How to Make the Most Out of Your Externship

An externship is far more than something you simply check off from a list of requirements. It is an opportunity to learn a lot, make valuable connections, and get a head start when you enter the job market. Here are five tips for impressing your coworkers and supervisor(s), learning the skills you need, and making the most out of your externship.
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Make the Most Out of Your Externship

Clarify Externship Expectations at the Outset

Create realistic expectations from the time you first begin looking into possible externships. Inquire about your potential duties and the projects you might be working on when narrowing down your externship options.

Being clear about what you are expecting to get out of it and what your supervisor is expecting from you will help you get exactly what you want from your externship.

For a better picture of what to expect, contact previous externs. In the semester before your externship – or in the weeks or months leading up to it – make a list of expectations with your supervisor. That way, you can hit the ground running and try to prevent surprises.

Externships Involve Many Different Tasks

Don’t be too particular about what you will or won’t do. Your externship duties may include more menial tasks like making coffee and photocopying.

Expect to perform these tasks for other people, but do not resign yourself to having a useless externship. Keep your eyes open for learning opportunities to seize. If you see an opportunity to be helpful or useful, ask your supervisor to be involved.

Make the most of it by doing these tasks well to gain others’ respect. Remember, everyone you come in contact with as part of your externship is a connection.

externship student working as a pharmacy technician

Communication Skills are Key

Communicate regularly with your supervisor and co-workers. Ask for feedback, and discuss mutual expectations. Make it a point to network with people who work with the company. Identify which people you believe can help you learn, and approach them for information and advice. It’s helpful to set goals such as meeting (virtually or in-person) a certain number of people each week.

Always Be Professional

Professionalism is one skill you can learn far better in an externship than in a classroom. It starts with dressing appropriately for the company culture and adhering to all the organization’s guidelines. Always be polite and respectful to everyone.

Responsibility is another important component of professionalism. Take pride in your work; don’t just think about it as something to get done as you might think about doing a research paper at school. Show others they can depend on you for high-quality work delivered on time. Strive to become a “go-to” person.

Stages of Externships

Begin your externship by observing everything. This is your opportunity to learn new skills, rather than to show off what you already know.

As your externship progresses, focus on doing a good job on your duties, and ask for more work or to be included on more projects if you feel you can handle them. The goal is to be involved in as much as you can to develop your skills and your personal relationships.

Towards the end of your externship, think about your future. If you are happy with your current organization, think about how you can build a future with it, whether that means landing a paid permanent position or keeping up strong connections. Otherwise, look around at other organizations and begin making contacts that can help you get there.

An externship can be far more than a program requirement from your school. With some planning, you can make the most out of your externship to gain skills, make connections, and improve your career prospects.



Written By

Carey Maceira

An accomplished leader in the allied health career education sector, Carey enjoys managing career education programs, teaching, and mentoring adult students. Her success in working in the field drives her to go above and beyond each and every day.

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