By Emily Zeitman Have you ever gone to bring-your-kids-to-work-day with your parents? Well, an externship is just like that. Similar to internships, but shorter, externships are brief, practical introductions to various professions within a company or organization. As an extern, you get to shadow professionals for a short length of time in order to fully understand what a position entails. Whether you’re just beginning college, or nearing the end, externships can open many doors.1. Real-life application of your major An externship allows you to understand the full extent of a career before pursuing it. Whether you’re unsure what to do with your major as a career, or want to see what your future profession will really be like, an externship is for you. Wondering what the day-to-day life of a video game developer consists of? Majoring in chemistry and want to know what it’s like to be a toxicologist? Externships are a perfect opportunity for any student to gain insight into the professional world.2. Learn about a company’s professional culture Not only do externships give you the opportunity to observe real work life, they also provide you a chance to experience an office’s culture. Culture is one of the most important aspects to consider when choosing a job. Do you want to be in a quiet, small office with only five other colleagues, or would you rather work in a larger, louder office that is constantly buzzing? A company’s culture is something you need to be aware of and understand before making any important career decisions. And what better way to understand that culture than by having an externship with a company that interests you.3. Short-term commitment Unlike an internship, which typically requires a two-month minimum commitment, externships can range anywhere from one day to two weeks. The short duration allows students to complete externships during even a short break from school, like winter or spring. And, because they’re so short, you have an opportunity to explore more than one. You can squeeze several externships into a single break, which allows you to gain insight into various companies, making the transition from college to “the real world” easier for you.4. Jump-start on networking Building a professional network takes time and practice, but the earlier you start, the easier your job search will be post-grad. Having an externship allows you to introduce yourself and make connections with working professionals. The more people you connect with, the larger your network will be. When the time comes to search for a job, you’ll have a larger network to help you. The saying is true: It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.5. Get your foot in the door Getting an externship with a company that interests you gives you a leg up on the competition. Though you may only spend two weeks or less with the company, you’ve already made an impression and understand the office’s culture better than any other candidate. This means you have an advantage when competitive internships or job openings become available. When recruiters are looking for candidates, one of the most important considerations is whether the prospect would mesh well with the company’s culture. If you externed with the company, then they already know if you’re a good fit.6. Opportunity to ask questions To get the most out of an externship, it’s important to utilize the company. As an extern, you’re lucky enough to experience the professional world right in front of you. You’re being handed a chance to explore various job titles and ask as many questions as you can. Sit a few employees down, ask them about their personal career paths and how they started, find out where they want to end up in five years, etc. Getting a feel for different career paths and job titles at the company will help give you ideas of how to structure your future professional path.7. You’re allowed to make the externship what you want it to be Say you’re interested in computer programming, but on the second day of your externship you see someone working on an ad campaign and you can’t help but wonder what it was like brainstorming and designing the campaign. Well, as an extern you’re not locked into any one responsibility. You have the freedom to explore various departments and positions. If you decide that you want to rotate job shadowing every two days, or even every day, then you can make it happen.8. Put it on your resume As if externships couldn’t be any more awesome, you get the additional perk of using the experience on your resume. Having an externship or two on your resume proves to employers that you’ve taken initiative and thrown yourself into the professional world. This is what companies like to see. List the company, dates, and three bullet points of the skills you acquired and the training you received, and just like that you’ve created a compelling resume.