Externship Program Provides Opportunities for Career Exploration

One of the best things about college is trying out new things, whether those be extracurriculars, classes, or career paths. With so many potential career options available, exploring as many as you can while at Northwestern can help you shape your future.

Junior Catherine Kang takes notes during her externship at omnicom MEdia Group in downtown Chicago.

Junior Catherine Kang takes notes during her externship at omnicom MEdia Group in downtown Chicago.

“I really believe that you never know what a career is going to look like until you get a firsthand look at it, experience it in a way,” Medill junior Pia Basu said. “I wanted to spend some time with a Northwestern alum who could walk me through what their career path was and some of the challenges they face at work, but also what they enjoy most about their job so I could get a sense of what would be a good fit for me.”

For her, the Northwestern Externship Program (NEXT) was the solution.

The program allows students to job shadow alumni in their field of interest for one day. Opportunities are available in a variety of careers, ranging from nonprofits and law firms to public relations and tech companies. NEXT, a collaborative effort between Northwestern Career Advancement and the Northwestern Alumni Association, is a valuable asset for students looking to get hands-on experience and make connections with alumni. The two departments work together to pair students with alumni hosts, taking into account the preferences of the sites and the students. This year, there were more than 360 alumni-student matches.

NCA’s Employer Recruiting Strategist and student coordinator for NEXT Eleni Vartelas said, “I hope that students get a more comprehensive experience of what it’s like to be in that role. We have students in all different fields. They can ask themselves, is this something I really want to do? Getting real-world experience and seeing the day-to-day will help them gain a better understanding of the type of work they want to pursue.”

Some notable hosts in past years include LinkedIn, The Joffrey Ballet, Google, and The Walt Disney Company.

Bella tsai, catherine kang, nupoor desai, and grace xia spent the day together learning about the world of media and marketing. 

Bella tsai, catherine kang, nupoor desai, and grace xia spent the day together learning about the world of media and marketing. 

Through NEXT, Basu was able to spend the day shadowing a 2004 School of Communications graduate at Deloitte’s prestigious consulting firm in downtown Chicago. While there, she shadowed and was able to ask her questions about the office’s day-to-day operation and the variety of roles within the company to get a fuller perspective of consulting.

“Beforehand, I had thought about consulting as one kind of thing, but I saw that there are many different kinds of consulting… which made me realize it is a potential career track for me,” she said. Basu also noted that she made a great connection with her NEXT host, who she would feel comfortable going to with any future questions.

Basu said she would absolutely recommend this program. “It took only a few hours of my day… and gave me the opportunity to connect with someone really awesome who went to Northwestern and ask anything that I wanted. You don’t get these kinds of opportunities after college… You never know, you might find something you’re really passionate about.”