Polygence blog / Education and College Admissions

Career Shadowing Opportunities for High School Students Uncertain About Their Future Careers

4 minute read

High school is a time of exploration and self-discovery, but it can also be a period of uncertainty, especially regarding future career choices. Many students find themselves unsure about their career path, and making even just one informed career choice can be challenging. At this point, you have a lot of time ahead of you and many opportunities to make a decision, but it never hurts to start early and understand what piques your interest. One effective way to gain clarity and insight into potential career choices is through career shadowing opportunities. In this post, we’ll explore the importance of this type of career exploration for high school students, highlight some real-world opportunities available, and discuss how platforms like Polygence can enhance your career exploration journey. 

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Understanding Career Shadowing

Career shadowing is a powerful career exploration activity that offers high school students a window into the professional world. It involves an extended observation period where students actively participate and immerse themselves in a workplace, allowing them to grasp the day-to-day responsibilities, challenges, and interpersonal dynamics within their chosen field. This firsthand experience bridges the gap between theoretical learning and practical application, making academic subjects more tangible and relevant.

Furthermore, career shadowing offers the opportunity for skill development, enabling students to acquire practical knowledge and career information, industry-specific skills, and problem-solving techniques. By actively engaging in a profession, students not only gain a deeper understanding but also prepare themselves for the demands of the workplace. Additionally, career shadowing assists in clarifying career goals by providing students with insights into whether a specific career aligns with their interests and aspirations. In sum, career shadowing empowers high school students to make an informed career choice bridge the gap between theory and practice, and acquire valuable skills, ultimately guiding them toward fulfilling professional paths and related career opportunities.

Benefits of Career Shadowing for High School Students

Career shadowing early on presents many benefits.

  1. Exploration and Exposure: One of the primary benefits of career shadowing for high school students is the exposure they gain to a wide range of career options. By shadowing professionals from different industries, students can explore interests and gain exposure to fields they may not have considered previously. This exposure can be extremely helpful in allowing students to make more informed career choices. 

  2. Networking: Career shadowing provides students with the chance to build valuable connections in their chosen field of interest. Meeting professionals in the industry can lead to mentorship opportunities, internships, or even job offers down the line. Building a network early on during career planning can be a significant advantage, especially in today’s competitive job market. 

  3. Real-World Application: Shadowing professionals allows high schoolers to see how the skills that they are learning in school can be applied to real-world scenarios. This real-world application can make academic subjects more relevant and help students understand the practical implications of their education. 

  4. Skill Development: Students can pick up practical skills and knowledge during their shadowing experiences. Whether it’s understanding how to use specific software, learning to communicate effectively with colleagues, or gaining insight into problem-solving techniques, shadowing can present career development opportunities and the chance to learn career skills not commonly taught in a school environment. 

  5. Clarification of Career Goals: Finally, and most obviously, shadowing can help students clarify what they want to do in life. Experiencing a day in the life of a professional can provide valuable insights into whether a specific career is a good fit for them.

Real-World Career Shadowing Opportunities

Let’s explore some career shadowing opportunities available to high school students. Here, we won’t be providing any specific programs, but rather examples of career shadowing opportunities within a plethora of fields and what they might look like. This way, you can apply this list to the field you are most interested in companies and firms close to you.

  1. Hospital Shadowing (Medical and Healthcare): Many hospitals offer comprehensive shadowing programs that go beyond mere observation. High school students interested in medicine can spend extended time with doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. They may participate in rounds, assist in minor procedures, and even learn about patient care. This immersive experience can provide a deep understanding of the medical field.

  2. STEM Field Visits (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics): Various organizations and institutions, such as tech companies, research labs, and engineering firms, offer in-depth field visits for high school students. These visits can span several days and include hands-on activities and projects, allowing students to engage directly with professionals and gain an in-depth understanding of STEM careers. 

  3. Legal Internships: Law firms and legal organizations may provide more extensive internships for high school students. These internships could last several weeks or even months, offering students the opportunity to work on real cases, participate in legal research, and witness court proceedings. It’s an excellent way for aspiring lawyers to gain in-depth exposure to the legal field. 

  4. Business and Entrepreneurship: High school students looking to explore careers in business and entrepreneurship can participate in extended shadowing experiences with professionals and entrepreneurs. These opportunities may involve working on business plans, attending strategic meetings, and getting hands-on experience in the corporate world, providing a more comprehensive view of business careers. 

  5. Environmental Organizations: Students interested in environmental science and conservation can participate in longer-term shadowing experiences with environmental organizations. These extended shadowing opportunities might involve fieldwork, data collection, and research projects, providing a more comprehensive understanding of environmental careers. 

  6. Nonprofit Organizations: Extended shadowing experiences in nonprofit organizations can give high school students a deeper look into the world of social work, community development, and education. They can work on meaningful projects and gain insights into the day-to-day operations of nonprofit organizations, potentially spanning over several weeks or months. 

For these types of programs, it’s quite unlikely that firms will have a dedicated program. You’ll have much more luck reaching out to people in positions that interest you and networking!

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Polygence: A Platform for A Glimpse Into Career Shadowing

While exploring real-world career shadowing opportunities is invaluable, platforms like Polygence can enhance and complement your career exploration journey. Through our Pathfinders program, Polygence connects you with three experts in various fields. These mentors can offer guidance on career choices and provide opportunities for students to shadow them in their professional lives. Polygence facilitates career shadowing opportunities for high school students through personalized guidance, offering mentors from a diverse range of fields, and flexible scheduling.

By combining real-world career shadowing opportunities with Polygence's resources, high school students can embark on a comprehensive journey of self-discovery, gain valuable insights, and make well-informed decisions about their future careers. The exposure, experiences, mentorship, and guidance they receive as they embark on these career exploration activities can be transformative, setting them on a path to success and fulfillment in their chosen fields. So, for any high school student uncertain about their future career, career shadowing through platforms like Polygence is a promising way to explore and shape your aspirations.