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Externships from the Inside

October 20, 2009
Want to know if a career field is right for you? The Externship Program offers you the chance to shadow a Cal alum in the workplace and experience first hand what it's like to work in a given field.

Externships allow you to explore a career field without the longer-term commitment of an internship and to gain more knowledge than you could from a brief informational interview. A typical externship lasts one to four days and takes place at the sponsor's work site. In many instances, sponsors have been an ongoing source of information and advice for student externs.

The Externship Program placed hundreds of students in externships with over 200 different sponsors during the last several years. Students from a variety of disciplines have been placed in externships ranging from retailers such as the Gap and Mervyn's to biotech firms like Chiron and Genentech to shadowing a teacher from a local elementary school.

Tips for Having a Great Externship

Externs from previous years offer the following advice to current students who are planning to participate in the program:

  • Read through all the listings before you apply - you may find an unexpected gem.
  • Research the organization before you begin your externship.
  • Keep an open mind at all times.
  • Be actively engaged and ask questions during the assignment.
  • Ask for contact information from your sponsor when you finish your externship.
Former Externs' Comments

"I learned a great deal about the work environment of a law firm in general, as well as the work a plaintiffs' firm does along with the mechanics of class-action suits. My sponsor was careful to show me quite a variety of types of work he would perform in a typical day and made the experience comfortable and informative. I hope he continues to act as a sponsor as I imagine others would also benefit quite a bit from spending a day with him as I did."
History major

"I got to see firsthand all the different ESL groups that a teacher got to deal with, and got to see what a day was like for a ESL teacher. I really enjoyed my talk with my sponsor as we talked about graduate school and what kind of training was good. It really helped me decide what I wanted to do after college."
Linguistics/Chinese major

"I learned so much in four days! I think I learned more and saw more about the oncology medical field in four days than I could ever learn by sitting in a classroom for one whole semester. Of course, I still had questions by the end of the program, but it helped me start the semester with a desire to learn more about cancer."
Integrative Biology major

"My sponsor was so passionate about his work that he went above and beyond to show me all areas of child protection and county work. I know it was an area of interest for me, but he really helped me to narrow my window of interest and provided me with a number of contacts."
Interdisciplinary Studies Field major with a concentration on Social Development of Children

"My sponsor was extremely approachable, honest, open, and helpful the entire day and made the experience a valuable one to help me determine what I don't or do like about the occupation and industry."
Mass Communication major

"My sponsor was such a down-to-earth person. He was willing to go beyond his duties to give us the greatest experience. He has a great way of explaining to us what he does. He explained to us the way the analytical instruments worked. He gave us excellent advice and he offered to have us back once a week during the semester. We never ran out of things to talk about."
Chemical Engineering major

"I learned a great deal not only about the field of environmental consulting, but also about the career options available in planning, transportation, water quality, etc. My sponsor was attentive - making sure I met people in different departments within the firm (especially other Cal alumni). During my stay, I attended a meeting about a new CalTrans project and had a chance to assess an Environmental Impact Statement. After my externship experience, I am genuinely considering consulting as a career field I want to enter."
Environmental Science major

Former Sponsors' Comments

"As an alum, I cannot tell you how impressed I was at the [externs'] maturity, commitment, ethics, compassion and curiosity. They all asked tough questions. Each of them was able to easily talk with patients, which is unusual even for early medical students. They each have a real commitment to science and I am sure that this experience will help them reflect as they go along and make choices about later careers. I hope to keep in contact with them and can report that each one wrote me or emailed me personal notes about their experiences and the meaning to them. It was so gratifying to know it was so helpful to the students!"
Dr. Linda Bosserman, Medical Oncologist & Medical Director, Wilshire Oncology Medical Group & Cancer Center

"A highlight for me is understanding what a student is going through which helps get me in touch with my own development process from my college days. The ability to describe the activities that I am doing while I am doing them is also a worthwhile challenge."
Partnering Program Manager, Hewlett-Packard Services

"[The student] was very easy to get along with and asked excellent and insightful questions. I brought her to a rehearsal with me and she followed up with a beautiful letter about her observations."

"I really thought this was a great fit for the extern and me. We rolled up our sleeves on the first day. She came to meetings that exemplified the work we do and how we plan programs and collaborate with individuals and groups in the community. The extern helped me prepare a quarterly funding report, which was very helpful to my very busy schedule. I also think I was able to provide adequate one-on-one time with her to address her questions. She was very enthusiastic about helping me and our health center in the short period of time she was there."
Barbara Raboy, Director, Daly City Youth Health Center

"I loved it! I tried to give each student a varied experience with a broad range of exposure to the various facets of my career."
Public Defender, Contra Costa Public Defender's Office


Externship Program information, including listings and application materials, is available online. Don't miss out on this great opportunity to learn more about a career field you are interested in. Act now!

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