How you can encourage students to get a jump on work experience

Externships are like internships—but take far less time.
Byron Hsu
Byron Hsu

College is a critical time for students to identify their passions and figure out what they want to do professionally. It’s the time to build a resume and climb the ladder so by graduation, a reputable company will offer them a great job. Classes help in this quest, but work experiences like internships are where students truly differentiate themselves in a competitive landscape.

Most college students have only three summers to climb that internship ladder. Those who utilize that time have a major advantage over those who wait until their senior year to scramble for a last-minute internship. Students who seek opportunities sooner rather than later find themselves in a much better position—and this can begin before they even step foot on campus.

High school seniors about to graduate and head off to college may not have their future career at the forefront of their minds. They might think they have plenty of time to get the experience needed to jumpstart a career. While it’s true that four years is quite a long time, students need to understand there are always actions they can take to be one step (or multiple) ahead of their competition.

With their peers gaining experience at the same rate, it’s important to stand out early to separate from the rest of the pack. A great way to gain that critical advantage over others vying for the same jobs is to get a range of student work experience throughout your time at college.

Career insights

In practice, however, starting work experiences early in college can prove to be difficult, with internships taking time away from classwork and other extracurricular activities. Adding an internship to an already busy schedule may end up having a negative affect for a student’s performance.

There is, however, an alternative way to fit it all in. Many companies offer remote externships. Externships are like internships—but take far less time. They last six to eight weeks and only require about 10 hours per week. It’s all online on a student’s own time, which is certainly manageable for a student ambitious enough to get early experience.

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High school seniors who are wrapping up final exams can start researching externships in their areas of interest so they can apply the summer before they start college. Once a first-semester freshman completes an externship, they already have more experience than the vast majority of students who will start applying for internships the summer after their freshman year. This puts students with externship experience at a major advantage over other candidates.

Not only do these experiences help elevate students’ resumes, but when done early, they can also give insight about career direction. Sometimes a student will enjoy the classes for a particular major, but as soon as they get real work experience in that field, they realize it’s not the right path for them. No student wants to go through years of hard coursework only to end up regretting their choice as soon as they land an internship in that field. Taking an externship during the first semester of college helps eliminate any undesirable career paths sooner rather than later.

Remote externships are a great tool for students. Companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500’s now offer externships, so there are plenty of opportunities to choose from. They require a much smaller time commitment than traditional internships, they help narrow down a career path early, and most importantly, they give students valuable experience to stand out.

Byron Hsu is the co-founder, CTO, and head of product of Paragon One, a company that offers a platform for Fortune 500 and other businesses to host remote externships. 

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