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‘How To Do It All: Interning While Taking University Courses’

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University life, particularly in the United States, is not only about coursework, but the extracurricular activities you’re engaged in, the connections you make, the independence you gain, and internship experience. Many students concentrate their energy on finding internships for their summers off, but those positions often seek candidates with relevant work on their resume. Balancing your schedule to take on internships during the academic year shows excellent time management skills, provides more time to experiment with different industries you may be interested in, and can give you extra spending money.

Finding A Position

There are many different ways you can get involved in an internship program as early as freshman year. Many universities host career and industry networking events, which provide the opportunity to speak with hiring firms. This is how I got my first college internship; I attended an Advertising and Public Relations Industry Showcase, wore a professionally appropriate outfit, brought my resume, and chatted with recruiters before finding a company that excited me. From there, I took the business card of the Human Resources representative, sent a cover letter to her email, and was set to intern the following semester!

Another option is to use your college’s career website to locate openings online. An advantage to using a platform specific to your university is that the posters are looking for students just like you, rather than posting an open call for anybody online. Most colleges use Handshake, an easy-to-use platform that lists part-time, full-time, and internship positions as well as informative career events and webinars. Handshake also lets you know in advance if your GPA, major, year, and Visa status matches what the company is looking for.

Arranging Your Schedule

The trickiest part about landing an academic year internship or part-time job is finding the time in your schedule to work. One strategy is called “stacking” your classes. Typically, each of your classes will meet twice per week, on Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday. Stacking involves selecting all of your classes to meet on the same days so that you can intern on the other three days. If you plan on a typical nine-to-five workday, this should leave you with up to twenty-four hours available. Part-time internships usually request ten to twenty hours per week.

Typically, offices will prefer that you come into the office for full days. Some are more flexible and you can work in smaller gaps in your schedule. Make sure that you’re allotting ample time for transportation. Public transportation is never one hundred percent reliable. For a typical transit of twenty to thirty minutes, I always aimed to have an hour of spare time. That way, you can get changed into office attire, put away or retrieve any class supplies in your dorm, and have room for unexpected delays.

Leaving the Right Impression

Being a good intern is often easier than it seems, as your supervisors know you’re still a student. Show them that you’re here to learn. Ask questions and offer extra assistance on projects that excite you. Find ways you can be of help to anyone in the office. Listen closely and follow directions as clearly as you can. Take the additional step to connect with your employers outside of work on LinkedIn or referring them to campus events where they can participate. For example, for one of my internships, I invited my supervisor to a career event a club I was involved in was hosting. Be appreciative of training that they offer, and use their instruction to go the extra mile. Don’t sit idle; always ask if there’s anything else you can do.

Making Time to Study

Don’t let your work life completely overshadow your academics. To successfully balance an internship with your classes, you need to ensure you have time for both studying and your social life. For example, you should get dinner with your friends after your workday is done, but afterwards, head to the library. In this new era of remote learning and working following the global pandemic, it may be easier to stay in work-mode without being able to go to parties or clubs. Still, leaving time designated for yourself and your happiness is necessary to avoid burn-out.

Use a scheduling app or planner like Google Calendar to arrange your internship hours, classes, meetings, and designated study times. Google Tasks is also helpful in importing your syllabus assignments early on so that you always have an idea of when things are due. There will be times where you have to get something done in a crunch. If you plan to take advantage of public transport, do your readings on your commute or listen to audio versions, typically found for free on Youtube. Annotate with a highlighter if you decide to skim a reading so you can still discuss important quotes in class and commit more to memory.

Working during the university year strengthens your resume for further internships at top firms and gives you the space to explore different industries. Getting good grades, having a social life, and leaving a lasting impression on your work environment aren’t impossible, even for first year students. By using your resources to find a good fit, stacking your schedule or leaving appropriate gaps, feeling comfortable and confident in your abilities, and thoughtfully arranging your time, you can have it all!

Author
About Emily Eget
Emily Eget is a political science student at Columbia University. As a first-generation college student from North Carolina, moving round New York City was a big but welcome change of pace. Since beginning her studies, she has completed internships ranging from fashion public relations to working at Secretary Hillary Clinton’s Times Square Office. In her free time, she loves volunteering with Columbia Youth Adventurers doing fun activities with kids from around the Harlem area, and participating in campus organizations like the University Life Events Council and her sorority, Sigma Delta Tau.

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