How to Make the Most Out of Your Externship

You may do an externship as a necessary requirement for completing your certificate or professional training program, but your externship can be far more than something you simply check off from a list of requirements. It is an opportunity to learn a lot, make valuable connections, and get a head start for when you enter the job market.

It is easy to coast through an externship without getting much out of it, but putting in a bit of extra effort can be well worth it. Here are some tips for impressing your coworkers and supervisor, learning the skills you need, and making the most out of your externship.

Clarify expectations from the beginning.

Create realistic expectations from the time you first begin looking into possible externships. Inquire about your potential duties and the projects you might be working on when narrowing down your externship options. Being clear about what you are expecting to get out of the externship and what your supervisor is expecting from you will help you get exactly what you want from your externship.

For a better picture of what to expect, contact previous externs. In the semester before your externship or in the weeks or month leading up to it, make a list of objectives with your supervisor. That way, you can hit the ground running and try to prevent suprises.

Be Realistic

Your externship duties may include making coffee for the rest of the office and photocopying. Expect to perform menial tasks for other people, but do not resign yourself to having a useless externship. Make the most of it by doing these tasks well to gain others’ respect. Also, keep your eyes open for real learning opportunities to seize.


Communicate regularly with your supervisor. Ask for feedback, and discuss mutual expectations. Also, make it a point to network within the company and with people who work with the company. You can set goals such as meeting (virtually or in-person) a certain number of people each week.

Be Professional

Professionalism is one skill you can learn far better in an externship than in a classroom. It starts with dressing appropriately for the company culture rather than wearing your sweatpants to class. Also, be polite and respectful to everyone.

Responsibility is another important component of professionalism. Take pride in your work; don’t just think about it as something to get done like you might think about doing a research paper at school. Show others they can depend on you for high-quality work delivered on time. Strive to become the “go-to” person.

Think About Stages

Begin your externship by observing everything. It’s your opportunity to learn new skills, not to show off what you already know. As your externship progresses, focus on doing a good job on your duties, and ask for more work or to be included on more projects if you feel you can handle them. The goal is to be involved in as much as you can so you can develop your skills and your personal relationships.

Towards the end of your externship, think about your future. If you are happy with your current company, think about how you can build a future with it, whether that means landing a paid permanent position or keeping up strong connections. Otherwise, look around at other companies and begin making contacts.

An externship can be far more than a program requirement from your school. With some planning, you can make the most out of your externship to gain skills, make connections, and improve your career prospects.