Hosting the Externship
If you work in a large organization, it’s a good idea to check into the necessary approvals and requirements as early as possible in order to allow sufficient lead time to deal with them prior to the externship.
Be sure to give the extern sufficient context and information about expectations in your workplace before the student arrives. Be clear about the type of work you’d like them to do and when they should come to you for further guidance. If you’re not able to have lunch with your extern every day, advise them what some good options are, potentially including lunch meetings with co‐workers and colleagues.
It’s also important to define the “scope of work” your extern will be engaged in during the externship. Although externships are shorter than internships, identifying specific and significant experiences for the extern is crucial to the experience. As each externship is different based on the nature of the work, there is no one way to engage your extern, or to make the experience significant. Here are some suggestions based on what past hosts have reported doing:
- A discrete project such as analyzing a particular segment of your organization and giving a presentation about the information ‐ what the extern learned and what suggestions or recommendations your extern would make based on the information gathered.
- A pre‐arranged schedule of shadowing your colleagues. For example, one of our repeat hosts is a doctor and she creates a pre‐arranged shadowing schedule with other doctors for her externs. She sends the schedules to her externs ahead of time so that they can adequately prepare for each of their shadowing experiences during the entire externship experience. This gives the externs the opportunity to learn from and about a variety of doctors practicing different types of medicine.
Small leadership opportunities – have your extern lead focus groups, interview clients, draft grants, help plan/organize a portion of a large and important event, draft a marketing proposal for a specific product line, write you a speech, draft an article, etc.
Other ways/suggestions to make the experience significant:
- Take advantage of long commutes on public transportation. For example, one of our repeat hosts, who also provides housing with his externship, has his externs read the New York Times and other newspapers and they discuss current events on the way to work.
- Give your externs some coaching and some feedback. For example, one of our hosts gave her extern written and verbal feedback regarding her interviewing skills, both on the phone and in person. She also recapped the day each evening and was sure to give her extern positive feedback and some constructive coaching regarding her work that day.
- Bring your extern to client meetings, your volunteer or nonprofit board meetings, professional development seminars—it’s all relevant.
- To the extent that your co‐workers are amenable, arrange some mock interviews (pre‐defined whether informational, or “as if” interviewing for a certain position). The more experiences students have with professional interviews—and hopefully receiving constructive feedback afterwards—the better.
For those externship hosts who choose to provide housing, it’s always important to consider the daily logistics that go along with having a student in your home and how that may impact others you live with. Think about defining home arrangements ahead of time. For example, be sure to identify some personal space for your extern to live in, which bathroom he/she will use, and your expectations of your extern as a member of your household. This may include helping around the house a bit. Many externs will want to feel helpful and part of the family, and may also need some direction or a few light‐hearted reminders.
It will also be important to think about the “entertainment” arrangement, which is to be clear about what you are likely able to do with your extern outside of work or over the weekends. Typically a mix of joint activities as well as some time to relax/explore on their own works well. Some hosts prefer hosting two externs at a time, which can alleviate some of the pressure to have to entertain every evening, or all weekend long.
The housing option presents a situation where significant conversations and mentoring can happen. You are likely to get questions about “life” outside of work. We believe that these conversations can add significantly to the externship experience for both the host and the extern.