The Time I Almost Participated in the Extern Program

Power Point slide advertising the Extern Program

Source: Career Centre presentation

When I heard about the Extern Job Shadowing Program, I was interesting in learning more about it, and hopefully participating in it. The Extern Program allows U of T students and recent graduates to match with an organisation and attend a shadowing placement with them. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about a field or company you’re interested it, and see how compatible your values, skills, and interests are with them. You get to meet and conduct informational interviews with professionals from the organisation, and sometimes take part in hands-on projects.

Before taking part in the Extern Program, I had to attend an orientation session. During the session, we considered how our desired field correlates to our values, interests, and skills.

We also considered planned happenstance. The opportunity for planned happenstance is one of the reasons I was interested in participating in the Extern Program. Talking directly with professionals in a field I was interested in could lead to new insights or new opportunities that I would never have expected. I could discover that my desired field is a perfect fit, or the complete opposite of what I expected it to be—or somewhere in-between.

Career exploration opportunities, like the Extern Program, also provide chances for networking as an added bonus. This year, one of my goals was to improve my networking skills so that finding a job after university through the “hidden job market” doesn’t seem so terrifying. The Extern Program seemed like a great—and almost exclusive—way to gain access to a wealth of information about a given field and experience career exploration, while also making connections.

We then discussed appropriate questions to ask our hosts at the extern placements, like what their career path was like, what their responsibilities are, what working conditions are like, what the organizational culture of the company is, and if they have any career advice.

Organizational Culture: an ice berg with "typical behaviors" on the tip, "stated values" in the middle," and"fundamental assumptions" on the bottom

A part of organizational culture could be dress codes: they’re unwritten, but we’re aware of them. Source: Career Centre presentation

Through my own previous networking experiences, I’ve found that talking to professionals is the best way to get the answers to these questions. The Internet is good for doing preliminary research, but more specific questions can only be answered through informational interviews, which is why I was interested in participating in the Program.

After the orientation, the Extern Program placements were finally posted. I was disappointed to find out that there weren’t any postings in the field I’m interested in. There was one shadowing opportunity that I was considering, but it unfortunately took place at the same time as one of my classes. I was torn about going to class, or going to the placement, but I decided that I had to put school first since the placement wasn’t in a field I was interested in.

I would have preferred that the extern postings were made available before the orientation so that students could see if the opportunities matched their schedules and interests, especially since the actual orientation session was so crowded.

It was unfortunate that I couldn’t participate in the Extern Program this year, but there will always be more extern opportunities in June, or in the coming years.