Potential Activities for Externs
Each extern host and host site will differ in how they choose to orient students to the kind of work that they do. The following list of potential activities is, by no means, exhaustive, but meant to illustrate the kinds of activities that help promote learning and understanding for students. You are free to design the externship experience that you feel best allows a student to gain an in depth understanding. It is advisable, however, to balance task oriented activities with exploration oriented activities to provide a rich experience for the student.
- Provide short readings, articles, blogs that provide insight into your industry to provide a basic understanding of the work done
- Give a tour of the office/work space and introduce the extern to potential team members
- Explain/provide a basic understanding of the mission, values, and hierarchy of the organization
- Provide an understanding of how organization sits within industry
- Explain your role in the organization, and talk about your career path. This may include choices and decisions made while you were college age, options you considered, potential trajectory of career etc.
- Discuss and recommend ways that students can start building critical skills in the industry
- Set up a time for the extern to conduct informational interviews with entry level, mid management, and senior leadership in various practice areas
- Review typical day and deliverables, decisions, and responsibilities of your role
- Outline/explain specific project(s) that externs will be responsible for
- Industry research and benchmarking
- Taking meeting minutes and summarizing meetings
- Creating actionable deliverables/ collecting information for actionable deliverables
- Marketing materials
- Website materials
- Conducting client outreach or information gathering
- Setting up time for an extern to meet with other industry professionals via networking nights, lectures, professional association meetings.
Check in periodically with extern to review progress, learning thus far, and ask questions:
What have they been exposed to?
What have they learned that they didn’t know beforehand?
What projects/ process have they engaged in or observed do they find most/ least interesting?
Sample Externship Descriptions
Example 1: Develop Deliverable at End of Externship
Bluestone Analytics is a Charlottesville-based cybersecurity company focused on helping small and medium-sized businesses defeat cyber threats. In addition to leveraging the best cybersecurity technology in the industry, we have developed a revolutionary cyber threat intelligence platform which we are preparing to deploy. Our team comes from a variety of backgrounds: a professional hacker and security engineer, an Army Special Operations intelligence officer, an international startup addict, and a proven technology program manager.
We are accepting applications for one lucky extern to join us during the week of __________. The individual will gain the following experience:
- Testing our new cyber threat intelligence platform and providing UX/UI feedback
- Shadow the team during weekly meetings and learn about trends in cybersecurity
- Potentially shadow the team during client meetings and/or sales calls
- Learn the pros and cons of working at a startup!
- Write one blog article about a relevant cybersecurity topic. The blog article will be published on the Bluestone Analytics website at the end of the week.
Example 2: Taking Several Externs
Externship Opportunity at Center for Open Science
We are offering a week long (5 day) hack-a-thon style externship at Center for Open Science during the week of Spring Break, 2017.
Students will be given an overview of our Open Science Framework (OSF) and the products we offer, and from there, be split into teams to develop an add-on idea for the OSF. There will be a mentor provided to answer general questions for a few minutes each morning and afternoon, but it will be each team’s goal to showcase and propose their ideas to our Infrastructure team at the end of the week.
Example 3: Geared Toward 2nd 3rd Years
Chess Consulting is a business advisory firm that helps domestic and international clients and their counsel develop practical and sustainable solutions to address accounting and regulatory compliance issues. Among our specialties is helping government contractors manage their critical business and compliance risks associated with selling to the U.S. Government. Not only do we understand the complex business and regulatory climate in which contractors operate, we combine that knowledge with our deep subject matter expertise in regulatory compliance accounting, financial reporting, audit, forensic accounting, risk management, corporate governance, and internal controls.
During this 3-day program, participants will:
- Be exposed to some of the work our new staff is assigned, including engagements related to complex accounting, disputes, government contract regulatory compliance, and investigations
- Learn what work and life as a consultant is like
- Learn directly from our staff about the culture of Chess
- Enjoy friendships, social activities, and team outings that make work and life more fun
- Have the ability to meet Chess employees from the managing directors to associates
Successful candidates will meet the following requirements:
- Actively pursuing an interest in accounting or finance
- Interested in working in a team environment with all levels of client personnel in various industries
- Desire to develop written/verbal communication and collaboration skills
Advice for Working with an Extern
- Try and create meaningful exposure and experiences. Avoid bringing on an extern as a recruitment tool, and commit to the educational and exploration opportunities
- Be reliable, do what you say and say what you do. Be honest about what the extern can expect and what they will most likely get out of the experience
- Provide feedback, both formal and informal. This will be the first professional exposure for a lot of students and educating them around professionalism and expectations can be immensely helpful
- Let the extern be where the action is. Without disrupting the normal flow of work, allow externs to shadow, attend meetings, and see the inner workings of your place of work.
- Communicate clearly and provide clear expectations. Again, this will often be the first professional exposure for your student and the shorthand and jargon you may take for granted may be completely new and alien for the extern.
- Provide a consistent touchpoint for the extern. Make sure you identify a point person who will guide the extern through the entire process and will set aside time to connect with the student
- Ensure that the student has adequate resources, i.e. a place to sit, and ensure that ancillary staff are also briefed on the extern and their expectations for interaction with the extern.
Adapted from Starting an Internship Program by Michael True
How to be a Supportive Extern Host
In addition to guiding the extern through the logistics of their time with your organization, the externship is a potential opportunity to create a deep mentoring relationship with a student. Because the IDEA Fund supports under-represented populations, your connection with the student can, be a catalyst for further exploration, further connection, and growth of the student’s network. The following section outlines tips for understanding student’s developmental stages, as well as general advice on how to foster exploration and possibly create a good mentoring relationship.
Extern hosts are encouraged to:
- Ask thoughtful and thought-provoking questions to guide decision-making and problem-solving
- Practice active listening in regular, meaningful conversations
- Role-model behavior through words and actions
- Provide objective feedback and guidance
- Facilitate the mentee's ability to practice self-reflection and self-development
- Display a sincere passion to support the growth of another person
- Expend time, energy, and enthusiasm