What are externships and how can you land one?

4 min read

Education & Career Trends: August 8

Curated by the Knowledge Team of  ICS Career GPS

An externship is defined as an experiential learning opportunity.

  • Excerpts are taken from an article published on economictimes.indiatimes.com.

You’ve heard of internships. You’ve heard of apprenticeships. Now, welcome to the world of “externships”.

An externship is defined as an experiential learning opportunity. It could involve working directly with someone who is “on the job” and literally shadowing them or observing them to learn more from them.

The nature of such an externship could range from being part of the expert person’s work discussions as well as practical and day-to-day work and meetings during the allotted time period. It is common in highly specialised disciplines such as medicine and law.

The key advantages of an externship include:

  • It can help someone understand their interest in an area through an intense observation period before making a long-term commitment to that job or career
  • It gives an inside understanding of the work from a very practical workday situation
  • It helps you build relationships in your area of work
  • It can be short and flexible and, hence, can be planned with other learning programmes. Externships can be shorter than internships as well as apprenticeships

What are the challenges and questions around externships?

Well, you might argue that even though you are shadowing a person, you are not actually doing the work yourself — unlike in an internship or in an apprenticeship. Hence, is your learning going to be as steep in an externship as compared to the other options?

Another question could be how to include it in your resume. While people list internships and apprenticeships routinely as part of work experience — especially in early career stages as these show your interest and willingness to learn and work towards your goal — how do you show externships?

Well, given that an externship is an observatory period, you need to highlight some specific details. These could include any skills learnt or any specific tools used. Even better, if some problem was addressed during that time, you can mention how you were part of the solution and the impact of that.

The other key question people have is about job opportunities from externships. While internships and apprenticeships can get converted into full-time job offers, how does it work with externships?

First, in some specialised professions, this could be a valid part of the learning process. Watching seasoned lawyers argue their cases in courts or watching qualified doctors treat their patients can give a candidate in-depth views of these professions — views that are very specific and can be gained only from experts. In other cases, there could be a chance to convert an externship into a job offer. But given that it is not as widely used as internships or apprenticeships, one might have to invest time in understanding the requirements and in building networks.

Last, but not least, is how to find these opportunities. Many company websites and portals list internships. Apprenticeships are also structured and have detailed processes in place.

How do you begin to apply for externships?

Well, one method could be to use professional networks such as LinkedIn to reach out to alumni or to experts in the discipline you want to specialise in. A well-crafted message expressing your intent, your reason for interest in the profession and in such a programme might be the best first step.

Moreover, externships, as observational learning, can also be incorporated as part of college courses, internships and apprenticeships.

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(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article mentioned above are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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