Ah, winter break. It’s the perfect time to catch up on sleep, do a ton of laundry, and enjoy Mom’s special pancakes, and cookies, and lasagna, and okay… basically anything else you can get your hands on that didn’t come from your school cafeteria.
While some of us may consider eating and sleeping to be the absolute best use of our time while we’re on vacation, other students have slightly more ambitious ideas.
Take Anna Ma, for instance. Anna’s a current junior at Reed College and she opted to spend part of her winter break here at AfterCollege, doing an externship. What exactly is an externship and how could you benefit from participating in one? Just keep reading to find out!
The new and improved AfterCollege editorial/social media team!
What is an externship? How does this program work at Reed?
It’s a job shadowing program where you get to connect with Reedies and see what their careers are like.
This is the second year we’re doing the externship program—it’s expanded so there are a lot more externships in general and a lot more of them are outside of Portland.
At Reed, students can select externships they’re interested in. There’s a short application process, and alum get to choose who they’d like to have as an extern.
The career services office had them advertised on campus both through flyers and emails. I’m signed up for the career services-specific email list, but I think one went out in the student body info newsletter, too. It basically just said, “Here are the places where you can be an extern, you can go online on the career services page to find out more.”
The amount of time you spend at a company depends on the person—it seems like two to three days is the optimal amount of time to learn about what the company does. I have a friend who got an offer for two weeks and is getting paid minimum wage. It’s usually only a few days because it would be hard to handle all the logistics of setting people up with accommodation, etc.
How did you find out about this externship? How long did the process take from start to finish?
I read the career services emails but I also noticed the flyers around campus and I saw that there was one with AfterCollege in San Francisco. I knew about the company because I had applied for an internship here over the summer.
The application process is fairly simple. It was just a few short questions and you had to send in your résumé. All that goes to the career services office, who then shares it with the person who would be your sponsor.
It was a pretty short process—it was about a week between when I submitted my materials and found out that I’d be doing the externship.
Simon’s work is so important he needs two GIANT monitors!
What sorts of other activities does the Center for Life Beyond Reed (Reed’s Career Services) offer? How did you find out about them? Which ones have you participated in?
They’ve done several networking events, the biggest of which is “Working Weekend.” I participated in it twice so far and I’ll be going again this February. They bring alumni from all over the country. They meet with current students to talk about their current jobs, how they began their careers, and give us advice.
The first year there were job panels where you got to see which fields you were interested in and the people were experts in things like consulting, law, etc. After the panels, they put everyone in a room and let you mingle.
The second year they did the same thing with the panels, but you could sign up online to have one-on-ones with three to five alum because it was more effective than just putting everyone in a room and making students feel like we had to compete for people’s attention. That was really helpful. And this year they’re repeating the same format.
I spoke with a guy who was a head honcho for a financial firm, a woman from Viacom, and someone who had graduated a year or two ago who was working at a start-up.
They put on career skills events for students, things like seminars about good interviewing skills, mock interviews, preparation for the networking events, and they occasionally bring speakers.
They also have an email list you can sign up for—they have general information about events that are coming up, scholarships, job listings, fellowships, grants, etc.
Would you say that your friends are as invested in their job search as you or are you kind of an exception?
At every event, there’s the same group of students who come. Not a lot of my friends do because they don’t want to or they think it’ll be a waste of time. I always go even though I know that my networking skills are not the best, because I think it’ll help.
It seems like it’s a lot of Econ majors and Poli Sci majors (maybe because they tend to go into Finance and it seems like we have a lot of Finance people presenting), some humanities majors, and some hard science majors.
What were some of the things that you did during your externship?
I was able to speak with a few different people who worked in different aspects of working for a website and got to understand more about what AfterCollege does and the different job roles and how they’re integrated to create one cohesive product.
Jess introduces Anna to the exciting world of interaction design.
What is your major? How does your externship relate to your studies?
I’m an Econ major. I don’t necessarily see a connection because AfterCollege is not finance focused, but I got to see how I could use my soft skills and how it’s possible to work for a website without being a techie.
What are some of things you’ve learned or observed during your time at AfterCollege?
You don’t necessarily need to know how to write code in order to work for a website. That gave me some hope in finding a job after I graduate.
Working in a small, collaborative environment is going to be optimal for someone like myself. Coming from a school like Reed, I know that I need that type of setting.
The AfterCollege team headed to Gott’s Roadside in the Ferry Building for an al fresco lunch.
What are some of your career goals after graduation?
The first one is to find a job and the second is to really figure out what I want to do. I know I want to go into sales. I’m not sure yet about some of the specifics like if I want to work in an office or go out and meet clients.
When I graduate, I definitely want to start working so I can gain experience. Eventually I might want to get an MBA.
I definitely wouldn’t mind moving out of Portland—that would be optimal. The best would be to work in San Francisco and live with my parents because that would be the cheapest option. But I’d also be open to moving to another large city.
My dream company is Zappos because I’ve had the experience of working in a stodgy corporate environment where the cultural fit wasn’t there. I like how Zappos really emphasizes cultural fit and wants everyone to look forward to going to work every day; that really appeals to me.
What advice do you have for other college students about internships/externships?
Networking is going to be the most important aspect of trying to find a job because it’s hard to get hired through sending in an application online. It’s really easy for your résumé to get lost in the stack. Connecting with alumni at your school through LinkedIn, career services, etc. is great because alumni are often willing to go the extra mile to help you.
Figuring out what you want to do is important because there’s so much out there—figuring out your strengths and what you like and don’t like is really important.
Working on campus really helped me to figure out some of my strengths and interests because it’s fairly easy easy to get hired for an on-campus job. I applied for a few jobs on campus and worked in the mail room and at Phonathon. They helped me realize that I like customer interface and talking to people and that having a career in sales is what I want to do with my life.
“No photos, please. We’re trying to work here.” J/K. Charlie and Anna talk about what it takes to rock a sales job.
Homework time! When is your next break from school? See what types of internship/externship opportunities your career services office has—you might be surprised! And even if there’s nothing that appeals to you, check out your alumni group on LinkedIn and see if you can find any alumni who are doing something you’d like to learn more about.