Externships are one of the best ways to get your foot in the door, allowing you a chance to build your network, gather references and boost the “work experience” section of your résumé. Plus, an externship is basically an extended job interview, so it’s important to treat it as such. Use this advice from our Brightwood College Career Development specialists to maximize your externship opportunity and maybe even turn your externship into a position after graduation.
Get to know the company. Before you begin your externship, do your research. Find out as much as you can about the company and the services they provide so you can speak confidently about the company and the industry. This is a step that will help you in your job search.
Ask about how you can improve. Schedule an appointment with your supervisor after the first week of work and ask, “How am I doing? Where do I need improvement? How can I better support the team?”
Show your professionalism by being punctual, efficient and dedicated. Although your talent and skills are important, it is also significant to employers to hire people who will be faithful employees. Never bring personal drama or office politics into the workplace. Be sure to follow the organization’s policies and procedures. Treat your externship like a paying job; show up on time and don’t leave early. Your hard work may get noticed, which could lead to a great reference.
Introduce yourself to colleagues, including other externs. Stay humble, respectful and open to learning from other people around you.
Ask questions. It is better to understand an assignment upfront than to move forward and get it wrong. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Take notes when you’re learning new tasks so that you can reference them later.
Take advantage of the opportunity you have been given. Your externship is meant to help you grow in your skills and experience, so learn as much as you can. Often you get out of an opportunity as much as you are willing to put in.
Accept tasks such as copying, filing and other administrative work with a positive attitude. Your supervisors will trust you with increased responsibility once you prove that you are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.
Follow instructions. Paying close attention to detail shows your bosses that you are trustworthy. No matter how small the task is, make sure to be thorough and follow directions.
Stay busy and take initiative. If you complete one task, find something else to do or ask your supervisor for another task. Find something to do, whether it’s a small task that needs to be done or a new project you can start. Asking your supervisor for another assignment or starting on a new one on your own will show that you are dependable and eager.
Always go above and beyond what you are expected to do. Apply your resourcefulness and creativity to problem solving. Make sure to go the extra mile when completing an assignment. Do extra research, check grammar, present options and do not cut corners. Ask for more work once you complete a task.
Connect with your coworkers on LinkedIn. An externship gives you a chance to meet a variety of people, often ones who are further along in their career. Take advantage of the opportunity to build your network.
Before leaving, schedule a formal review. During the last couple of weeks of your externship, schedule a formal appointment with your supervisor to get reflective feedback on what skills they think can be improved. If there isn’t an opening, now is the time to ask for a letter of recommendation and ask for permission to use your supervisor as a reference.
At the end of your externship, give your supervisor a thank you letter with your resume. If the organization is not currently hiring, ask for advice on opportunities with other employers they may know in their network. Obtain contact information to stay connected with your supervisor, HR personnel and other decision-making individuals to express your continued interest. They may be able to help you in your job search.
Brightwood College does not guarantee employment or advancement.