Externships, Fellowships, & Job Shadowing

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Externships

Externships are similar to internships in providing a professional setting for students to gain valuable insight into a specific career field.  Unlike internships, extern opportunities are extended job shadowing experiences (usually one week), most commonly initiated by students, and are unpaid and not for academic credit.  Externships are a perfect option for students of any academic year who are unsure of their major or career goals.  Formal externship programs are associated with professional schools such as architecture, engineering, medicine, and law where apprenticeship and clinical experience is highly valued or required to advance in the field. 

Curious about a functional role or an industry?  Need to gain experience to help you land an internship?  Externships are a great strategy.  Start by exploring contacts in your own extended network, alumni connections through resources such as the Virginia Alumni Mentoring (VAM) program, and other employer sources to identify organizations of interest for externship opportunities.  Each extern experience is different depending on your interests, the career field, and the particular employer sponsor with whom you extern.

IDEA FUND FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM

The IDEA FUND Fellowship Program aims to connect students with meaningful professional development opportunities with employer and alumni partners during May, after classes have ended. Students are nominated to the program by faculty staff or other students via this form The program is open to all students, but priority will be given to 2nd and 3rd years who are first-generation college students and part of under-represented populations.  Learn more about the program.

Other Externship Programs and Opportunities:

How will this help me?

To launch your career successfully, you must have experience.  By initiating your own extership with an organization of interest, you gain valuable industry exposure and enhance your job search, resume writing, networking, and interviewing skills. Plus, you show your ability to be self-directed, resourceful, and motivated to be in the profession which are qualities employers seek.

An externship gives you the opportunity to:

  • Experience a typical week on the job
  • Investigate a career field of your choice
  • Clarify your career goals and interests
  • "Test drive" a career without the risk of longer-term commitment.
  • Get your foot in the door for competitive internships or jobs
  • Add experience to your resume

What Will I Do?

 Extern experiences vary.  You may spend time in one department or rotate among different departments to get a broad overview. Some examples of what you might do as an extern include:

  • Observe, networking, and working with professionals
  • Take a company tour
  • Conduct informational interviews
  • Join staff meetings
  • Review company literature
  • Assist with clerical tasks
  • Contribute to actual office projects (research, report writing, etc.)

How do I ask an organization about externing?

Your initial approach is vital to getting your foot in the door with an organization.  We encourage you to prepare your professional marketing materials to introduce yourself and contact a prospective employer sponsor by phone. There is one chance to make a good first impression. When you call an employer, you need to be professional; self-assured; to the point; enthusiastic; and convincing.  The UVA Career Center can support you in your preparation and execution of an externship outreach strategy.

30-Second Personal Introduction

Preparation is key.  Imagine calling a potential employer sponsor for the first time and, to your surprise, you reach them directly by phone! They have only 5 minutes to talk with you before they have to prepare for a meeting. How can you make a positive and lasting impression in such a brief time? 

Before you place your first contact call, be sure to have your personal introduction prepared and rehearsed - your Elevator Pitch. Introduce yourself by talking about why you want to shadow this particular company and why this industry is of interest.  Share your strongest skills or leadership experiences. Mention your major if you feel it is clearly related to your career goals.

Will I get paid?

Typically, externships are unpaid. 

Funding Your Externship

Check out Funding Your Internship for scholarship, grant, and awards that may provide ideas for offsetting expenses related to externing. 

Can I receive academic credit?

Due to the short-term nature of externships,  Academic Credit is not an option.

Student Opinions

"By spending the week seeing what really goes on at an environmental consulting firm - working in the field, data collection, report preparation, problem-solving - I decided that I wanted to find a job in that field after graduation. I learned qualities of the industry that were really appealing to me: being outside, job variety, solving problems, making a difference for the environment. As a result, I pursued and found employment in the field after graduation. The externship helped me to learn the basics of the language used in the field so that I was more informed while looking for a job and more articulate in interviewing for the jobs that I found."

"I decided that I could not work in a museum as a curator. It was very beneficial to have this experience because the reality of the job was much different from the vision I had in college. I found that I wanted to enjoy art, rather than protect it from visitors and acquire it by making deals."


Fellowships

Fellowships are research oriented opportunities that focus on the development and training of future talent to advance leadership in a professional field. As such, fellowships are typically sponsored by a professional associations or organizations in a variety of fields including graduate study, research, community development, training and field exploration. Fellowships often include intensive training and project work. Often fellows are provided with unique experiences not typically available in an entry-level position. Fellowships can be short-term in duration or can extend into multiple year engagements. These positions often include a stipend, though not comparable to the salary of a full-time position. Other incentives are often provided, such as healthcare, student loan repayment aid and housing stipends.

