Brian Murphy pulls a thick binder from his desk and pages through a collection of student externship reflections from winter break.
“Right here, this is my favorite part,” says Murphy, director of internships and experiential learning at the Carleton Career Center. “To hear that a student has found a mentor for what they want to do after college or that someone was asked back for a summer internship, that’s the reason we work so hard to put our externship program together.”
Think of externships as a career appetizer, a one to three week glimpse into various fields without the pressure of having to perform entry-level job duties. While internships aim to build specific skills throughout a longer eight to 12 week window, externships are more about short-term interactions: “attending a meeting or two, talking with others throughout the organization, and building a network,” Murphy says.
Carleton’s flourishing program is built on those informal, personal touches—connected Carls helping career-minded newcomers in meaningful ways. Three years ago, 36 students secured externships through the Career Center. This year, the number jumped to an all-time high of 145.
Carleton’s Parents Advisory Council sparked the dramatic growth by tapping into its own professional networks across the country, Murphy says. Combining these new sites with others already provided by dedicated alumni blew the doors wide open for current Carls.
Chris Roan ‘03 hosted a Carleton sophomore this winter at Mother, an advertising agency in New York City. While his career in publishing and branding has taken him to high profile spots like The Onion and VICE, Roan says the learning curve out of college was steep. His aim in serving as a host felt simple: Give students a “real world” perspective he didn’t have.
“I play a key role in winning new clients as well as finding ways to add value to our existing client roster. It’s lateral by design, so I tried to make the externship day-to-day similarly versatile. We worked on editing some creative film work, did research in a potential marketing category, and interacted with as many departments as possible,” Roan says.
“I am not trying to sell students on the field of advertising and communications. My goal is to provide an opportunity to see the inner workings of an agency, and hopefully help them get an impression of the kinds of work, people, and skills at play in the field.”
Liz Banse ‘92, vice president at Resource Media in Seattle, remembers what it was like to search for purpose in her career. She hosted three Carleton students in December, and after going over learning plans with each, discovered that they had varied interests in environmental issues, journalism, and nonprofit communications and research. So she made a few calls.
“It was immediately apparent to us that this externship and their stay in Seattle was also an opportunity for them to meet others across all of these sectors to do in-person informational interviews that they might not be able to do in Northfield or even their hometowns,” Banse says.
“I was able to call contacts at an environmental policy nonprofit and an online journalism organization and arrange interviews, which helped the students understand what these other jobs entailed. Critically, the students were able to get honest responses of what they would need to do to prepare for these specific careers.”
Students may apply for up to three different externships. Murphy compiles the applications and sends packets to externship hosts. Once the hosts make their choices—placement isn’t guaranteed for everyone—the Career Center works with students to secure housing and airfare through available contacts and funding.
Roan admits that he didn’t capitalize on Career Center opportunities as an undergrad. Then again, a lot has changed about the college career track in the past decade. While career centers have always been a valuable resource on college campuses, Murphy says that they have only become a day one priority in recent years.
Fittingly, the Career Center saw a spike in freshman and sophomore participation for this year’s externship program—a major goal accomplished, he says. It goes hand in hand: The earlier students come in for resume and cover letter help, the better chance they have of finding the right resources for externships—eventually leading to network creation and more involved internships—during their four years at Carleton.
“Students and their parents have less faith that ‘it will all work out’ than I did when I was a student,” Roan says. “And while I was right, and it did all work out, it took a couple years longer than it would have had I laid some groundwork while I was at Carleton.”
Laura Westneat ’16 caught up with several Carls to ask them about their externships over winter break. Here are their biggest takeaways:
“I got a really good idea of the day-to-day working life of a primary care physician, and how exciting the days can be. My favorite moment—and the most exciting—was when we saw a man whose toe had swollen up with a fungal and bacterial infection. Dr. Adelman looked at it closely and said, ‘Wow, that is disgusting,’ and wrote the man a prescription. The toe was, in fact, disgusting, and seeing how Dr. Adelman was able to easily and confidently decide how to treat it was very impressive. It is this confidence that I want to have and emulate someday in my own career.”
— Dexter Corlett ’17: Dr. Richard Adelman, MD Family Practice, Raleigh, N.C.
“I think one of my favorite parts of the experience was toward the end of my externship, when one of the schools I worked at had a Winter Reading Celebration, where every student in Reading Partners at that school performed winter poems for their classmates, teachers, tutors, parents, and Reading Partners staff. Seeing the kids do such a good job and reading so fluently really exemplified how much they had learned in just a few short weeks, and made me want to look for a career working with young people in some capacity.”
— Eleanor Dollear ’16: Reading Partners, New York City
“One of my favorite moments was meeting with Lisette Nieves, a member of President Obama’s Advisory Commission on Education Excellence for Hispanics, and the Foundation’s Latino immigrant outreach consultant. As someone who is deeply interested in immigrant rights, as well as access to education in the Latino community, my meeting with Lisette was such a great opportunity. Lisette assigned me to do a small project on organizations that help the immigrant community, which served as a way to improve my researching and presentation skills.”
— Ana Yanes Martinez ’19: Pershing Square Foundation, New York City
“My externship at Brandt & Hochman gave me a valuable glimpse into the ins and outs of a professional workplace: one that was warm and welcoming, with hosts that were so thoughtful and thorough in answering questions, talking about the agency, or just giving restaurant recommendations for lunch.”
— Julie Zhou ’17: Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents, New York City