Externship Program

The Grinnell College Externship Program is designed for students interested in a career exploration experience with a Grinnell alumnus. Students live and work alongside alumni for approximately three to five days to learn about the host’s day-to-day work life; this will allow students to evaluate how their personal values, interests, and expertise may form a future life and career. Beyond shadowing the alumnus at work, externs can participate in informational interviews, a tour of the work facility, and participation in actual office projects, etc.

Information for Alumni

The Grinnell College extern is a bright, inquisitive liberal arts student with writing, analytical, and research skills that could positively benefit your organization. Students who have chosen to participate in the Externship Program are interested and motivated to learn from a career exploration experience.

Externships opportunities will be separated into three types of experiences: Exploratory, Career Community-Based, and Social Change Externships. The variety of externship opportunities allows alumni to provide students with helpful, appropriate experiences that best utilize the alum’s skills, work situation, and areas of interest. Additional details on these options are outlined below:

Exploratory Externship - The Exploratory Externship will include the majority of externship participants, and it 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. The purpose of the Exploratory Externship is to allow students to gain an understanding of their strengths and how their academic preparation can be used in work settings; this awareness is helpful to students as they begin to make career choices.

Career Community-Based Externship - The Career Community-Based Externship is designed for students interested in a career exploration experience specific to their associated Career Community (Arts and Communications, Business and Finance, Education Professionals, Government and Social Service, Health Professions, Law, Science and Technology). These students are primarily second and third year students who are fairly decided about their major and/or career path. The goal of a Career Community-Based Externship is for students to gain an understanding of their knowledge and skills, and how those skills can be used in their desired industry or position. This experiential learning is helpful as students make more defined career choices and/or plan for graduate or professional education.

Social Change Externship - The Social Change Externship is an experience that allows students to explore what it means to be a change-maker working on the cutting edge of social innovation. Students will partner with alumni leaders in various fields who are working to create solutions to pressing social justice issues. The goal of this externship is for students to understand how their academic lives and industry preferences can be used to combat immediate needs and related systemic issues. Students will gather knowledge and perspective that will be invaluable as they seek to envision themselves as a change agent.

Homestay Only – If you are interested in assisting with the externship program, but you are unable to host a job shadow, we can still use your help as a homestay host! Students experience holistic learning by connecting with alumni and witnessing their day-to-day lives outside of work, and this is an essential element of the externship program. If an externship host in your area is unable to provide a homestay, your help is essential to make this experience possible for the student. If you are interested in this volunteer opportunity, please complete the externship alumni registration form.

How to Sign Up to Participate

  • Registration to host a Grinnell College student extern during Spring Break 2018 is open now. 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. Registration closes on October 30, 2017.
  • If you have any questions about your participation in the Externship program, please contact Brooke Vonderheide, assistant director of donor and alumni relations for career programs, at vonderhe@grinnell.edu or at 1-641-269-3196. Thank you so much for considering participation in the Externship Program and investing in your fellow future alumni.

More information

Expectations for Alumni Externship Hosts

We hope the externship will prove to be a rewarding experience for our students and you. Listed below are some specific recommendations to host a meaningful and effective externship.

Prior to the Externship

  • You will be introduced to your extern via email (initiated by Grinnell College staff) by early February.
  • Begin to get to know your extern by reaching out via email to find a time for a phone call or Skype session. Learn about each other’s expectations and goals for the externship.
  • Inform extern of expectations related to dress and confidentiality of information.
  • Communicate with the student about expectations regarding travel during the experience, lodging arrangements, items they should bring, and any details about meals by sharing what you can and cannot provide.

Time with You at Work

  • Give the Extern a tour of the office and introduce them to the people with whom they 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 the job descriptions of co-workers and an organizational chart for the organization/agency if appropriate.
  • 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 any specific duties and projects on which they will be working and explain how these projects fit into the larger picture and goals of your organization/agency.
  • Arrange time for the extern to meet with colleagues at various levels within your organization. These meetings are meant to be a time for students to gain additional perspective about career paths, how a college student can gain experience in this field, and how someone pursues this career after graduation.
  • Throughout the externship, meet regularly with the extern to discuss their work, learning, and any new questions.
  • When appropriate, allow student to observe meetings and other activities, tasks, or projects in progress within your organization.

Time with You at Home

  • Give student a tour of your community.
  • Tell student about any civic involvement you partake in outside of work, and if possible and appropriate, give them the opportunity to shadow or participate in that experience.
  • When applicable, introduce and connect students to other alumni in your area.
  • Help extern to understand how you approach “work-life balance” or whatever surrounding philosophy for life you hold, and how that is affected by your career and industry.

Other General Topics to Cover

  • Share your story as a Grinnell alumnus. 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?
  • Prompt student to reflect on their strengths, values, and skillsets, and ask how this externship is affecting their vision for their future life and career. Keep in mind that students may have processing styles that differ from your own

Other Things to Keep in Mind throughout Externship

  • Be sure to notify College personnel of any changes in the student's status, schedule, or performance.
  • At the end of the externship, you will provide written appraisals of the student’s performance. There will also be a survey intended for you to give feedback about the program and your experience.

Thank you for your interest in becoming an externship host! Please let us know how we can assist as you seek to create a positive externship experience for you and your student.