Underclassman students here at USM take on a lot of new responsibilities, from new classes to a new living situation, and many more things they have to adjust to. It’s easy to get lost in thought about what to do once someone graduates from USM. Specifically, what kind of career a student wishes to pursue. Some students come into USM with the notion that they already know what to pursue, but don’t have enough experience in that field in order to not fall behind once they’ve graduated, others come into college undecided and hope it comes to them along the way. No matter which way a student feels about their future, the job shadow program has been helping students remove the obstructions on the path to a clearer future.
Peter Hofmann, a career liaison at USM for the past year and a half, was first tasked when he was hired to connect USM’s vast amount of majors, departments, and programs with outside organizations, and one of the things that he and his colleagues came to realize was that a job shadowing day, which did not exist here at USM at the time he was hired, would be an obvious choice when it comes to connecting students with businesses and employers.
Starting in February of 2021 with ten organizations, the point of the Job Shadow Program according to Peter Hofmann was that they “wanted to match one student, with one organization, for one day. Why? Because it’s about the individual experience and about the time and attention that the students experience that they wouldn’t experience if they were on a school trip or a field trip.” This is something that Peter and the rest of his colleagues take into account when driving this program forward. This program for organizations is not meant as a recruitment tool, but is actually an experience enhancement, while instead of hearing a pitch from a business on why
someone should join, a student can genuinely be on the ground floor and witnessing firsthand what a day in the life inside that business is like.
This is much different than what a local middle school or high school offers when it comes to a job shadow day, where they might show you how a TV station works, or what the day in the life of a plumber looks like. The Job Shadow Program carefully picks and matches the right students to the right organizations and encourages the students to ask questions about what they are looking for in that particular career field, with the objective of obtaining as much knowledge as possible in order to have a clearer understanding about whether or not that career is something the student is truly interested now and later when they graduate and leave safety of a school.
The importance of an underclassmen being a part of the Job Shadow Program is that it is meant to give the student a perspective inside the career field they might be interested in. It is understood that an underclassman student sent out on these job shadows are “not career ready year four seniors who are ready to graduate.” Hofmann said, “some of them are undeclared freshmen, but we want to provide them the opportunity to find out what is out there, connect with businesses, and take away the fear of connecting with people.” Taking the fear out of connecting with people in businesses is a prominent goal behind the program. It’s okay to be intimidated about reaching out to businesses and employers about your interest and disinterest in the particular career field, the Job Shadow Program is there to help build that bridge of communication between the student and the business by not only starting the conversation, but by putting the student in the business for a day to see what it’s all about.
The businesses involved in the Job Shadow Program are all varied as well, meaning that if there is a job a student would like to know more about, chances are that they will get that
student connected with that organization in one way or another. From the Portland Seadogs, to a nursing program, to even the Portland Police Department, the Job Shadow Program has been able to get in touch with a wide variety of businesses and organizations for many different walks of life.
In the first iteration of the program, they started out with ten different organizations. The next iteration they went up to 20 organizations. This time, they are bringing down the number to 15 organizations, not because of a lack of participation, but because they are “making sure we are listening to students” and that the organizations who are available are the right ones for students, and are in tune with what students are looking for, and specifically what students want. This comes with giving students surveys, and asking students to report on their experiences after a job shadowing so that they keep in touch with what the student is truly looking to get out of it and how a student can translate their experience onto a résumé and give them the tools to network as well.
Hofmann stated that, “we want to make this program about students, that’s what our number one goal is. If businesses want something that doesn’t align with what our students are looking for, we stand up for the students, we are there for the students because that is the point of the program. The program is not here to create a pipeline for businesses to recruit USM students necessarily, the point is to provide USM students with real world experiences that they can use to build upon.”
The program is meant for any type of USM student; whether you are a commuter student going into your senior year, or an underclassman who is unsure what the next step in your life will look like, they are here to help take the fog out of your window that looks out to your future. They want to help students make the most of their present so that their future is a place they want
to live in, not a future they have to be a part of. “It’s all about empowering students to realize their potential, and realize that the hurdles that are in our way are oftentimes just perceived hurdles.”
To get in touch with the Job Shadow Program go to the Career & Employment Hub on the Portland Campus at 231 Luther Bonney Hall; for online go to the student services tab under the Career & Employment Hub section of USM’s website; or feel free to contact Peter Hofmann via email.