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How to Find an Externship

externship
Angelica Valentine
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Published on October 3, 2013

Everyone’s always talking about how important having an internship is for your career, but what about externships? Many students don’t know what the difference is between an internship and an externship or why they should consider one. This post will change that and help you on the path to getting an externship, if you decide it’s right for you.

What Is an Externship?

Externships are short experiences to help you explore a profession and they are generally unpaid. Externships allow college students to shadow a professional or company when they most likely wouldn’t have enough time for an internship, such as during winter break. Internships usually last a few months or more, whereas an externship can be as short as a day and as long as a few weeks. It’s a great opportunity to see if a profession is for you by trying it out, without an intense time commitment.

Why Should I Get an Externship?

An externship is a unique chance to ask questions and gain knowledge that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to. Think about it: how often do you get to ask professionals questions in the field you want to get into? Usually you are only able to ask questions in interviews or Q&As, so this is an opportunity to observe and get answers from multiple staff members in person. You can gain knowledge about the company culture from observing how employees interact and what kinds of projects they work on.

Externships are mainly observation-based, instead of being hands-on. You may not gain specific skills from an externship experience, but the people you meet can be the greatest resources. It is possible to find a mentor through your externship, because it puts you in the same space with professionals who do exactly what you want to do after graduation or long term in your career. It might be possible to find an internship or job through the company, or person you shadow, so it is important to stay in contact.

How Do I Get an Externship?

Getting an externship requires you to ask for what you want. Some companies have formal programs (they tend to be very specialized fields, like medicine and construction), but don’t be discouraged from requesting an externship at a company that does not have a program. Often, if you want an externship, you must network. First you have to figure out what profession you’re interested in shadowing. Next you should ask friends, family, or professors if they know of anyone who works at a company in the field you want to explore. They can be helpful in connecting you to someone you can shadow. Trying to get your foot in the door on social media sites is another option. If you don’t have any contacts at a company you’re interested in, try reaching out to them on Twitter.

Is an Externship Right for Me? Internship vs. Externship 

Determining whether you should get an externship or not depends on how much time you have available, what field you want to get into, and what you want to get out of the experience. Externships are best for students who want to try out a field for a short period of time and don’t necessarily want to dive into projects yet. Since internships are typically for a much longer time frame, they are better for students who want to develop certain skills and get to know a company well. If you’re weighing the options of an externship vs. internship, you should keep in mind that about 60% of college seniors who had paid internships got at least one job offer in 2012. Internships seem to be more effective in leading to full time jobs, however externships are still a great way to learn about a field.

Angelica Valentine

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