Among all the activities that benefit two-way, 360-degree professional development activities, ranging from mentoring to volunteering to attending seminars to association board participation, I think shadowing colleagues from other departments and counterparts in different industries or sectors is probably the most overlooked and underappreciated.
Over the last four years, I shadowed several colleagues from other departments. We all get busy, whether we are cruising in a productive groove, trying to maintain normal operations or seeking to break out from a rut. I found my various shadowing experiences enjoyable and beneficial when I was the shadow and the shadowee, so to speak.
Shadowing can take a variety of forms.
On the most basic level, it’s just contacting a colleague with a job that intrigues you and setting up a few hours to meet with them or select a unique project, meeting or event to ride a long.
Then you also have the other side of the equation when you host a student or young professional for an afternoon following a local professional association luncheon.
On the more formal side, you have a variety of leadership associations and chambers of commerce that provide a curriculum that includes shadowing, mentoring, observing and learning from professionals and absorbing “day in the life scenarios” in their particular businesses, nonprofit organizations and government agencies.
I would venture to say that even participating in a local Toastmaster’s activities could constitute a type of shadowing. Anytime you listen to another person’s presentation or extemporaneous address, you are subjected to their wisdom, wit and wonder from the perspectives they deliver.
It can be refreshing to step away from your comfort zone for a day or even just two or three hours to observe what someone else is working on in their respective routine. You may find yourself rejuvenated, inspired or blessed with a new idea for yourself upon returning to your desk from a rewarding shadow session.
I wish I could set up a shadow situation every other Friday, but I aim to step away from the desktop with more regularity and embrace different situations at the next opportunity.