While the specifics of an externship vary by company, the program benefits alumni and students alike. Alumni sponsors get to introduce their companies to MIT students, discover potential interns or employees, and reconnect with MIT. Externs gain valuable work experience and contacts. “An externship provides externs an understanding of how different work environments and cultures can be, as well as what best suits their personality and nature,” says Maloney.
Three-time extern Jameel Khalfan ‘06 had a model experience. He worked at a New Jersey government agency as a sophomore, at IBM Research as a junior, and at AIG Real Estate Investments as a senior. In between, he held summer internships at French cell-phone carrier Orange and Boston-based advertising agency Digitas. Now a product manager for the Windows Business Group at Microsoft, Khalfan credits the externship program with helping him land those valuable internships and, ultimately, his current job.
After a year at Microsoft, Khalfan became a host himself. He sponsored two students, including one who subsequently landed a summer internship at the software giant. “Neither extern was from Seattle, and they came here and didn’t know many people,” Khalfan says. “I think it was helpful to have someone so recently out of school [as their sponsor]. I’m thankful that the Alumni Association made it so easy to participate.”
Nurturing New Talent
David Tabak ‘90, senior vice president at NERA, says that the externship program has helped his company find and nurture new talent. In 2000, NERA sponsored one extern; last year, it sponsored 19. Two former externs have since joined the company full time. But slouches need not apply. “We look for a good quantitative background, and we really are looking for students who take the time to prepare a good résumé and application,” says Tabak. “We put them to work doing the same types of things as new college graduates–running statistics or other economic analyses.”
Likewise, Khalfan says that Microsoft externs do not get stuck on Xerox or coffee-making duty. They have created product demos that were distributed worldwide to Microsoft salespeople, and they have performed competitive research that was used in sales presentations. “The work that they did helped us out and was seen by a lot of people,” Khalfan says.
Caldwell says that his own externship offered the same type of hands-on, guts-of-the-business experience. “When I came here that January, I had taken theoretical economics, but I hadn’t used any of what I’d learned,” he says. The externship gave him a chance to put theory into practice–and to get a good taste of the Big Apple.
Caldwell lauds the program for giving students the opportunity to sample the real work world without making a commitment to it. “If you have a good experience, you almost always have an opportunity to come back, and if you don’t have a good experience–well, it was only four weeks,” he says. As it turned out, Caldwell was in the first category: he signed on full time shortly after graduation.