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Adrian Lawson ’08 (Laurel, Md.) is undecided about what profession he wants to pursue, but an externship showed him that a number of degrees can translate into a career.

For two days Lawson shadowed Robert Mahr ’83, market development manager, self-maintained user market at TESSCO Technologies in Hunt Valley, Md.

He is among more than 200 Lafayette students who recently gained first-hand knowledge of the professional world. They served externships with alumni and other experienced professionals in business, the arts, education, healthcare, law, engineering, science, government, non-profits, and other fields. The students observed work practices, learned about careers they may consider entering after college, and developed professional networking contacts.

A cornerback on Lafayette’s football team, Lawson sat in on several meetings about technology, sales, and customer service at TESSCO. He met with company executives, learned about the interviewing process, and found out what skills employers look for in prospective candidates.

An externship host for the past 10 years, Mahr says the experience is tremendously valuable.

“I’m a big believer that sometimes academia and the real world are two different realities,” he says. “I think [externships are] a great program because of that. It allows students to see what’s going on in the real world and how what they are learning may be applied directly or indirectly to that.”

Lawson says the externship helped him understand some of the engineering career opportunities available.

“I like technology fields, and so I’m trying to become an engineer, but I am confused about the type of engineering I want to pursue,” he says. “I’m trying to open my mind to the different options and find out what majors I should start thinking about.”

By participating in the externship, he learned that he prefers the more artistic forms of engineering.

“I might switch to A.B. engineering and minor in architecture. I think that might be a good option for me,” he says.

Whatever Lawson chooses, Mahr hopes that he was able to instill the idea that there are many different jobs a person can do with a specific degree. He was impressed by Lawson’s initiative to seek an externship as a first-year student.

“I wanted to show that an education from Lafayette can take you in a lot of directions,” he explains. “When I was a chemical engineering student, I thought my job was going to be one or two things. I didn’t realize what other opportunities were out there.

“If this experience is a benefit I could pass on to someone else and they can then learn from it, I’m glad to help them.”

Mahr also provided Lawson insight into personal traits needed to be successful.

“Mr. Mahr told me that if I wanted to go into engineering, I would need certain people skills, such as being able to give others direction and problem-solving skills,” he says. “And even though I was kind of scared to be going into a big company for the externship, it taught me something about the reality of the people I would meet when I get out of college and look for a job.”

Categorized in: Academic News