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Unveiling Externships: Your Gateway to Real-World Experience

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For the majority of college students, internships play a crucial role in their curriculum. Committing a semester to work, either full or part-time, in their chosen field affords valuable practical exposure. They get to understand the real-life dynamics of their prospective profession, while also earning college credit.

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When an internship isn’t feasible, or if you desire a brief experience of working for a specific company or within a certain field, consider an externship. In fact, numerous colleges and universities are incorporating externships into their curriculum to better prepare students for their forthcoming careers.

What is an Externship?

In its essence, an externship allows students to acquire practical skills in their field through brief employment with an organization, usually spanning a few days to a week. For instance, a student studying public relations might extern at an agency orchestrating a significant event. They would collaborate with the agency in the week leading to the event, assisting with details and learning problem-solving techniques. Despite their shorter duration, externships might expose students to high-level projects and executives, unlike internships, which often involve more mundane tasks.

Given their shorter span, externships rarely yield academic credit. Nevertheless, they might form part of course requirements. Successful completion of the externship and a subsequent assignment like a paper could contribute to the final grade. However, given the brevity of externships, students are seldom evaluated by the host organization.

When Do I Do an Externship?

While most students do their internships during their junior or senior years in college, externships can happen as soon as the first semester. In fact, some students complete externships early on to help them choose a major. And since externships can be as short as a day – some companies might call them “job shadowing” – it’s easy to do several externships to weigh your options.

Some students choose to complete externships over the summer or during breaks from school. Schools and organizations with organized externship programs often plan to host externs during those times so the experience doesn’t impact classroom time.

What Do I Get Out of an Externship?

Externships, like internships, offer valuable hands-on experience in the field. Spending even just a few days shadowing an experienced professional can give you insights that no textbook can offer.

For those who have already chosen a field, performing an externship can provide valuable networking contacts for later employment or internships. Not only will you have the chance to meet some of the people that could help you get a job, but you’ll give the company recruiters a chance to meet you and “see you in action.”  Asking plenty of questions, showing initiative, and demonstrating your knowledge and competence during your short stay at the company will impress recruiters, and put you toward the top of the list when positions open up.

How Do I Get an Externship?

Landing an externship depends on your school and the organization you want to work with. If the experience is required for a class, chances are the instructor will have prepared a list of potential sites, or even prescheduled your experience. Otherwise, check with your career services or advising office to see if opportunities have been posted, or visit the website of your chosen site to look for opportunities.

Some organizations do not have formal programs, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. Contact the company directly to inquire about doing an externship; most people will be glad to let you job shadow for a few days. Expect to have to complete an application process for any externship. Some sites will require a formal application or resume, or other evidence that you’re qualified for the experience.

Whether you’re trying to decide what career path you want to pursue or want to get a taste of the field you’ve already chosen, an externship is a low-commitment, high-benefit way to get your feet wet. Consider clearing your calendar for this valuable experience, which could enhance your entire career path.

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04/24/2024 01:32 am GMT

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