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Externship Program is ‘Win-Win’ for Hosts, Students

Hester Thorpe Rathbone ’04 (left) hosted Lydia Orr '19 at the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center during the 2018 winter break. “It was great working with another Dickinson alum and seeing how much success she has had in her career and life,” Orr said.

Hester Thorpe Rathbone ’04 (left) hosted Lydia Orr '19 at the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center during the 2018 winter break. β€œIt was great working with another Dickinson alum and seeing how much success she has had in her career and life,” Orr said.

Externships require small time commitment, but pack a big punch

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

Dickinson College alumni and parents can help current students jump-start their career development by hosting an externship this winter. Externships don't require big time commitments, but they can pack a big punch. These brief, non-credit job-shadowing experiences allow students to gain a sense of what day-to-day life is like in a given profession, and what different professional environments are like, while providing alumni, parents and friends of the college a chance to give back and connect with talented students who will soon enter the employment pool.

Dickinson's externship program is a part of the sophomore-year phase of Dickinson Four, a program that invites students to make the most of their time at Dickinson, but these opportunities are available to students at all levels of their undergraduate careers. They typically run between two to 10 days and may include informational interviews, meeting observations, facility tours and short projects.

Exploring and connecting

Externships present ideal opportunities for students to begin thinking about what matters most to them and about careers that correlate with their interests and values. During the 2018 winter break, James Demakos '19 got a glimpse of the ground-up property development field, thanks to Warren Sackman IV ’08, construction assistant superintendent of Sackman Enterprises, who showed him the ropes, offering insight on everything from how to hire contractors to the technical considerations a developer must take into account with every new project. Demakos is now sampling a second career interest through a summer internship with a NYC financial institution.

For juniors and seniors who have already narrowed down their career choices, externships offer a chance to begin to build a professional network and showcase their skills to potential employers or internship hosts, while fine-tuning their career plans.

These include Malcolm Davis ’19 (policy management), a football player and passionate sports fan who’s mapping out a career in that highly competitive industry, and Lydia Orr ’19, a psychology major who knew she wanted to pusue a career as a licensed counselor but was unsure of what graduate-school route to take. 

While shadowing Doug Kramon ’93 at ESPN, Davis learned how to communicate effectively with customers and helped update the network’s FAQ page on fantasy gaming, all while gaining a more nuanced understanding of how the industry works. “ESPN is a trusted brand in the sports industry, so having that experience on my resume will impress future employers,” Davis says. “I was also able to make a lot of professional connections, which will go a long way in the future.”

Orr, who worked with Career Center staff to secure her externship while studying abroad last fall, spent a few days of her winter break at the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, working closely with her host, Hester Thorpe Rathbone ’04. While there, she spoke with several staff members about the pros and cons of pursuing a degree in clinical social work (MSW) or a licensed professional counselor certification. By the end of her externship, she’d pinpointed the best choice for her.

“I also confirmed my thought that I wanted to work on the clinical level of social work, rather than the macro level, which focuses on law and policy and the health care system,” she said.

Externships also can lead to internship, research and job opportunities. Jennifer Law-Marshall ’01 hosted Candice Ionescu '19 and Eric Palermo '20 at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and she noted that both were very attentive and asked informed and thoughtful questions of each person they encountered throughout the organization. While Palermo focused on a chemistry-focused career, Ionescu expressed keen interest in the federal government. She’s now working with Marshall through the NIST Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program.

Reciprocal experiences

Today, Marshall reports that the three-day portion of time she set aside for last winter's externships was "a small price to pay for the positive impact it will have on eager and dedicated students," and that she enjoyed the chance to give back and catch up on news from her alma mater. She's already signed up to host another extern in January.

And there are benefits for the host’s company too, says Kramon, who has facilitated two externships at ESPN for Dickinson students that include a chance to work a short-term project with a marketing coordinator, the position new hires fill. “The work is both necessary and meaningful for my team, and it allows our current marketing coordinator to mentor a new temporary employee on tactical work, a skill needed for their promotion,” says Kramon. “It’s a win-win.”

Externships and internships are only a fraction of Dickinson’s career services, which also feature career counseling; on- and off-campus career-exploration opportunities; site visits; resume, interview prep and LinkedIn-profile-building services; and electronic and real-world networking experiences. These include career-exploration and career-search services, regional events and continuing-education opportunities and ongoing networking and career events for alumni—so many, in fact, that the college hosts occasional regional Career Conversations events to bring alumni, students and Dickinson parents together to learn about the many services available to them. The most recent Career Conversations event was hosted in Boston by Bruce Rychlik ’89.

For more information on hosting a student for Dickinson’s January 2019 externship program, visit the externships info page or contact Annie Kondas, associate director, Career Services, at or 717-245-1740. Students interested in winter externship opportunities submit the externship application; those who qualify to participate are then matched to an externship. They may learn more on the student externship page.

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Published August 2, 2018