College of DuPage Job Shadow Program goes virtual to overcome challenges of COVID-19
When the COVID-19 pandemic severely limited the College of DuPage Career Services Center's plans for its first Job Shadow program cohort in spring 2020, staff members adjusted their approach to provide students virtual one-on-one experiences with professionals in the workforce.
Through the program, COD students are matched with a local employer for single-day experiential learning events. In preparation for the experience, students complete an etiquette and info workshop hosted by the Career Services Center and are provided guidance for their job shadow experience.
Prior to COVID-19, 18 COD students had been accepted out of 56 applicants to shadow professionals in their chosen fields. When shutdowns and social distancing came as a result of the pandemic, Career Services staff reacted quickly to set up virtual chats between three students and their matched career professionals, including personnel at organizations such as Argonne National Laboratory and Armarius Software.
COD Interim Manager of Career Services Krystina LaSorsa said the success of the last-minute pivot inspired staff members to continue to offer the program virtually.
"While COVID-19 put a pause on our initial vision of a job shadow experience where students shadow a career professional on-site for a half day or full day, we didn't want to lose the momentum the Job Shadow program could provide to our students," said. "We had to adapt to our uncertain times and mobilized our resources to provide a comparable experience virtually."
As a result, Career Services staff worked to provide a winter break job shadow edition that saw 13 students complete the program, meeting career professionals from a variety of industries, including accounting, engineering, physical therapy and physics.
LaSorsa said that while she looks forward to the day when students can visit employers in-person, it was important to continue the program in a virtual setting.
"This program addresses a critical need felt by students," she said. "Especially for those who may not be ready for an internship or a service learning course. Our goal is to help students understand their career trajectory and gain confidence in their education and career journey."
COD student Alexandria Schweikle participated in the job shadow program during winter break, meeting with the director of accounting/controller of Nephrology Associates Northern Illinois and Indiana. She said the experience solidified her educational goals.
"The job shadow experience was excellent," she said. "It gave me so much insight into something I thought I already knew a lot about. Nothing is more valuable than learning from someone who has firsthand experience. The experience helped narrow my goals and as a result, I know exactly what my course of education will be."
The Lombard resident will complete her Associate in Applied Arts degree at the College this spring. She plans to transfer to Elmhurst University to earn her bachelor's degree in accounting and finance, eventually earning her master's degree in accounting and gaining certified public accountant licensure.
"One of the most valuable things I learned during the job shadow experience was that there is a broad range of positions available to accountants, and even more options available to those who have earned CPA licensure," she said. "While I am not sure what area of accounting I will end up in, it's great to know that there is such a variety of possibilities."
Career Service's upcoming Job Shadow program spring break edition will focus on matching students with career professionals in the fields of computer and information science, computer and information technology, health care and pharmaceutical sales, human services and logistics.
Applications are being accepted through Friday, March 12, and the session will take place between Monday, March 29, and Friday, April 9.
Participants are required to attend orientation between March 15 and March 26.
Learn more about the Job Shadow program at College of DuPage at www.cod.edu/student_life/resources/career_services/.