Externship Program

Registration for the 2017 Externship program is now closed. Information for the 2018 Externship program will go out in the fall of 2017.

Information for Alumni

The Grinnell College Externship Program is designed for students interested in a career exploration experience. These students are typically first and second year students who are fairly undecided about their major and/or career path. Students gain an understanding of how their academic preparation can be used in work settings and also get a glimpse of the extent of their knowledge and skills. They gather information and perspectives that are helpful in making career choices and/or planning for graduate or professional education.

Your organization will benefit from the Externship Program by including a bright, inquisitive student with working staff. The Grinnell College extern is a liberal arts student with writing, analytical, and research skills. Students who have chosen to participate in the Externship Program are interested and motivated to learn from a career exploration experience.

The campus community also reaps benefits from the Externship Program. Students return to the campus with new experiences and perspectives about career exploration and development as well as industry knowledge that can be shared with their peers and instructors.

Thank you so much for considering participating in the Externship Program and investing in your fellow future alumni.

How to Sign Up to Participate

  • Registration to host a Grinnell College student extern during Spring Break 201 will open this fall. Interested alumni will be asked to complete an online registration form. Once  the online registration form has been completed, a College staff member will contact you with final confirmation of your involvement and a reminder of important dates.
  • If you have any questions about your participation in the Spring Break program, please contact The Office of Development and Alumni Relations at alumni@grinnell.edu or at 1-866-850-1846.


What is an externship:

Externships vary in length, but usually last three to five days. They generally involve a student shadowing a professional through a normal day's activities and may include informational interviews, a tour of the facility, and participation in actual office projects, etc.

What is the difference between an internship and an externship:

Externships are short-term, offer no pay (though *some* transportation funding is available through the CLS), and are hosted by alumni volunteers in various organizations to help students gain an insider's view of a career field. Internships are longer term (a semester or summer), may involve pay and academic credit, and support an organizations work function.

Why does a student do an externship:

An externship is an excellent way for students to learn about the day-to-day work life of a professional in a career field of your choice. It offers students the chance to "test" a career without the risk of long- term commitment and can help them get their foot in the door for a competitive internship program or job.

How does this program work...

...for alumni:

Alumni fill out the online registration form. The CLS will contact you with confirmation of your involvement. Should students preference your placement, the CLS will match one student with your externship experience. You should receive information about the student (e.g., name, resume, class year) by late February/early March. The student will stay with you for the 3-5 day period during the College's spring break that you indicated in your online registration form. Read further on The Role of the Alumni Mentor (below) to learn ways to engage the student during their job shadow with you. You will fill out a final evaluation of the student and the externship program and send it to the CLS at the end of the externship.

...for students:

Students apply for the externship program, pre-referencing their top 3 externship placements. CLS matches first and second year students with alumni mentors/externship placements. Students stay 3-5 days with the alumnus/a and observe him/her at work as a method to not only further understand that career field but how that career fits into one’s life. This program is intended to be a jump off point for students to start exploring their career options and talking with professionals in order to: [1] clarify their career exploration and interests, [2] connect their course work to outside the classroom and their future plans, and [3] connect with and learn from alumni externship mentors.

* Descriptions provided from University of Arkansas, University Career Development Center Website:http://career.uark.edu/Students/Externships.aspx

Role of the Alumni Mentor

We hope that the externship will prove to be a rewarding experience for our students and you. Please let us know how we can assist in making the externship a meaningful experience for both you and the student.

Listed below are some specific recommendations on how to use your time together.

Prior to the Externship:

  • Clarify what is expected of the Extern with respect to dress and confidentiality of certain information.

Time with You:

  • Give the Extern a tour of the office and introduce him/her to the people with whom he/she will be working.
  • Explain the mission, goals, functions, services and procedures of your organization/agency as well as your department and its relationship to the larger organization or profession.
  • Share your story as a Grinnell alum. What was your Grinnell experience like? How did you pick your major, classes, campus involvement, internships, research, etc.? What has your career path been since you left Grinnell? What/who has helped you along the way? What are some things that you are glad you did and wish you would’ve done?
  • Discuss the field/industry and how a student can start gaining experience and one day find a job in this field.
  • Explain to the Extern how you make decisions—what the alternatives are and how you arrive at conclusions.
  • Discuss with the Extern the specific duties and projects on which he/she will be working and explain how these projects fit into the larger picture and goals of your organization/agency.
  • Throughout the externship, meet regularly with the Extern to discuss his/her work and learning and any new questions.

Time with Colleagues:

  • Set up several 20-45mins time frames for the student to do informational interviews with those in different positions to discuss their career path, how a college student can gain experience in this field, how someone pursues this career after graduation, etc.
  • Ensure that extern has time to discuss similar things with entry level employees.

Time with Leadership:

  • Set up a 20-45mins time frames for the student to do informational interviews with those in leadership, to discuss their career path, how a college student can gain experience in this field, how someone pursues this career after graduation, the bigger picture of the office and mission/vision, etc.

Time with Materials:

  • Share with the Extern the job descriptions of co-workers and an organizational chart for the organization/agency if appropriate.
  • Introduce the Extern to brochures, manuals, reports, and/or journals pertinent to the organization/agency and to the field.

Time to Observe:

  • Give the Extern an opportunity to attend staff, committee, public or legislative meetings.
  • Sit in with clients meetings (when applicable)