Value of Externships
An externship is a training program intended to give students practical experience in their field of study. Similar to apprenticeships or internships, externships are more of a brief job shadowing experience. Students gain first-hand insight into a career of interest. Externships typically last a short time, ranging from three days to a few weeks. Engagement also ranges from very hands-on to more spectator-shadowing depending on the position and field. Other than important insight into a potential career, externships can be extremely valuable for a number of reasons.
Any externship will have a “host.” A host can be considered the literal company hosting your externship but commonly refers to the externship manager or employee the student shadows. Hosts are the first connection students will make, and possibly the most important. In fact, 86% of students surveyed reported plans to stay in touch with their extern host according to a 2013 study from Forbes.
Extern students will likely have the chance to meet and work alongside other employees in the company, including executive management. There is enormous networking opportunity here that students absolutely have to take advantage of. Very few job seekers have the opportunity to make these kinds of close connections. So, here are some tips to make the most of networking efforts:
- Come prepared – know names of employees you’ll interact with, your host, know the company. You want to be able to confidently talk to any employee about their position of the company in general.
- Dress to impress – making yourself memorable starts with positive first impressions.
- Openly show your eagerness and ambition – ask to take on assignments or even offer to take busy work off of someone else’s plate. Get involved any way you can.
- Meet everyone you possibly can, and give them a card. If you don’t have business cards, keep track of everyone’s name and connect with them on LinkedIn; alternatively you can buy some blank card stock and handwrite your information on them.
- Overall: show you potential, your professionalism and your capabilities. Most importantly, make yourself memorable and valuable.
Externships are primarily learning opportunities. They allow students to get an idea of what their career options look like both right out of school and in the future. Firstly, students should focus on gauging where their interests lie. Perhaps a student requests to shadow an accountant, but after one day finds the work boring or monotonous. The student should stick with it but pay closer attention to other positions within the company. One the third day of the externship the student might find human resources to be particularly interesting. That’s exactly what the externship is for – to find a career that entices.
Externships are also a great opportunity for students to identify where some of their strengths and weaknesses are. The best thing students can do is to get involved in as many different activities as possible in the short time they are at that company. To do this, students need to be proactive in asking for assignments in different areas or departments. Perhaps more importantly, students need to talk with experienced professionalism in various areas to make sure they are getting insights into the entire spectrum of possible career paths.
EBI requires all associate degree students to complete an externship. You’ll have the opportunity to work in a real-world environment, putting what you’ve learned to practical use in a professional business or medical setting, depending upon your program. While traditional classroom learning is important, your education is not complete without some hands-on experience. In addition to helping you gain confidence in what you learned, an externship becomes a vital component for your resume.