Nearly every college student has heard of an internship and most will have completed one by the time they graduate. Internships are a practical way to gain real world work experience before finishing a degree and can provide valuable contacts for networking. What are some other ways to gain work experience in college?
An externship is like a mini-internship, where a student shadows a professional on the job for a certain period of time. Some are short and last only a few days, while others can go on for weeks at a time. An externship is a bit like a campus visit for a prospective freshman; the student gets a sense of the true “flavor” of a certain position by following their mentor through each part of their day.
By completing an externship, the student is able to experience the perks and stresses of a job right alongside an experienced mentor, who is also available to answer any questions. The mentor can introduce the students to other professionals in the field, an important step in finding a career. Externships are especially practical for those entering more hands-on fields such as medicine, veterinarian school and the culinary arts.
An externship might be the right move for someone who does not have enough electives to complete an internship for credit. They are also practical for the student who needs to work during breaks in the school year as many of these programs are short and take place while classes are in session.
Another alternative to an internship is a co-op program, which is offered by several Philadelphia universities. A co-op program allows a student to spend a paid semester or a year working for a company. These co-op programs can take place near campus, near the student’s home or even in a foreign country of the student’s choosing.
Like internships, co-ops are an excellent way to gain real world experience and unlike internships, they offer an opportunity to get paid (sometimes quite well for a student) for the work that is being done. Although some may balk at the idea of leaving campus for a semester, most students come back glowing from what they refer to as “their best college experience”.
For those with an interest in politics, many campuses offer a “Semester in Washington D.C.” program, a cross between an internship and a co-op. Semesters in Washington usually provide housing for the student, while they complete a post with one of the numerous government agencies or private companies in the area. As the old saying goes, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” A semester in Washington is the perfect way to network with professionals in a chosen field of interest.
The best way to explore these options is to do some research online and to contact your campus career services center. You might also speak to your advisor about what students have done in the past. Whatever you decide, just remember this: even if the experience is a terrible one, you have still learned something.
You can contact Clare Herlihy at firstname.lastname@example.org.