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 solicit 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 asks 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 off 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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Davina Thomas-Clark | Medical Assistant, Vocational Nurse graduate

“I have taken the MA program and the LVN program. Concorde is a wonderful school. There is a difference between passion and a paycheck, and most of my instructors had a passion for what they do. The program was challenging but well worth it. I love this college!”

Marcus Streator | Respiratory Therapy graduate

“Without the support of certain instructors … I would not have pushed myself to grasp the concepts and pass my boards on the first attempt. Once I passed my boards, it was less than one month after that I landed my first Respiratory Therapist job where I am currently working with so much joy every day.”

James Harkins | Nursing Graduate

“What I liked about Concorde was that there was nothing flashy. They were very up front, very simple, answered all my questions. They were more concerned with my education than tuition.”

Allison Hamm | Dental Assistant graduate

“I enjoyed every second of my time at Concorde. I learned so much in a short amount of time. I spent my extern at Forney Modern Dentistry in Forney, Texas and was hired on immediately. I have now been there for almost four years. I recently was promoted to Pediatric Manager at our Garland location. I give all the credit to this amazing school and my great experience there.”

Nicole Smith | Nursing graduate

“I was a single mom of two kids ready to have a career. At 34, I didn’t have time to do a four-year program, so I moved home with my mom and committed to the program. It was one of the hardest things I’ve done, but by far the best! I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life, and Concorde gave me the tools I needed to complete my goals.”