​Alumni Career Externship Program

​Frequently Asked Questions

The Alumni Career Externship Program provides students a shadowing opportunity to see firsthand what it is like to be a professional in a career they are interested in pursuing. Students spend time observing and often working with employers in order to gain some insight into the practical aspects of their potential future careers.

How long is the program?

Alumni are asked to commit to hosting the student for two or three days during Spring Break. However, some alumni may choose to have their student work with them for the entire week.

What should I expect from a student extern?

The host should expect the student to show up on time, be dressed appropriately and be ready to spend the day learning, observing and asking questions as appropriate. Since the program is designed to provide students exposure to a field, it is unlikely that the student will have relevant job experience. Students are looking to learn how their classroom and extracurricular activities lead into career paths of interest to them. Hosts should keep in mind that the student extern is not a “temp” and therefore should not simply be assigned to clerical tasks throughout the entire day.

What makes a good shadowing program?

While specifics vary by industry and function, high-quality shadowing programs have many of these essential elements:
The Host:
  • Has a location on the job site ready for the student, and one or more junior employees informed and available to provide background information and logistical “101” information so the student gets the most out of the time spent on site ​
  • Has provided the extern with an administrative contact person in advance of the program who can provide any administrative details as needed (best transportation, dress code, security badge information, etc.) ​
  • Has prepared himself or herself and colleagues by identifying key learning objectives of the student and how the organization will address those objectives ​
  • Brings the student into his or her daily activities wherever possible, and also lets the student shadow other employees to get a broader sense of how work is accomplished there ​
  • If possible, provides a project to which the extern can contribute ​
  • Conducts end-of-the-day reviews on progress made that day with the extern

The Student:​

  • Connects with his or her host one month in advance, and reconfirms all logistical information one week in advance
  • Is clear in that information what his or her expectations are for the shadowing program while remaining flexible to adjust to the issues that appear during their program
  • Prepares in advance by researching the organization and Washington University alumni in the field
  • Arrives with questions that are relevant to them and their career decision-making process

What have externs done in the past?

  • Conducting informational interviews with people in various specializations and at different levels ​
  • Reviewing company literature ​
  • Sitting in on staff meetings ​
  • Participating in focus groups​ Asking questions about the field, the organization, training and curriculum necessary to enter the field
  • Assisting with actual team or individual office projects (research, analysis, report writing, etc.) ​
  • Taking tours ​​

Am I expected to reimburse the students in any way?

The externship is an unpaid position. Students are expected to find their own housing and travel arrangements and do not receive academic credit.

Can I arrange for my extern to spend time with people other than me?

We encourage hosts to give a broad view of their organization and their industry to externs. We do, however, ask that you spend a portion of every day with your extern.

Once I am assigned an extern, how will I be put in touch with the student?

The extern’s résumé and cover letter will be forwarded to you approximately one month before Spring Break. Your extern will be provided with your phone number and email address and will be asked to contact you.

If I volunteer, am I guaranteed a student?

Pairing with a student for an externship cannot be guaranteed due to variable factors that affect selection and matching. However, if you are not matched with a student extern, you can still to offer career guidance and interact with current Washington University students in many valuable ways. 

How long is an externship?

It should last two to three days during Spring Break. The days are agreed upon between the host and the individual student, and are set at the host’s discretion.

Must I consider the student to be a potential employee?

No. ACE is not about hiring students for a job or internship. It is permissible, however, if you are impressed with your student, to inquire about their interest in any internship or jobs that your organization may offer. The host may stay in contact with the extern after the externship is over.

Others will need to approve my hosting an extern. Is there someone who can explain the program to them?

We are happy to explain the program to anyone in your organization. Email Kathy Budde or call (314) 935-7379.  

I’d like to host a student who is a business major—is that possible?

Yes, let us know if you would like to work with a student with a particular skill set or background. However, please remember that this is a time for students to explore various careers. An Arts & Sciences undergraduate student may be interested in a career in finance, while a Business undergraduate student may eventually want to pursue a career in the arts.

Much of my work is confidential. How can I be sure that the student will not discuss his/her work with friends and fellow students?

Students will be asked to sign a responsibility agreement, which includes a clause about confidentiality. We will send you a signed copy prior to the beginning of your externship. Feel free to ask them to sign other confidentiality documents if needed by your organization.

If I have additional questions, whom can I contact?

Email Kathy Budde or call (314) 935-7379.
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