If you are in college and looking to gain some resume experience, an externship may be the answer.
But what exactly is an externship? And how does it differ from an internship or apprenticeship?
An externship is an experiential learning opportunity for college students usually provided during the school year. While internships most typically refer to work offered by employers during the summer break, an externship is usually completed while still in school during the academic year. An externship often involves a partnership between the college or university and the employer. Externships focus on job shadowing, but can also involve small projects and/or research. Most internships are work with specific deliverables that are independent of the college or university, working directly with the employer. Externships can also be created to provide the student with independent work study credits toward a degree, although this is not always the case. Internships rarely provide academic credits.
Even though many externships are run concurrently within the academic semester (or a portion of it), they can also be designed to be completed during a shorter time frame such as winter break or spring break. The duration can be as short as a day or as long as four to eight weeks.
The goal of an externship is to combine academic learning with real world experience. It provides the student with an opportunity to apply classroom concepts while observing an actual work environment. While some externships involve doing actual work with set project deliverables, most simply involve shadowing a professional in your field of work. An externship can also be used to give the student the opportunity to further research a specific academic topic in an experiential manner which cannot be accomplished in the academic setting.
While most internships are paid, externships can be both paid and unpaid. The emphasis is on learning, so the real payback is in gaining experience outside the academic environment. That experience, in turn, can be valuable resume content, especially for students with little or no internship experience. The tradeoff of experience will typically have a positive payback even if the financial payout is minimal.
Externships also often involve a team effort of students from a specific school or can be a combined group of students from several colleges.
So how do you go about getting an externship? Start by visiting the career office at your college or university. If it is something offered to students within your major, work toward preparing to meet the basic qualifications for the role. Selection is usually based on recommendation by a professor who may serve as academic sponsor for the role. It may also involve an interview with the employer, who might also be an alumnus of your school.
What do you do if your school does not offer externships? Approach your academic advisor or even the dean of your school or major to inquire about getting the program started at your college. If you have connections with employers, especially alums, this can help facilitate setting up the program. You may also have employer connections through a professional association related to your major. The key will be an external professional contact, ideally an active alumnus interested in giving back. You can inquire about getting academic credit, although it may not be possible when doing it for the first time at your school. Don’t be afraid to be a pioneer to make way for others! If you cannot get sponsorship at your school, you can still proceed directly with your network contacts. When networking for a summer internship, you may want to offer a one week externship "try out" during spring break as a way to connect on a specific prep topic. You will have an in that very few other students will have toward gaining that valuable summer internship.
Externships will provide you with resume experience and an important connection to real world working strategies. The externship will also give you the opportunity to experience different employers, industries and job roles. Externships are often compared to cooperative education (co-op) programs, although they are often more informal and shorter in duration. They can also lead to later offers of both internships and entry level jobs after graduation.
No experience? No problem, with an externship as the first step toward developing your resume experience.