Working towards your first degree is a challenge in and of itself. But good grades and an impressive list of extracurriculars aren’t enough to land you that first job after graduation. If you’re really determined to get a jump start on your career and find a job quickly, you have to have at least one internship under your belt.
For most college students, this isn’t news. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll be able to gain internship experience over the summer when you aren’t in class. However, the applicant pool becomes a lot larger for summer sessions and not every company offers paid internships, so some students have no choice but to spend their time working part-time jobs all summer.
To get a leg up on your competition, sometimes the best option is to intern during the semester, which comes with its own set of challenges. I chose to intern during my final semester when obtaining my undergraduate degree and have compiled some of the most important skills and tips I’ve learned over the course of my internship.
1. Time management
This one should come as no surprise. If you’re involved in extracurricular activities, you probably have already started to develop this skill. Being a student intern can easily take up most of your time, energy, and focus. But planning your days to accommodate time for work, school, and time with friends will keep your grades high and keep yourself sane.
One of the easiest ways to use your time wisely is to utilize time that you ordinarily wouldn’t be using to be productive. For instance, commuting to and from work can take up much of your time. However, it shouldn’t be time wasted. If you’re taking public transportation, use that opportunity to catch up on readings and assignments. Even if you’re driving yourself, you can listen to audiobooks along the way.
If you’re still struggling with time management, we recommend checking out Kevin Kruse’s book, 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management. Combining research and real-life advice from billionaires, olympic athletes, and more, Kruse develops 15 tips to help anyone who wants to accomplish more.
2. Have an agenda or an organizer
Recently, one of the members of my sorority gave a presentation for our University’s leadership program on productivity, which was eye opening even for myself. Believe it or not, the traditional to-do list isn’t the best way to stay organized (I know, I was shocked too when I found out). When putting everything on a to-do list, you can easily overwhelm yourself and feel like the list will never end, which is why they are actually harmful to your ability to be productive.
As a student, you probably already have some type of agenda in which you keep track of all your assignments. But not all agendas are made equal. Based on the type of person you are, the type of agenda or journal that works best for you may differ. Here are some of my favorites that I learned about at this presentation:
If none of these options work for you, you can also check out this article here on the best planners for 2020.
Like anything else, communication is key. To be able to juggle each part of your life, you need to effectively communicate your schedule and struggles to your boss, your professors, and your peers.
In most cases, they will all understand and be able to work with you. However, that doesn’t mean your professor will push back the deadline for your paper due tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. just because you sent him or her an email the night before saying you volunteered to stay late at the office. You have to also be reasonable and realistic of what they can do for you and what you can do for them.
If you have big presentations coming up or its midterm season, find an appropriate time to let your boss or supervisor know so that they understand the other commitments you have. People can’t read minds. Neither your professors nor your bosses will know what else you have going on if you don’t let them know.
4. Remember what you’re there for
College is a ton of fun. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t stay up late goofing off or putting off homework here and there to enjoy Bachelor Mondays with my housemates. But, your responsibilities ultimately have to come first. As a college student and an intern, you have a responsibility to not just meet but exceed the expectations of your supervisors and your professors if you want to accomplish tasks well and earn that degree or land that job offer.
To do that, it’ll mean spending some Friday’s in the library rather than going out with friends or even waking up early on a Saturday morning to finish that project. As terrible as feeling like you’re missing out on the fun can be, it still isn’t worse than getting a failing grade on a test or arriving late to the office. Sacrificing a few nights out here and there will pay off in the long run, I promise.
5. Know your limits
Throughout my time in college, I have worked part-time, held several positions within my sorority, and even played for a club sports teams all at the same time while managing an above average GPA. While it is entirely doable, it is also extremely difficult.
When I began interning, I had to have an honest conversation with myself on what I could actually handle and what would be the best path for me. As a result, I decided it would be best to not participate on my club sports team that semester.
Despite being organized and hard working, I still had to realize that there is only so much time in a day and only so much I can accomplish without burning myself out. Prioritizing your activities and being honest with yourself about what you can realistically handle is an important step in being able to give your all where it matters.
To help prioritize tasks and responsibilities, place them into an Action Priority Matrix, which you can read more about here.
6. Give yourself a break
Sleepless nights and long days with no breaks are a sure fire way to run yourself ragged. Believe me, I know plenty about that. If you really want to be performing your best, you have to let yourself relax a bit. Coffee can only keep you going so long before you find yourself run down with no ability to focus and no ideas to add to your assignments, projects, or whatever else you may be doing.
If you truly want to perform well in work, in class, and in life, you need to be able to also manage your stress as well as you manage your time. Allowing myself to relax was definitely one of the hardest lessons I had to learn as a student. Here are some of the ways I found that help me best when I need a break:
- Reading a book
- Watching Netflix
- Talking to friends
Everyone has different ways to relax. Whether that’s going for a jog, getting lunch with a friend, or even just taking a nap, taking time for yourself can sometimes be just as helpful to your productivity as keeping a color-coded journal. While it doesn’t always seem helpful in the moment, you’ll thank yourself for it in the long run.
Thankfully, I’ve been lucky enough to have a handful of unique experiences through my academics, extracurriculars, and my internship. Through these opportunities, I’ve been able to learn and cultivate these skills which will help me in my future endeavors, which I hope will help you on your next steps. If you’re still looking for that internship, we have tips for that here too.
The answers to these questions will all be excellent indicators as to how much time your employers will expect you to dedicate to your internship experience on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. From there, you can look at your school schedule and figure out what days and times will work best for you.