I’ve spoken passionately about the value and power of internships for many years. If you know my background, I’m obviously a bit biased, but there are few more important tasks for undergraduates looking to gain a competitive advantage than participating in internship experiences.

So I was intrigued when a colleague of mine approached me to ask about organizing an “externship” experience for a local LA-based college freshman interested in learning more about the marketing function at a startup. “What the hell is an externship?” I asked. Turns out it’s part internship, part informational interview, part take an adult to work day. Essentially, a training program or “day in the life,” to give students a glimpse of what an industry / job / career track is all about without formally making a commitment.

So this proactive college freshman showed up this past week during her winter break, and learned the ins and outs (or basics, at least) of marketing at a B2B SaaS startup. She also received a free lunch at Poquito Mas. Decent externship, this. She was green but asked brilliant questions.

And she forced us, as marketers, to do what we’re supposed to do: be succinct and clear. Explain what we do. How we do it. Why we do it. You’d be surprised by how much you can gain in describing what you do to an outsider. It helps you clarify your messaging, forces you to communicate outside of modern business bullshit jargon. A great exercise for any executive, entrepreneur, or group leader.

Two birds with one stone, then, as not only was our visiting student impacted (she confirmed her pre-externship hunch that working in marketing, and at a startup, is something she hopes to achieve in the future) but we benefited as a host company too.

Sometimes it’s the little things in life, a day spent mentoring an aspiring young marketer in this case, that make you realize you truly can make a difference in the community, in someone’s life. This was one of those moments. So I was frustrated when I took a look at Google Trends expecting to find “externship” searches on the rise over the past decade. Instead I found this flatline:

Externship_Google_Trends

It’s early January and many college students in the US are in this weird “in between” time – after the holidays but before the second semester begins. So if you’ve got a friend or family member in college tell them about this unique, under the radar concept, this “externship,” thing. They’ll thank you.

And if you’re in school yourself, consider using this winter break, or an upcoming short school break to schedule one of these experiences too- explore your desired career track, develop networking skills, and experience workplace culture.

The benefits are clear, for both the host employer and the visiting student. And that’s not always the case in business. When one wins, the other often loses. In this case, both can emerge winners.

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