Barbara Brophy, staff writer
A new annual program at Mason helps students develop professional skills and allows them to explore possible career paths.
Last Friday, University Career Services held Take a Patriot to Work Day, a one day job shadowing event scheduled to occur each fall.
Similar to an externship, the program allows both undergraduate and graduate students to observe employers from a variety of industries in order to gain hands-on experience in a field of interest.
The concept for Take a Patriot to Work Day was inspired by Take your Daughters and Sons to Work Day, an event held annually in the United States and Canada where children can shadow their parents in the workplace. Directors at University Career Services saw a need for a similar event at Mason.
“We wanted to promote experiential learning among students,” Rachael Miner, Assistant Director of Experiential Learning, said. “A job shadowing program seemed like a great way for freshmen to grad students to observe what a professional job is actually like.”
In order to promote the event, Career Services began marketing to students at the beginning of the school year. It was estimated that about 50 students would register, but in the end a total of 68 students chose to take part.
Prospective students were required to attend one of six orientations in September where they learned about the intricacies of job shadowing. Some of the skills taught included how to research a company in advance and how to follow up with an employer afterward.
“We focused on the professional aspect a lot,” Miner explained.
Since students would be representing George Mason to the companies they visited, it was imperative for them to learn proper workplace etiquette.
After attending an orientation, students could apply to up to five shadowing opportunities on HireMason.com. Participating employers browsed the website and created a ranked list of potential candidates. An algorithm was then used to pair students with employers. Once matched, the employer was required to compose a message to the student inviting him or her to visit the company.
Students shadowed at a variety of companies and organizations including the State Department, Lockheed Martin, The Washington Post, and Inova Alexandria Hospital.
Junior accounting major Jessica Harker, shadowed a staff accountant at Halt, Buzas, & Powell, LTD.
“I decided to participate because I was having my doubts on whether I wanted to do accounting. I felt the job shadow would give me a real world perspective that my classes could not give,” Harker said.
During her day at the firm, Harker toured the office, observed auditing procedures, and met with the audit manager who critiqued her resume and spoke with her about recruitment possibilities.
“After my experience, I felt more confident in my career choice and now have a better idea of what type of firm I am interested in working for one day,” Harker said.
Junior government major Lena Nour spent her day with four other Mason students at the Foreign Service Institute of the State Department. She hopes to work with a nonprofit or government agency on educational initiatives.
“FSI was a perfect avenue for me to explore the educational aspect of a federal agency. I decided to participate in the event because it encompassed with my passion for education with federal service,” Nour said.
During her visit, Nour attended lectures and networked with Foreign Service officers.
“I gained an affirmed sense of belonging that I want to work for the federal government. The work that they do touches every corner of the American public, and I want to be able to contribute to the amazing work the State Department does,” Nour said.