Job Shadow Networking Success Stories

Shadowing success

How OSU’s job shadow program helped Kyle Joy chase his childhood dream.

Kyle Joy, wearing an Oregon State T-shirt, poses with scientist Renee Bellinger. Bright blue skies, tropical plants, and a rocky landscape are visible behind them in the distance.

Kyle Joy loves rocks and volcanoes. Loves them so much that he left behind a 12-year career in restaurant management to study geology at Oregon State. His dream job? Getting paid to research his passions full-time as a professional geologist.

So when he saw a possibility to connect with an OSU alumnus who works at the U.S. Geological Survey by signing up for OSU’s Job Shadow program, Kyle was all in.

“I saw USGS and I just zeroed in on that,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to work in the USGS.” The fact that the alumni host for this job shadow worked in Hilo, Hawaii – a place where Kyle had family members living – made it even better.

A few months after learning about the job shadow program, Kyle was in Hawaii meeting with scientists at the USGS’ Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center and the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

“The amount of time and compassion all of them took to meet with me, it blows my mind. It’s been the most impactful thing to happen to me at this university.”

Kyle Joy, Geology student, 2023 Job Shadow participant

Now in its sixth year, the Job Shadow program matches OSU students with alumni and other working professionals who have successful careers in fields that the student applicants are curious about. Job shadows typically take place over the summer and provide students with the chance to observe life on the job, ask questions, and learn from the host they’re matched with.

Because Kyle had family in Hawaii, he chose to travel to Hilo and complete his job shadow in person. Most OSU students get matched with a host who works near where they will be spending the summer, or complete long-distance job shadows virtually, via video meetings and informational interviews.

Job shadow experiences can last anywhere from a half day to several days. In Kyle’s case, when his job shadow host, M. Renee Bellinger, learned of his passion for volcanoes, she found a colleague at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO), Ken Hon, who was also willing to meet with Kyle. Kyle spent several days in Hilo, learning from both Bellinger and Hon. During his time with Hon, the HVO scientist asked Kyle to join in the HVO team’s morning meeting. 

“I was on Zoom with like 150 scientists,” Kyle recalls. “I talked for five minutes about who I was, and then he said ‘Would anyone else be willing to speak with Kyle?’ So many people raised their hands. It was an outpouring of willingness to help an eager student. I had to pinch myself.”

Personal connections like this are the one of the reasons OSU launched the program, according to Wendy Allison, External Relations Manager from OSU’s Career Development Center, who leads the Job Shadow program.

“The Job Shadow program is a fantastic way for students to start building their professional network now,” she said. “Coming out of the program, students are more confident and prepared for their future because of the connections and experiences that they’ve had.”

A photo showing layers of rock strata in the Hawaiian landscape, taken during Kyle Joy’s 2023 job shadow, shadowing geologists working in Hilo, Hawaii.

Back in Corvallis, Kyle is completing his geology degree, figuring out what’s next after OSU, and remains in touch with his job shadow host. 

“This program gave me consistent interaction and communication with an alumni in a way that feels meaningful and sustainable,” he said. “I would definitely recommend it.”

For the 2024 Job Shadow program, more than 100 placement possibilities are open to students, in fields ranging from forensic pathology to designing motion graphics for video games to cybersecurity consulting. Job shadow applications are open through May 3, 2024.

Learn more about the Oregon State Job Shadow program

Job Shadow program details

Possible host sites for 2024 Job Shadow participants

Sample questions to ask during your job shadow