Explore the Your Career Possibilities with an Externship

Tiffany J. Franklin, Associate Director

Students at Facebook 2018 – Engineering Externship program

This week sophomores, juniors and 1st year master’s students within the School of Engineering & Applied Science have the opportunity to apply to the Engineering Externship program for a day of job shadowing to be held in January 2019. These experiences help students see first-hand how their skills and interests align with professional positions in their career fields of interest. Applications are due this Friday, November 30th at noon. Interested SEAS students can email Tiffany Franklin at ftiffany@upenn.edu for a full list of sites for 2019 and to apply.

By participating in a “day in a life” within a work environment, you can gain exposure to an industry, insightful conversation, invaluable advice, and an insider perspective. Externships are typically job shadowing opportunities that are a half or full-day in duration and may involve the following activities:

  • Participating in daily operations that provide hands-on exposure to the career field/industry
  • Completing a relevant project if the externship is long enough to accommodate it
  • Attending meetings and presentations
  • Touring the work site
  • Conducting informational interviews with professionals in a range of departments and levels
Students at the Phillies 2018 – Engineering Externship Program

Depending on your school and year, you can participate in one of the structured job shadowing programs through Career Services (for example, the Engineering Externship Program or Discovery Days) or you can create this type of opportunity on your own through networking, which is simply connecting with people. Perhaps you have a friend with a relative working in a field that interests you. You could see if that person could introduce you and begin by scheduling a brief informational interview. Once you’ve established a rapport over time, you could inquire whether any job shadowing opportunities are available. Career Services advisors are here to help you consider both the timing and content of this type of outreach.

  • Discovery Days allow students to explore jobs and industries of interest to them through first-hand exposure opportunities with employers in a range of industries. Our goal is to provide students with an opportunity to observe a “day in the life” of Penn alumni or other professionals. These events are primarily for sophomores in the College of Arts and Sciences or in Wharton. Stay tuned for future announcements for our next Discovery Days to be held in spring 2019! You can also check back for updates here: http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/undergrad/discoverydays.php
  •  Career Services’ Externships in Higher Education Program allows students to obtain hands-on academic administration experience working in a campus office at Penn with mentorship and guidance from experienced professionals. More information about last year’s externships program (2017) can be found here.
  • Engineering Externship Program connects returning students with alumni and their colleagues at their workplaces in January, just before spring semester classes begin. The program is open to SEAS sophomores, juniors, and first year master’s students with first priority going to sophomores and then juniors. Externship sites include different types of companies, in locations across the U.S. and overseas. Consult your weekly Handshake career mail newsletters from Career Services for full application details.

Whether it’s through a formal program through Career Services or through your own networking, job shadowing is an excellent way to supplement your research about a career field. By meeting with professionals who do what you hope to, you will have the opportunity to ask questions, gain insights into the challenges they face, and learn from their experience.

Add value to your experience at Penn…and beyond

One of the best ways to prepare for life after Penn – as well as to help you make the most of your time at Penn – is to find a mentor.

One of the best ways to prepare for life after Penn – as well as to help you make the most of your time at Penn – is to find a mentor.  Mentoring opportunities can arise in many ways – for example, discovering that you really connect and enjoy talking with your faculty advisor – or be born out of more formal programs for undergraduates and Alumni such as those profiled on the Career Services Networking and Mentoring webpage.

The Penn Engineering Mentoring Program is one such program, pairing first year students in the School of Engineering and Applied Science with SEAS Alums.   Participant Praveen Bains (EAS ’13) has kindly shared her experience in connecting with her mentor below, illustrating some of the many ways such a relationship can add value to your experience at Penn…and beyond.

Pondering Majors: The Penn Engineering Mentoring Program
By Praveen Bains, EAS ’13

I remember when I first applied to the University of Pennsylvania and came upon the question that asked for your major. At the time, I was definitely uncertain as to what I wanted to do with my life, but I ended up checking the box next to “Bioengineering” and thinking “I’ll just figure it out later.”

Later came in the form of second semester, when I still hadn’t decided if Bioengineering was for me. In an effort to figure out what to do, I signed up for The Penn Engineering Mentoring Program.  [Open to SEAS freshmen, students can apply and select potential mentors from a database of SEAS Alumni volunteers.] After reading through the possible mentors and selecting a few of them, I was paired with a Penn Bioengineering alum, Julie, who was currently working as a patent lawyer in New York City. It was an ideal match, since I had been considering attending law school and pursuing patent law upon graduation from Penn.

I sent an initial contact email to Julie, introducing myself to her and giving a brief background on my career ponderings.  A few days later I was greeted by an enthusiastic response from her; she introduced herself and encouraged me to ask her any questions. From there we corresponded by email for the rest of the semester, mainly discussing her role as a patent lawyer, but also about the random happenings in our lives. It was a very casual and comfortable conversation. She was even in the midst of planning her wedding, but still found time to respond.

During the summer, we decided to set up a conference call of sorts. I was a little nervous initially, since we had built the mentor-mentee relationship via email; I wasn’t sure how she would be on the phone, or how I would come across. But the talking session was a success. We chatted for an hour over my motivations for becoming a Bioengineer, the differences between Bioengineering and Chemical Engineering (which I was considering at the time), and her own career path. Julie proved to be an invaluable resource. After talking with her, I realized that patent law was not the right fit for me, and that Chemical Engineering would be a better base for my future career.

Last summer I officially switched my major from Bioengineering to Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. It was a huge relief to finally have my path set. I am very grateful to Julie for helping me with my decision, and for being open to my questions.

Stay tuned for future posts from some of our esteemed Alumni Mentors!