3 Tips to Making the Most of an Externship

externship tips, concorde career college

At Concorde Career College, we think learning is far more than just knowing. It's doing! That's why, as part of our curriculum, we include lab hours, clinical rotations and, finally, a community-based externship. "Externships really serve a dual purpose," said Graham Nott, Vice President of Academic Affairs at Concorde. "First, as externships fall at the end of a program, it allows students to practice the skills they have learned in a didactic and laboratory setting in the real world under real conditions and with real patients." "This helps build confidence in the students and continues to hone their skills for post-graduation employment," noted Nott. "The second reason is to allow the students to show off their teamwork, professionalism and health care skills to potential employers." As externships tend to be the culmination of a student's learning, whether you're finishing your pharmacy technician training or working toward becoming a dental assistant, it could be easy to have feelings of senioritis creep onto the scene. However, a strong percentage of our students are hired by their externship site upon completion and start their health care career in a familiar facility. We visited with William White, one of our Graduate Employment Specialists at our Tampa campus, about some tips, tricks, and tactics to make any externship productive and meaningful.

Don't view it as "working for free"

White said that students commonly misconstrued an externship opportunity as "simply work for free for employers instead of viewing the extern experience as a class that's not in a classroom and without the long lectures." Instead, he submits to students to view the opportunity as "a long working interview." Nott agrees. "Number one is professionalism. Arrive on time, leave the cell phone in the car, be professional and courteous to everyone, treat patients with appropriate care and compassion and have excellent customer service skills," he encourages. "Students should have good entry level skills, but you would be surprised how many medical facilities will accept a student with lesser skills as long as they look and act professionally. They feel that they can train on medical skills, but teaching someone to change poor professional habits is much harder."

Practical Tips to Make the Most of your Externship

  • Carry around a little notebook and take notes throughout the day. Review notes nightly and solicits the help of instructors or program directors when more complex questions arise about what is being learned on site.
  • Ask for more responsibilities. Ask to be cross-trained on different things. Ask to learn the software and ask for the job. Closed mouths don't get fed, and externs who ask these type of questions leave a lasting positive impression.
  • Network! Purposely and intentionally make friends with the Office Manager, Doctor, Administrator, Lead Assistants, etc. Many of them will know of other offices who might need employees if you are not hired off externship.
Furthermore, establishing a good working relationship based on commonalities and quality of work should almost always help secure letters of recommendations, which will prove valuable in the future. And, don't forget about documenting stories. "I personally think one of the greatest assets a student can walk away with from their externship are the stories they can use to sell themselves in interviews," White said. "Facts tell, but stories sell!"

Trail Blaze your own Path to Success

While each campus has folks designed to help with externship placement, White has found that students who find their own extern sites tend to be more likely to be hired at the end of their time. "I encourage students... to get actively involved in securing a site at least a month before their last term as long as they have the guidance of a Coordinator and the people skills to do it," noted White. "When they [students] are engaged like this, they also are practicing job-hunting skills and become very focused on the outcome. And that's a win-win for everybody!"
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“Concorde was one of my best vehicles that helped me gain the confidence I needed to change my life. … It all started with a vision, a will and Concorde.”

Lucy Vang
Medical Assistant Graduate

“Knowing I could be working as a Dental Assistant in eight months was crazy to me! I loved going to class and would drive an hour there every day. I’m truly happy that I took the step to go to Concorde. It was the best thing I have done for my family.”

Andrea Nolan
Dental Assistant graduate