Job Shadow Program takes one-day-at-a-time approach to career building

One way to measure the success of the Job Shadow Program at the University of Southern Maine is by all of the people who are asking for more.

That was a big takeaway from a gathering of the program’s participants at the Wishcamper Center in Portland on Wednesday, October 26. The Career and Employment Hub brought them together to build further off their job shadow experience.

Students who have been through the Job Shadow Program compare notes about the experience.
Students practice their networking skills while socializing with each other.

The night began with casual networking over a meal of pizza. Jean-Daniel Liwanga had only good things to say about his visit to Tyler Technologies in Yarmouth. The company creates computer software for governmental and educational institutions. The pairing was a good fit for Liwanga, a third-year Computer Science major.

“It was really the funnest thing,” Liwanga said. “I was really looking forward to that one day the whole weekend, and it really did not disappoint.”

Liwanga accompanied a Tyler software engineer through a typical day at work. He sat in on meetings and watched the coding process. Liwanga was so energized by what he saw that he walked away more certain than ever about the career path he had chosen.

Andy Osheroff, Director of the Career and Employment Hub, asks participants in the Job Shadow Program to share feedback about their experiences with area businesses.
Andy Osheroff, Director of the Career & Employment Hub, invites to students to share feedback on their experience in the Job Shadow Program.

Students with different career goals were able to pick from a diverse field of hosts spanning industries such as finance, health care, hospitality, fine arts, and more. By going behind the scenes of the Portland Sea Dogs baseball team, Madison Wood fulfilled a childhood dream.

“Great experience, especially growing up going to games,” Wood said. “Just being able to be there and meet the people and see how this happens, it’s just a great experience.”

Wood is a third-year Sport Management major. She saw the work that goes into promoting the Sea Dogs and building a strong fanbase. Wood joked that her only regret was not getting to meet the players since her visit to Hadlock Field happened during the off-season.

Participants in the Job Shadow Program gathered into work groups to generate ideas to improve the program.
Students split into work groups to generate ideas to improve the next round of the Job Shadow Program.

Wood and Liwanga were among 20 students who took part in the latest round of the Job Shadow Program last month. Participation doubled since the program’s inaugural outing last February. The expansion also included a new intercollegiate partnership that allowed two students from Central Maine Community College to join in.

Seventeen participants from both rounds of the program accepted the Career Hub’s invitation to meet face-to-face. After a few minutes of introductions, Hub staff divided them into groups to identify the program’s strengths and offer ideas for improvements. Several students suggested giving them more time to get to know their host businesses.

As glad as he was to see their enthusiasm, Career Liaison Peter Hofmann explained that the site visits were designed specifically to last a single day. The limited workplace disruption is a major selling point for businesses. Many students also find it easier to fit a one-day commitment into their busy class schedules.

Staff from the Career and Employment Hub advise participants in the Job Shadow Program on ways to showcase their experience with area businesses.
The staff of the Career & Employment Hub offered tips to students about showcasing the Job Shadow Program in their dealings with potential employers.

Hofmann offered alternatives to students who wanted more. Through its online portal, the Career Hub operates a Job and Internship Board with dozens of longer-term opportunities. Hofmann also encouraged students to be proactive by using the contacts they established through their job shadow experience to create opportunities for themselves.

“Even though we help organize that one day, the building connections portion of it, the building of follow-up experiences, that is entirely up to them and the hosts,” Hofmann said. “We just want to empower them. We want to give them to opportunity to realize those things. And if they do that, then we are successful.”

Hofmann went on to demonstrate via PowerPoint how the program can give extra flash to a résumé. Any tasks performed for a host business count as field experience and should be displayed for a potential employer to consider in the hiring process.

The social networking platform LinkedIn is another good place to showcase the Job Shadow Program to professional contacts. Hofmann urged everyone to update their accounts. A photographer was also on hand to supply students with professional profile pictures.

Participants in the Job Shadow Program brainstorm ideas to make the next round of the program even better.
Students who were hoping for more time with their host businesses were encouraged to keep in touch with them and inquire about new opportunities.

Gabe Berry, a second-year Economics major, plans to take all of these lessons and pay them forward to other students. He signed up to work for the Career Hub as a Peer Career Guide. For anyone looking for advice about the Job Shadow Program, he’s got a simple answer.

“I would say absolutely do it, especially because you can pick the kind of company that you want to go to,” Berry said. “I’m interested in economics and banking, so I got to go to a credit union. . . You can pick the kind that you want to go to and I think that’s great.” Students who want to follow in Berry’s footsteps can look ahead to the next round of the Job Shadow Program in February 2023. Applicants can sign up through the Career Hub’s Job and Internship Board through the MyUSM Campus Portal.