Make the Most of a Shadow Day

Few things are more exciting to a room full of information-hungry PRSSA members than a Q&A with a professional speaker. However, there are a few token questions that always seem to be asked, and rightfully so! For example, how many times have you heard this dialogue as a PR student?:

“Can you explain a typical day on the job as a PR professional?” says Go-Getter PR student.

“That’s a great question, but no two days are the same!” says Established PR professional.

The best way to understand the true essence of the day in the life of a PR professional, is to experience it for yourself! Professional shadow days are a great way to learn more about your future profession, learn more about your field, and expand your network. Like any professional opportunity, you can capitalize on a shadow day with a little preparation, and a lot of confidence!

Here are a few tips I found useful throughout my shadowing experience:

shadowday

1. Mind the details! There are a few questions you’ll want to ask ahead of time. For one, be sure to ask about the office dress code (and then dress a shade more professional than recommended!) If you’re heading to a big city, ask about where you’ll have to park. Should you pack a lunch? Will you need to bring your laptop? The more you know ahead of time, the less nervous you’ll be about your day in the real world.

2. Two words: rush hour. If you’re typically secluded to a college campus like me, it’s something you rarely have to think about. It’s likely that you’ll be pulling a 9-to-5 day, so don’t forget to account for the traffic in order to arrive on time.

3. Bring along your business cards, résumé, and maybe even your portfolio. Depending on your relationship with the professional that you’re shadowing, you may ask them to look over your materials with you. Don’t forget that you’ll be meeting others around the office, and make the most of this opportunity to network! Looking for an internship at the company you’re visiting? Leave behind a hard copy of your résumé with HR.

4. Bring back that elementary school mentality: there is no stupid question! At my last shadowing experience, I was getting hung up on some of the office jargon. At first I was nervous to ask what the words that were being thrown around meant, but I was glad when I did. You’ll learn the most by asking questions as they come to you. Also, you may get brownie points for being inquisitive. Curiosity shows that you care!

5. Show your appreciation. In many cases, the day’s schedule has to be shaped around your presence. The professional will do their best to give you a well-rounded and exciting view of their job, and this is a huge gesture! Show that you realize this by keeping a professional attitude at all times, and consider following up with a thank-you note.

What’s your advice for a seamless professional shadow day?

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2 thoughts on “Make the Most of a Shadow Day

  1. Geraldine says:

    Nicole, I usually tell my non-PR friends that this is the best way to get a sense of what their prospective careers are like. However, for PR I’ve focused more on the importance of internships rather than on the possibility of shadowing.

    Documenting the experience whether it be through a blog, vlog, or simple note-taking is also a good idea. This way you can go back and see just how much you’ve learned. I’m glad you brought this up. Great post.

    1. nicolespears says:

      Geraldine,
      Great point…hopefully a successful shadow day always has the possibility of growing into an internship opportunity! Glad you liked the post, thanks for the kudos.

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