The importance of externships – how to maximize your experience and secure an internship / full time spot
My motto when it comes to externships -”if they are paying for it, take it!”
One of the best ways to access Big 4 firms early in your college career is through externship programs. Externships are becoming more and more popular as competition in the job market increases, as they provide a more seamless entrance into the firms. Each Big 4 firm has a well-developed externship program to filter in underclassmen, minority students, and special interest majors.
As a freshman or sophomore, the opportunity to do a client serving internship is very slim – the cutoff for most firms would be your junior year. The best way to gain exposure to the firms and increase your visibility in their recruiting pipeline is by completing an externship.
What exactly is an externship?
In essence, an externship is a program sponsored by Big 4 firms to help students gain exposure to their culture and values. Typically you will spend two to three days with associates of the company either in an office location or a conference center / hotel. Time spent can be day to day or overnight, depending on the type of program. You will learn about the firm’s culture, values, expectations, and how to advance in attaining an internship or full time offer. An externship will give you an early glimpse in how to align yourself with a Big 4 firm, and assess if that firm will be a good fit for you.
Make the most of your externship experience
Keep in mind, externships are short-lived so it is important to make the most out the few days that you have. You want to make sure you are ALWAYS on you’re A-game and soaking up as much knowledge as possible.
At this point, you have already passed the interview stage and recruiters are now trying to get to know you better while being amongst their associates.
Are you on time, do you stay engaged, are you standing out positively, have you made any connections? These are all goals you should keep in mind as things the recruiters / associates will be on the lookout for (remember, the associates will be reporting back to the recruiters, so make sure stay appropriate even in more casual settings).
How externships helped me land a full time offer
Speaking from experience, an externship definitely helped me land my full-time offer with Ernst & Young (EY). I attended their Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) in the summer 2013, which included a three day office site visit. They would have paid for my lodging and travel, however I was local to the office so I just commuted.
I discovered what it was like to come to the office every day, take in the atmosphere of firm, interact with the people I would potentially be working with, and I was able to practice nearly all of the professional etiquettes I had learned during my freshman year. Every day was a learning experience, whether it was learning more about a firm or about myself.
I was excited to go back to EY as an intern in the summer of 2014. Because of my prior externship experience I was already ahead of my peers. I knew the office well, I knew current employees, and very little felt foreign. I felt welcomed once again and confident in my decision to apply for an internship. In addition, the externship allowed me to develop my brand even further at the firm, which I am sure helped me secure my offer for a full time position.
Remember, the more the recruiters and associates see your face and your effort, the better you will resonate with them.
Multiple externships can help with perspective
One important tip on externships is you are not limited to only one firm. The EY ELP was not the only externship program I attended. I completed one with KPMG and applied to one for Deloitte as well. I was able to survey more than one company in a summer without any costs to me.
I strongly encourage you to find as many externship programs as possible. Review the requirements, and APPLY! It is the perfect opportunity to get ahead of your peers and begin developing a relationship with the company you want to work for.
For more information, below are links to each Big 4 firm’s externship programs:
For more tips and tricks from Big 4 veterans on internships, interview questions, resumes, cover letters, and everything else you need to know to secure an offer, download the Big 4 Blueprint completely risk free! That’s right, if you’re not 100% satisfied after reading, just send a note to [email protected] and we will give you a full refund.