Fall, winter, spring, and summer can all be referred to when discussing the duration of an internship, but, what about an externship? The only proper way to answer this question is with an ambiguous statement of “well, it depends.”
In its most simple definition the word, externship means to job shadow an individual, typically a respected professional within an industry or workplace a student has interest in pursuing. Externships are typically held for short time period lasting anywhere from a single day to eight weeks and are often held over a student’s winter or spring break whereas internships tend to be eight weeks long at minimum.
The other major difference between externships and internships are that externships typically are unpaid and the student usually doesn’t receive school credit for their experience. Even though the student is directly in the workplace, they’re still only shadowing the professional or group of professionals rather than having work delegated and projects assigned, such as one would have in an internship. The top aspect to remember when deciphering the difference of an externship versus an internship is that externships are used mainly to explore interests and curiosities whereas internships act as the bridge from student life to professional life.
For example, a finance student desperate for real world experience within the industry would most likely hold a fall or summer finance internship for a well known finance company such as Sequoia Capital. On the other side, a finance student who only had a single week free in summer might hold an externship with the CFO of Kiva, still gaining valuable experience but holding it for a shorter duration and mainly for observational purposes.
But wait, how would a student land an externship with a CFO you ask? This can be answered with the use of a single tool – networking. A student should spend time harnessing powerful tools available such as browsing connections on Linkedin, asking professors for introductions to past colleagues, or watching campus guest speakers and meeting them once their presentation is over. Networking is often overlooked, so tap into it and land your next externship.
In the end, both externships and internships are extremely beneficial for a student of any major. The trick is proper time management to know which is the best fit, at the given time.