My motto when it comes to externships -”if they are paying for it, take it!”
One of the best ways to access Big 4 firms early in your college career is through externship programs. Externships are becoming more and more popular as competition in the job market increases, as they provide a more seamless entrance into the firms. Each Big 4 firm has a well-developed externship program to filter in underclassmen, minority students, and special interest majors.
As a freshman or sophomore, the opportunity to do a client-serving internship is very slim – the cutoff for most firms would be your junior year. The best way to gain exposure to the firms and increase your visibility in their recruiting pipeline is by completing an externship.
What exactly is an externship?
An externship is a program sponsored by Big 4 firms to help students gain exposure to their culture and values. Typically you spend two or three days with associates of the company – either in an office location or a conference center/hotel. Time spent can be day to day or overnight, depending on the type of program. You will learn about the firm’s culture, values, expectations, and how to advance in attaining an internship or full-time offer. An externship will give you an early glimpse into how to align yourself with a Big 4 firm, and assess if that firm will be a good fit for you.
Make the most of your externship experience
Externships are short-lived – it’s important to make the most out of the few days that you have. You want to make sure you are ALWAYS on you’re A-game and soaking up as much knowledge as possible.
Are you on time, do you stay engaged, are you standing out positively, have you made any connections? These are all goals you should keep in mind as things the recruiters/associates will be on the lookout for (remember, the associates will be reporting back to the recruiters, so make sure stay appropriate even in more casual settings).
How externships helped me land a full-time offer
Speaking from experience, an externship definitely helped me land my full-time offer with Ernst & Young (EY). I attended their Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) in summer 2013, which included a three-day office site visit. They would have paid for my lodging and travel if I wasn’t local to the office.
I discovered what it was like to come to the office every day, take in the atmosphere of the firm, interact with my potential colleagues, and practice nearly the professional etiquettes I had learned. Every day was a learning experience, about a firm or about myself.
I was excited to go back to EY as an intern in the summer of 2014, where I was already ahead of my peers due to my externship experience. Knowing the office and employees well helped ease my transition, and very little felt foreign. I felt welcomed once again and confident in my decision to apply for an internship.
Remember, the more the recruiters and associates see your face and your effort, the better you will resonate with them.
Multiple externships can help with perspective
One important tip on externships is you are not limited to only one firm. The EY ELP was not the only externship program I attended. I completed one with KPMG and applied to one for Deloitte as well. This allowed me to survey more than one company in the summer, without any costs to me!
I strongly encourage you to find as many externship programs as possible. Review the requirements, and APPLY! It is the perfect opportunity to get ahead of your peers and begin developing a relationship with the company you want to work for.
For more information, below are links to each Big 4 firm’s externship programs: