How Can I Balance Both an Internship and Full-Time Course Load?

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Amarachi from National University asks:

“I got an internship, but it might eat into my college resumption time.  However, it is really a great opportunity. Will it be the right choice to go for the internship?”

Thanks for your question, Amarachi.  It can be a challenge managing a full-time course load along with an internship to be sure.

If you are like the majority of students attending college, then you are probably in college to gain knowledge and skill in your major and earn your degree to get your career started.  If so, you are going to leverage your education for employment.

If this is your goal, then the internship is a critical (and valuable) part of your academic program.  Simply put, I encourage you to figure out a way to balance your school work with the internship so you can gain valuable experience, learn new skills, start building a strong network, and much more.

The Value of a Good Internship

I am excited to learn that you are planning on including an internship as a key part of your academic plan to earn your degree.  I believe strongly in the value of internships for students as it will allow you to “test drive” your career before diving in head first.  It is likely that you’ll love the experience, which will confirm your career choice and ignite your excitement as you continue towards your degree.

Additional internship benefits can include:

Gaining New Skills­ – As an intern, you’ll be participating as a part of team focused on achieving specific work goals.  Through this experience, you will be doing things that you probably haven’t done before so you will be gaining new skills that will be a part of your “professional skills toolbox” moving forward.

Earning Important Industry Experience – This will probably be your first experience in your chosen field. You’ll be gaining valuable real-world experience that will help you build your confidence, confirm your career choice, build your resume, and more.  You’ll be on the front lines working and contributing to an organization within the internship role.  Even though it is an internship, you’ll still be held accountable to produce results within the position. This is great practice because you’ll be having to produce high quality work and meet or exceed performance objectives just like when you are in a full-time role after graduation.

Building Your Professional Network – One of the greatest benefits of doing an internship is that you’ll be meeting lots of different people within the organization including current employees, management, clients, vendors, prospective customers, and more.  Through your internship, you will be building professional network connections.  These are connections that can offer value and benefit to you as you launch your career and well beyond.  Networking (engaging with people) is, was, and will always produce the best results in your employment search.  Don’t underestimate the value of building these relationships during your internship.

Strengthen Your Resume – Your internship will play a key role in helping you strengthen your resume.  After the internship, you can include industry-specific experience accompanied by your specific performance results within your updated resume.  Additionally, you can highlight relevant new skills too.  These things will increase your marketability as you move to launch your career in the near future.

Developing Good Time Management Skills

Balancing an internship and a full-time course load can be a challenge.  However, I believe any challenge can be overcome with a strong plan and commitment.  One important part of effectively managing your internship and courses will be the inclusion of good time management skills.

We all have the same twenty-four hours in a day to work with, yet some seem to get more out of the day than others.  Here are some tips on how to build strong time management skills:

Make a Schedule – Developing a daily plan can help you get the most out of each day and accomplish your “must do” items.  With effective scheduling, you can plan out your days in advance and will be able to foresee any issues that might occur so that you can build in time to create a better outcome overall.

Prioritize Tasks – As you build your daily plan, you will want to rank your to-do list with a focus on the high priority items.  You’ll obviously want to put much of your effort in making sure these higher priority items are accomplished first before moving on to some of the other lesser priority tasks.

Limit Distractions – It can be challenging to keep your focus squarely on the goals you’ve set for yourself as there are always distractions.  Distractions can be a great thing when your brain needs a rest, however, many overuse these leading to wasting time on unproductive tasks. Social media can be a huge time waster for many.  Make a conscious effort to restrict your use of social media and other time wasters.  I believe you’ll find you have a great deal more time available that can be applied to help you achieve your goals.

Say “No” – Taking on too much can zap you of your energy and put a serious damper on your available time.  It can be tough saying “no” to your friends and others who ask you to go out to a party or help them with their work.  However, consider focusing the majority of your effort on things that will move you forward in life.  It is not to suggest that you can’t include fun into your days.  You absolutely should include fun activities to get recharged and take a break from your hard work.  Focus on maximizing your day to achieve all of your school, work, and personal objectives.

Keep Practicing – Building excellent time management skills takes a commitment and lots of practice.  It won’t happen overnight either.  Nonetheless, keep working to improve your time management skills.  To achieve any worthwhile goal, you’ll need to build a solid plan and fuel the plan with consistent effort.  Your goal of developing strong time management skills is no different so keep practicing to improve over time.

Contact Your Career Center for Guidance

Most colleges and universities offer career preparation services to current students at no additional cost.  Simply put, students, like you, should leverage their career center as it is a valuable resource.  College career centers are staffed with knowledgeable, skilled, and credentialed professionals who can provide assistance in a variety of areas including resume review, interview skills training, job search strategy, and more.  Your university’s career center can likely provide some further insight to help you develop strategies to balance your internship and course work. Set up an appointment soon.

Putting It All Together

“It is a really great opportunity.” These are your words, Amarachi.  I encourage you to take on the internship, while managing the rest of your course load.  Internships can help you build new skills, strengthen your resume, develop important network connections, and can lead to full-time employment upon graduation.  Build strong time management skills to stay focused on accomplishing all of your objectives.  You’ve got this, Amarachi!

Good luck and best wishes!

Here’s to your success,

Bob Nealon



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About the Author

Robert Nealon

For almost 10 years, Bob Nealon has been a South Florida-based career coach, focused on training and coaching college students and professional-level clients to achieve success in their employment search campaign and careers. He has trained over 5,000 clients with strategies on how to best compete in today’s ultra-competitive market to land the job and advance their career. Currently, he is a career coach at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Sports Management from Indiana University, a master’s degree in Sports Administration from Indiana State University and is a multi-credentialed career coach holding industry certifications as a Certified Professional Career Coach, Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Employment Interview Professional, Certified Empowerment and Motivational Coach, Global Career Development Facilitator, and Florida Certified Workforce Professional. He is an active member of Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches, Center for Credentialing and Education, Florida Association of Colleges and Employers, National Association of Colleges and Employers, and National Career Development Association. Connect with Bob via LinkedIn and Twitter.

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