Career Corner: How to find and obtain shadowing and research opportunities 

Emilio Lorenzo is a Career Adviser in NSU’s Office of Career Development. He graduated from NSU with a Master of Science in College Student Affairs and a concentration in conflict analysis and resolution. Emilio understands the importance of helping students reach their career goals and works with all students, including undergraduate, graduate and professional level students, to achieve their professional goals.

Emily Tasca is a member of the career advisement team in NSU’s Office of Career Development. She works with current students and alumni at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels to ensure that each individual is supported throughout his or her career exploration and planning process. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from the University of Rhode Island with a focus on interpersonal communication and a minor in psychology.

If you were buying a car, you would probably take a test drive with the vehicle before purchasing it. In your career, you need to test drive the occupation and industry to confirm your interest by shadowing and immersing yourself in research or through internship or job opportunities.

Finding shadowing and research opportunities in college is not as easy as registering for a course, or as convenient as downloading an app on your iPhone. Research and shadowing opportunities are not often posted on regular job and internship searching websites; however, if obtained, they can be impactful experiences that will strengthen your resume. You must identify avenues that will enable you to engage with professionals who are conducting research or who work in your chosen field and also build meaningful connections that could result in such opportunities.

You’re probably wondering, “How do I contact these individuals, and when I do, what should I tell them?” The initial phone call or email that you send should be well-structured and carefully worded to ensure that your message is not misconstrued. Email is probably the best way to break the ice, as it allows you to introduce yourself in a manner that does not pressure the professional. Within your introduction email, you want to be sure to highlight any connections you may have with this individual, whether that includes knowing other individuals from the same organization or that you both are affiliated with the same academic institution. For example, if the person you are reaching out to is an NSU alumnus, mentioning that you also attend NSU provides a common denominator to spark a conversation.

Throughout this entire email exchange, always proofread for proper grammar and professional language. Considering you are entering a field with many doctors, lawyers, professors and other individuals with terminal degrees, proper protocol entails structuring the greeting to acknowledge their achievement, such as “Dear Dr. Pepper.” Overall, be positive in the email, and convey your professional enthusiasm.

If you are trying to break the ice over the phone, it’s important to practice your 30-second commercial ahead of time. Your 30-second commercial should include your name, educational background and reason for reaching out. For example, “Hi, my name is Susie Shark. I am currently working on my bachelor’s in biology at Nova Southeastern University, and I’m interested in gaining more information about the healthcare field and talking with someone who has been in the field for some time. I know you are very busy, but would it be possible to sit down with you and pick your brain on the healthcare field, as well as the opportunity to possibly shadow you over the summer? I am very passionate about this industry and would love to have a conversation at your availability.”

Breaking the ice with a new professional is the important first step toward obtaining a shadowing or research opportunity. The next step in the process is to ensure that your resume is up to standard and is marketing your past experiences effectively, while highlighting key skills needed within the healthcare field. One of the first questions these professionals will ask is, “Can I see your resume?” Not having a resume is like being a ship captain without a compass; you may know where you want to go, but you lack the tools to navigate the seas towards that end goal. To ensure that your resume is ready to guide you, consider having it reviewed by a career adviser in the Career Development Office or an individual you trust who is knowledgeable within the industry.

So now that you have your tools and know how to approach professionals, your next question should be, “Where do I find these individuals?” The easiest professional to reach out to is a faculty member you knew in the past, whether in class or through office hours. When meeting with this individual for the purpose of inquiring about research, be prepared to not only state that you have an interest in research, but to also dive further into this conversation to discuss the specific types of research you are interested in.

If you don’t have a strong handle on your own research interests, then it will be difficult to articulate to that faculty member how this fits into your future goals, leaving you both in a state of confusion as to where to go from there. If this faculty member has conducted research in the past, a good rule of thumb should be to read up on that topic and be ready to ask follow-up questions regarding your overall interest in research and laboratory skills you have mastered in the classroom. If you don’t know a faculty member who can assist you, widening your search to local clinics, private practices and hospitals can be a great way to connect with individuals for both research and shadowing opportunities.

Your semester can be very busy, which is why the summer is the ideal time to engage in research opportunities. There are many summer research programs that not only provide a great experience but also include stipends and housing arrangements to accommodate students travelling for the summer. Many of these same opportunities are even available locally. Just remember that the application process can be time consuming, requires various essays or components and has strict deadlines. Planning ahead for such opportunities, as well as your entire research and shadowing experience, will be more advantageous towards being successful.

At the end of the day, obtaining shadowing and research opportunities will not be as “freaky fast” as ordering Jimmy John’s delivery; however, if the strategic steps mentioned above are implemented, your chances of securing a meaningful experience increase exponentially.


Finding research opportunities

Who to ask: faculty members, NSU alumni and professionals in the local community

How to ask: email is probably the best way to break the ice, but if you choose to ask by phone, prepare a 30-second long introductory commercial

How to prepare: plan ahead and make sure your resume is updated


Photo Credit: E. Lorenzo

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