Fellowships can include:

  • academic seminars to develop frameworks and apply theory
  • in-depth research and analysis of a particular issue area
  • a broad curriculum of skills development: leadership, community organizing, public speaking, grant writing, media relations

Some examples of popular UVA fellowships include Tom Tom Founders Festival Fellowships that supports an annual Charlottesville tradition and regional event celebrating the arts and innovation. And, the Piedmont Environmental Counil Fellowship Program for land conservation, urban planning, and agriculture.

Fellowship Opportunities

UVA's Office of Citizen Scholar Development and Undergraduate Student Opportunities in Academic Research (USOAR) should be primary to your fellowship search. The Fulbright and Rhodes scholarship processes are supported by USOAR as well as other highly selective national and international fellowship and research opportunities.

Additional external agencies and professional associations can be useful in exploring fellowships and are included as resources below.

How will this help me?

Fellowships are competitive, funded opportunities to extend your research and scholarship interests into a broader context within an academic field. Fellowships support students in exploring fields in leading research and policy areas.

Will I get paid?

Fellowships can include stipends and other cost of living remuneration, but are typically unpaid.

Funding

Check out Funding for scholarship, grant, and awards for ideas related to making a fellowship affordable.

Can I receive Academic Credit?

Possibly. Check out Academic Credit for more information and requirements.


Job Shadowing

Job Shadowing can be a one-time or repeat opportunity to observe functional roles within organizations of interest to help you add to your career exploration and success in interviewing. Job Shadowing is not a posted opportunity that you will find on a job board, but rather an activity initiated by you as a way to gain exposure to various work environments and learn more about the day to day operations within an industry of interest. Making an inquiry to job shadow a functional role within an organization can be a natural next step to an informational interview.

Also check out the Informational Interview section.

Job Shadowing Opportunities

How will this help me?

By initiating your own job shadowing opportunity, you gain valuable job search, resume writing, networking, and interviewing experience. Job shadowing gives you the opportunity to:

  • Experience a typical week on the job.
  • Investigate a career field of your choice.
  • Clarify your career goals and interests.
  • "Test drive" a career without the risk of longer-term commitment.
  • Get your foot in the door for competitive internships or jobs.
  • Add value to your resume.

A job shadowing experience can help you decide what you want to do, and just as importantly, what you do NOT want to do.

Will I get paid?

No, job shadowing is a learning opportunity.

What will I do when I shadow?

Shadowing experiences vary. You may spend the entire experience in one department or rotate time among different departments to get a broad overview. Some examples of what you might do include:

  • Observe, network, and work with professionals.
  • Take a company tour.
  • Conduct informational interviews.
  • Join a staff meeting.
  • Review company literature.
  • Help with clerical tasks.
  • Assist with actual office projects (research, report writing, etc.)

Can I receive Academic Credit?

Probably not as job shadowing is short-term.

How do I ask to shadow?

This step is VITAL to getting your foot in the door, so we encourage you to use the telephone when contacting an organization for the first time. There will be no second chance to make a good first impression. When you call an employer, you need to be professional; self-assured; to the point; enthusiastic; and convincing!

Know what you are going to say before you pick up the phone. Review specific information about the company from your research. You may also want to conduct a mock phone call and/or interview with a member of the Career Center advising team, friend, or family member.

30-Second Personal Introduction

You call a potential job shadowing site for the first time and to your surprise you connect with them directly! They have only a few minutes to talk with you before they have to prepare for a meeting. How can you make a positive and lasting impression in the brief time allotted?

Before you place your first contact call make sure to have your personal introduction prepared and rehearsed. Introduce yourself by talking about your strongest skills or leadership experiences. Mention your major if you feel it is clearly related to your career goals. Also, indicate why you want to shadow a professional in that industry and in that company more specifically. 

Cold call contact tips

Here are some suggestions for your first telephone encounter with the receptionist/internship coordinator/human resources office at a place where you would like to shadow and don’t have any existing contacts.

  • Tell them you are interested in gaining exposure to a variety of fields because you feel it’s the best way to find out what the jobs are actually like.
  • Ask if they could refer you to someone you may be able to shadow or someone within the organization who might be able to help you arrange a shadowing opportunity in _______ department.
  • Politely ask for the person’s contact information.
  • Ask what they believe the best method of contact is and when it is most likely that you will reach him/her.
  • Kindly thank them for their assistance. Write a follow-up note or e-mail to express your appreciation. 

More to Explore

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