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Balancing an Internship & Being a Student

July 1, 2016
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Congratulations, you’ve landed your dream internship or job! Upon hearing the news, there’s that sense of excitement for the future, where you realize that this is just the beginning of an amazing opportunity that will lead to a lot happening to you in the world of business. You’re well on your way to lay claim to your inevitable fortune and successes.

But wait… there’s a brief sinking feeling when you realize something – you’re still in school.  And not part-time or anything like that. You’re a full-time, 13-15 units a semester, test-taking, binge-studying, caffeine-drinking college student. You ask yourself “how am I supposed to excel at my internship while balancing a full school schedule at the same time? Won’t my grades tank? Won’t I have no life whatsoever trying to pull this off?”

A lot of students work while they’re in college, myself included. My senior year of college, I found myself trying to balance a 16 unit per semester workload with a 25-30 hour per week part-time job, asking myself those same questions. I was fortunate enough to go through that experience and come out in one piece, with a paid position at the company I had interned for (take a wild guess where that may have been).

I’m not going to pretend that I’m the final authority on this, because there are students who have worked much longer hours and at much more laborious jobs than I did while balancing a full school schedule. Those people deserve a round of applause. But I was able to come up with a few tips and practices that helped me in my experience, that I think everyone who is working while in school can take something away from. So, without further adieu, here are my tips on how to balance a (basically) full-time job or internship with a full school schedule… while keeping your sanity in the process.

Tip #1: Know What You’re Getting Yourself Into

I cannot stress this enough: you need to understand the nature of the business you’re working at, as well as the industry as a whole before you fully commit to accepting the internship.

What time would work start in the morning? How long is the average workday at this company/in this industry? Do the people at this business show up to work early and leave late? Will you be expected to do work outside of the office? Does it require you to travel on a regular basis?

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.

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Tip #2: Get Organized. Like, Now.

A big concern people have when they’re in the predicament of balancing work and school simultaneously, is figuring out what to focus on, when they should focus on it, and for how long.

The one thing that really helps with this (and I know everyone’s parents probably made them A big concern people have when they’re in the predicament of balancing work and school simultaneously, is figuring out what to focus on, when they should focus on it, and for how long.create one of these at some point) is a to-do list.  Whenever I felt overwhelmed by all the tasks that were getting thrown my way at work, paired with the ever-present fear of lapsing in my academics, I would make a detailed list. I would rack my brain for every possible thing I would need to do for work, and then put them in order of most important to least. Then I would repeat that same process for school.

This would really help orient me, and give me a game plan for how to tackle the tasks of the day. I would really recommend using tools like Evernote, Momentum, and Google Calendar to block out parts of your day where you know you have certain responsibilities. This lets me visually recognize what my tasks are, and how long I estimate each one will take, which was a huge help. Can’t stress it enough; get organized – as soon as humanly possible.

Tip #3: Get Into A Daily Routine

This is crucial. Getting into a consistent morning routine for the day either before work or school helps you not only mentally prepare for the day, but provides some form of consistency in your life at a time where you’re juggling a lot of different responsibilities. The last thing you should need to spend time worrying about is what you’re going to do before work or school.

Many successful people, specifically entrepreneurs, say that the less you bog your consciousness down with mundane and monotonous daily tasks, the more room you have for creative thinking. That’s one of the reasons why Mark Zuckerberg, for instance, wears the same outfit every day – so that he doesn’t need to burden himself with that (in his view, meaningless) decision every morning, and can instead spend that time thinking creatively.  If you’re in an internship or job where you want to make a long-term impact, creative thinking and ingenuity are key.

Tip #4: Be As “Present” As Possible

Because you have more competing responsibilities than you may be used to, it’s critical that wherever you are, whether it be school, work, or out with your friends, you are totally mentally invested in the tasks immediately at hand. Otherwise, you’ll find your mind wandering and thinking about your other responsibilities or duties, which causes unnecessary stress and causes you to lose focus. When you lose focus on the tasks at hand is when your work – whether that be at school or in the office – suffers.

Now, I know that this is so much easier said than done. Trust me. Those who know me know how quickly I can become distracted or stressed. To combat this, I would find different ways to orient myself into whatever task was directly in front of me. One of those ways was to try and change my mindset, depending on where I was.

For instance, when I was at work, I would think to myself over, and over; “I’m a businessman right now. I don’t have anything else to worry about except for work.” The mantra would change when I was studying for a test, or doing homework; “I’m just a regular student right now, and the only worry I have in the world is this assignment right now.” Sounds super corny (I can feel you all rolling your eyes at me from this side of the screen), but I promise you it helps.

Tip #5: Leave Yourself Time To Be Social

This might be the most important tip of the bunch. Don’t drown yourself in responsibility. Leave yourself time to hang out with your friends, play sports, read books, pick up new hobbies, or just sit on the couch and watch some TV.

The only way you’ll do good work, in both school and your internship is to make sure that you still have time to do things that you actually want to do. It puts you in a better mental state to go out there and tackle your responsibilities head-on. For me, I worked hard at school and my internship so that when I was off, I could spend time with my friends and be carefree.

There’s never an easy way to balance two major responsibilities in life, especially when those responsibilities are as important as school and an internship. But, if you have an, organized game plan going in, a positive mental attitude, and a strong belief in your capabilities, you can accomplish a lot more than you think. Don’t sell yourself short.




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