Lafayette students get firsthand look at potential careers

In January, more than 240 students shadowed Lafayette alumni, parents, and friends across various industries—and gained real-life exposure to what it’s like to be on the job.

By Stella Katsipoutis-Varkanis
Original article published here:

In January, 245 Lafayette sophomores, juniors, and seniors seized winter break as an opportunity to gain valuable insight into what it’s really like to work in various fields. Through the externship program offered by Lafayette’s Gateway Career Center in partnership with generous hosts, the students shadowed alumni, parents, and friends of the College across a wide range of industries, and had the chance to immerse themselves in their potential career choices for two to five days.

Most students attended their externships in person, while some attended virtually, as more and more workplaces are embracing a hybrid workplace. All externs, however, walked away with not only new skills that will make them more marketable when they enter the workforce, but also a clearer picture of what profession they can see themselves pursuing.

“Externships provide a ground-level look at one of many practical, professional applications of a student’s major, and can help solidify a student’s choice as far as their area of study,” says Alexis Leon, assistant director of experiential learning, who manages the externship program. “On the other hand, but equally as important, seeing the reality of a job they were considering may eliminate it as an option for them moving forward, so it’s still very much in service to their discernment process as to how they can best apply their knowledge and studies after graduating. It’s just as valuable to know what you don’t want to do!”

Another distinguishing factor of the externship experience is the fact that the majority of hosts are Lafayette alumni, giving students the opportunity to build deep professional connections with successful fellow Leopards.

“The program has an incredibly long tenure with the College, and as a result we have a diverse range of class years as well as majors represented in our hosts from year to year,” Leon says. “There is a shared, foundational experience between hosts and their students the moment we make the match. Hosts also know firsthand the skills and ability inherent to being a Leopard, and how to leverage them within their organizations. In many cases, alumni have participated in externships as students and are actively seeking to give back not only to the College, but to the program itself, and to afford a student with an opportunity which they themselves found so valuable. They have a vested interest in the individual success of their student, and in cultivating a future member of their alumni network.”

Leon, who oversees the establishment of relationships with hosts, guides students through the externship application process, and matches students with hosts, also emphasizes that the hosts are the key ingredient to the program’s success.

“Anyone reading this has the potential to be an externship host,” she says. “We recruit year-round, but are most active in late summer for the coming January program. We offer in-person and remote opportunities, and hosts can select from three different weeks of availability in January. We even actively recruit graduate and preprofessional students to truly show options for that aspect of postgraduate life.”

Access the full article to look at a few of this year’s externships, and what students and hosts had to say about them:

By Gateway Career Center
Gateway Career Center