Learning and Exploration through Externships

9 May 2022

A simple search of the word “externship” produces many results, often comparing and contrasting externships and internships. While the two are similar, there are some key differences outlined in many articles and career sites.

Luke Klefstad
Luke Klefstad, Program Director for Experiential Learning

At the Carleton Career Center, we define an externship as a direct experience to connect career and academic interests. Externships provide close supervision with frequent interactions between hosts and students to encourage learning and reflection. They are short-term opportunities that involve job shadowing, networking, and/or project-based work. In an externship, students are able to see how their academic learning and professional interests can align in a meaningful way. 

Our Externship Program has been around for 14 years and takes place during the extended winter break provided by Carleton’s academic schedule. These experiences last between one and three weeks and are generally hosted by Carleton alumni, families, and employer partners with close ties to the college. Most externships are unpaid.

Here are some examples of what our externs were up to last year:

  • Observed the day-to-day life of an urban planner. Met with various professionals in the industry.
  • Learned about the basics of the publishing industry, how to read a book contract, and the general responsibilities of a literary agent. Read manuscripts and wrote their own reader’s reports for the agents.
  • Shadowed doctors in various fields, worked on clinical research, and sat in on journal club meetings. Updated an existing literature review.

Externships are a great way for parents and families to become more involved with Carleton. They provide an opportunity to see what skills and insights Carleton students can contribute to their organization or company. At the same time, students are introduced to an organization to explore and learn about a specific industry, organization, and work culture to help in their career discernment. 

Externships are a promising way for students to connect with future opportunities within an  industry. Former externs have even been offered summer internships and full-time jobs with organizations who hosted them or with professionals they met through networking opportunities during their externship. In this time of tight labor markets, having better access to a talent pipeline through the externship program is worthwhile.

How can you help? We are looking for potential hosts for externship sites at their workplace and to provide free housing accommodations. Consider hosting or recommend other potential hosts to our team at externships@carleton.edu.