What is an Externship?

Are you a college student who wants to explore different career options, gain practical skills, and network with professionals in your field of interest? If so, you might want to consider doing an externship. In this article, we will explain what an externship is, how it differs from an internship, and why it can be beneficial for your academic and professional development.

What is an Externship?

An externship is a short-term job shadowing program that allows you to observe and learn from a professional in a specific field of interest. Unlike internships, externships are not meant to provide you with hands-on work experience or compensation. Rather, they are designed to give you a glimpse of what a day in the life of a certain profession looks like, and help you decide if it matches your skills, goals, and passions.

Externships can range from a couple of days to several weeks, depending on the availability and schedule of the professional you are shadowing. You can do externships anytime during the school year, but many students choose to do them during winter or spring break, when they have more free time and flexibility.

Why Do an Externship?

Externships can be a great way to explore different career paths, learn new skills, and build connections with potential employers or mentors. Some of the benefits of doing an externship include:

  • Exposure: You can get a glimpse of what a day in the life of a certain profession or industry looks like, and see if it matches your interests, goals, and expectations.
  • Experience: You can learn new skills, techniques, and tools that are relevant to your field of study or desired career, and enhance your resume and portfolio.
  • Networking: You can meet and interact with professionals who can offer you advice, guidance, and referrals for future opportunities. You can also expand your network and contacts in your chosen field or industry.
  • Exploration: You can discover new areas of interest, or confirm or change your existing ones, by trying out different externships in various sectors or roles. You can also compare and contrast different work environments, cultures, and styles.

How to Find and Apply for an Externship?

There are many ways to find and apply for externships, depending on your preferences, availability, and goals. Some of the common sources of externship opportunities include:

  • Your college or university: Many colleges and universities offer externship programs or resources for their students, either through their career services, academic departments, alumni networks, or student organizations. You can check your school’s website, bulletin boards, newsletters, or social media for any announcements or listings of available externships. You can also talk to your academic advisor, professors, or peers for any recommendations or referrals.
  • Online platforms: There are many online platforms that specialize in connecting students with externship hosts or mentors, such as Indeed, WayUp, and Handshake. You can create a profile, browse through different externship postings, and apply directly through these platforms. You can also filter your search by location, duration, industry, or role.
  • Your own network: You can also leverage your own personal or professional network to find externship opportunities, such as your family, friends, classmates, teachers, mentors, or previous employers. You can reach out to them and ask if they know anyone who is willing to host an extern or if they can introduce you to someone who works in your field of interest. You can also use social media platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter to connect with potential externship hosts or mentors.

How to Prepare for an Externship?

Once you have secured an externship opportunity, you should prepare yourself to make the most out of it. Here are some tips on how to prepare for an externship:

  • Research: Before you start your externship, you should do some research on your host organization, industry, and role. You can look up their website, social media, news articles, or reviews to learn more about their mission, vision, values, products, services, culture, and achievements. You can also research the specific skills, tools, or concepts that are relevant to your externship, and brush up on any knowledge or terminology that you might need.
  • Set goals: You should also set some specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals for your externship, such as what you want to learn, achieve, or gain from the experience. You can write down your goals and share them with your mentor or host, and ask for their feedback or suggestions. You can also track your progress and accomplishments throughout your externship, and adjust your goals as needed.
  • Communicate: You should communicate clearly and professionally with your mentor or host, and establish some expectations and guidelines for your externship. You should ask about the schedule, duration, format, and objectives of your externship, and clarify any questions or concerns that you might have. You should also communicate your availability, preferences, and learning style, and ask for any accommodations or support that you might need. You should also keep in touch with your mentor or host regularly, and update them on your activities, feedback, or issues.
  • Be proactive: You should also be proactive and enthusiastic during your externship, and show your interest and curiosity in your field or role. You should ask questions, take notes, and participate in any discussions or activities that your mentor or host offers. You should also seek out any additional opportunities or resources that can enhance your learning or exposure, such as attending meetings, events, workshops, or webinars, or reading articles, books, or blogs. You should also take initiative and propose any ideas, projects, or tasks that you think can add value to your host organization or your externship.

How to Wrap Up an Externship?

At the end of your externship, you should wrap up your experience and reflect on your learning and growth. Here are some steps on how to wrap up an externship:

  • Thank: You should thank your mentor or host for their time, guidance, and support, and express your appreciation and gratitude for the opportunity. You can send them a thank-you note, email, or card, or give them a small gift or token of appreciation. You should also highlight what you learned, enjoyed, or gained from the externship, and how it helped you with your academic or professional development.
  • Ask: You should also ask your mentor or host for any feedback, advice, or recommendations that can help you improve your skills, knowledge, or performance. You can ask them to evaluate your strengths, weaknesses, or areas of improvement, and give you some constructive criticism or suggestions. You can also ask them for any referrals, endorsements, or testimonials that can boost your resume, portfolio, or network. You can also ask them for any future opportunities or collaborations that you can pursue with them or their organization.
  • Connect: You should also connect with your mentor or host on social media platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter, and keep in touch with them regularly. You can update them on your academic or professional progress, achievements, or goals, and share any relevant news, articles, or resources that you think they might find interesting or useful. You can also ask them for any guidance, support, or assistance that you might need in the future, and offer your help or service in return. You should also maintain a positive and respectful relationship with them, and show your interest and enthusiasm in your field or industry.


Externships are a valuable and rewarding way for college students to explore different career options, learn new skills, and network with professionals in their field of interest. By doing an externship, you can get a realistic and practical insight into a specific occupation or industry, and see if it suits your interests, goals, and expectations. You can also enhance your resume and portfolio, and build connections and relationships that can help you with your future academic or professional endeavors.

If you are interested in doing an externship, you should start looking for and applying for externship opportunities as soon as possible, and prepare yourself to make the most out of the experience. You should also wrap up your externship properly, and thank, ask, and connect with your mentor or host. By following these steps, you can have a successful and enjoyable externship that can benefit you in many ways.

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