the other

Different types of job shadowing include:

Type of job shadowing Best for... Description
Observation (fly on the wall) Gaining a greater understanding of the host’s job role (e.g. prior to considering a career change) Spending an agreed period of time observing a typical representation of what the host does (e.g. attending meetings and watching interactions with students/customers)
Regular briefings (burst interactions) Shadowing specific activities of interest or value Short periods of focused activity
Hands on (job sharing) Gaining 'hands on' experience of the role whilst having the safety net of being closely supervised by the host An extension of the observation model, where the shadow starts to undertake some of the tasks they have observed