By Jamie Dalin, Class of 2010
What do I want to do with my life? I know that is a question that I have asked myself numerous times. I could name several careers that I do not want to pursue, yet why is it so difficult to pick one that I want? Business Career Services here at the University of Illinois has helped simplify this process with their Job Shadow Program. Every freshman and sophomore in the College of Business has the opportunity to submit their resumes to different companies and participate in a one-day job shadow program. This experience helps them see whether or not they want to pursue a career in that industry.
Sara Cohen, a freshman looking into majoring in Marketing had her one-day job shadow at Information Resources Inc. “I applied there because they have a large marketing department and I wanted to gain exposure in this area to see if marketing was the right major for me. In addition, the company gave me really strong interviewing tips and suggestions to better my resume. They were very honest about what they want and don’t want in future employees.”
While some students are testing different career choices, others want to confirm that they made the right decision in picking their major. For example, Cara White, an Accountancy major, who had a job shadow in her freshman and sophomore years, said, “My job shadow experiences affirmed what I thought my career path would be. I knew going in that I wanted to go into auditing, but I only had a vague idea of what auditors actually do. Through talking with and observing auditors at both companies, I got a better idea of an auditor’s job description and its many advantages. Visiting these companies also gave me a good idea of the culture of these firms.”
The job shadow program is really a win-win situation for both the employers and students. Employers are able to brand their companies to students and potentially identify future interns. Students are able to explore different career possibilities and make informed decisions about their major. This year John Deere offered an accounting/finance job shadow where they exposed students to different accounting and finance functions at John Deere. Mindy Brown from John Deere said they were able to identify a sophomore internship candidate from the Job Shadow Program.
Numerous job shadow opportunities are available and each student can filter companies to decide where they would like to shadow for the day. Crystal Pedersen, Group Campus Recruiter from Target Stores, gave advice on selecting companies, “Choose companies that you really feel are part of your career goal. Additionally be open to learning and experiencing new things.” There are options for finance, accountancy, marketing, and other related careers in companies that are located across the country. While the majority are located in the Chicago area, there are still other options. I actually had both of my job shadows in St. Louis, Missouri, one in the finance department of Monsanto and the other in the accounting department of Forest Pharmaceuticals. Each job shadow took place over Winter Break and the schedule of the day was determined by the company. Depending on the company, students may shadow one or multiple employees, take tours of the facility, or eat lunch with University of Illinois alumni.
Each job shadow is unique. Lisa Weitzman, a sophomore majoring in Finance, described her job shadow experience. “I was with one other student from the University of Illinois and we shadowed the employee who is in charge of all of the Financial Planners at AYCO. He explained what AYCO does and the niche market that it serves. He taught us about the four main services they provide to their clients: wealth management, estate planning, retirement planning, and preparing tax returns. We went to lunch with eight other co-workers, many of whom graduated from Illinois, who talked about their lives after college and their experience in the real world. It was a great way to learn about the company and gain a better perspective of life after Illinois.”
Since many of the employees that participate in the job shadow program are alumni from the University of Illinois, they are great sources of advice on specific questions that students have about the College of Business. Many have recently graduated and, therefore, are even better resources for students. Samantha Spitz, a freshman in the College of Business, had her job shadow with Starcom Mediavest Group. She said they gave her advice on certain classes to take at University of Illinois that helped them and also other extra-curricular activities that aided them in landing their jobs.
Registering for the program is simple. The only requirement for students is that they be registered on Symplicity, the College of Business’s online career management system which informs students of upcoming events and job opportunities. To become registered on Symplicity, students must not only be a Business major but attend a Symplicity training session. Then, one is able to log-in and explore all of the tools Symplicity provides. Business Career Services encourages every Business student to register on Symplicity in order to take advantage of important resources such as workshops, company presentations, and career opportunities.
A business student, like any other student, has the ultimate goal of finding a career. In order to do so, one must prepare and take advantage of the opportunities that are available. What better way to get a taste of different careers than a one-day job shadow at a company. All freshmen and sophomores in the College of Business are encouraged to visit Business Career Services and learn how to sign up for the Job Shadow Program in fall 2008.