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Teen Summer Jobs Article

Job Shadowing is Valuable Job Experience for Teens

By Silvana Clark

Ask most teens what they want to be when they grow up and you'll get either a blank stare or the reply, "A doctor like the ones on Scrubs". Teens today gain their awareness of various professions from the glorified images on television and movies. At the moment, there is a rise in interest in forensics due to the popularity of several shows depicting that career. Teens have little sense about the true reality of job choices. Do you like computers? Great! You'll be the next Bill Gates.

With summer approaching, teens have the opportunity to participate in job shadow experiences. Never heard of job shadowing? Don't worry. It simply means you spend time observing someone at their job. Many schools now require students to take part in several job shadow experiences as a graduation requirement. Spending the afternoon with a veterinarian, mechanic or graphic designer helps students gain an awareness of career possibilities.

Fourteen-year-old Sondra Clark experienced job shadowing on a large scale. She spent a year with her family traveling around the United States in an RV as she job shadowed 50 people in different careers. Her experiences included spending time with Shamu's trainer at SeaWorld, working with a shoe designer at NIKE and helping construct a giant model at LegoLand.

Twenty-five of her job shadows are described in her fifth book, Cool Careers in Recreation. Sondra wrote about her experiences and then interviewed each professional. The book gives a first-hand look at working in jobs ranging from a security guard at a major baseball stadium to running a sports program for inner city youths.

As teens have more time this summer, it's a great time to schedule some job shadow experiences. Here are some tips to help teens participate in job shadowing:

Begin by asking to shadow family friends. Can you observe your dentist for a few hours? Does a neighbor work at a florist? Ask if you can watch her create floral displays.
Arrive on time! Job shadowing is like a mini-internship. You want to make a positive impression.
Try to keep all comments positive. Even though you may realize you don't want to work as a museum curator, it's best to avoid saying, "This looks like a boring job."
Be sure to write a thank you note afterwards!

For inspiration, read Cool Careers in Recreation. Readers can follow Sondra's experiences participating in a variety of career options. You'll see her scrubbing fish tanks at an aquarium and playing softball with children with disabilities. Students discover what it was like for Sondra to assist as a dance teacher. As students read the book, they might think: "That sounds interesting. Maybe I'll see if I can shadow a dance teacher next Saturday afternoon." The book provides an inspirational approach along with a strong dose of practical how-to information.

A surprising factor of Sondra's job shadowing experiences was how often people offered her a job. Many professionals told her, "You are so willing to help and have a positive attitude. If you were older, I'd hire you on the spot!" So this summer, instead of watching reruns on television, help your teen schedule some job shadowing experiences and gain first-hand knowledge about
various careers.

© Silvana Clark

Although she's only 14, Sondra has published five books and is a spokesperson for two companies. She presents motivational speeches to conferences and schools around the country. With all these accomplishments, her parents wonder why she can't figure out how to hang up her clothes and make her bed. More information on Sondra is available on her web site, Contact: Silvana Clark, (360) 734-9506,


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