Intern by Day, Employee by Night: Is It Possible to Balance an Internship With a Part-Time Job?

Posted Apr 14 2014 - 12:00am
Tagged With: jobs, summer

After a long application season, you've finally landed the perfect internship. You'll gain valuable experience in your field, meet tons of potential mentors, and walk away with the ideal listing on your resume. Great, right? Not so fast... It's unpaid. Your summer may look like it's all nailed down, but it can be difficult or even impossible to support yourself without a steady income. Even if you can find a way to support yourself over the summer, what happens when you get back to school in the fall and realize your bank account is running low? You might want to consider picking up a part-time summer job. A paid summer job ensures you'll still have money to support, save, and spend, but it can be tough to balance work with an unpaid internship.
 
Find an Internship You Love

busy intern overworked stressed out lots of work

Dr. Carole Jabbawy, founder of Internship Connection, a company that matches high school and college students with internships, emphasizes the importance of finding an internship you love. “You will enjoy your summer if you carefully research the type of place that you think would be interesting. If the work is meaningful and you mesh with the company's vibe, there's nothing more exciting than getting a jumpstart on your career,” she says. 
 
Sometimes, taking an unpaid internship offer over a paid internship or job offer can work in your favor. If the opportunity will help you get ahead in your career, it's in your best interest to make it work, even if that means turning down a less beneficial paid internship or taking on a paid job on nights and weekends to make money on the side.
 
Michelle King, a recent grad of Emerson College, agrees. Last summer, she interned at Seventeen and worked retail. “Be aware that it's going to be a struggle to balance both and use that as motivation for finding a company that you're truly passionate about, not just one that will boost your resume,” she says. “Balancing an internship and a job last summer was difficult at times, but I never once regretted it because I loved Seventeen so much.” A jam-packed summer schedule won't feel so intimidating if you're excited about what you're doing every day.
 
Work Part-Time

It's one thing to turn down an internship that won't teach you much or add anything substantial to your resume; it's something else entirely to turn down a dream offer because it's unpaid. Jabbawy says, "If you get an offer for a great internship, try to make it work. Look for babysitting or waitressing jobs with evening and weekend hours."
 
Ask around your neighborhood and talk to family friends to find babysitting jobs. Can't find any families with young kids? Create a profile on Sittercity.com, a free site that helps families find babysitters and vice versa.
 
If you're interested in waitressing or bartending, go to each restaurant or bar as soon as you can and inquire about job opportunities with the manager. Depending on their application process, they may ask you to fill out an application or come in for an interview. These positions are competitive, so your best bet is to apply to as many places as possible until you find an opening.
 
Tutoring is a fantastic way to make money on the side, especially since you can set your own hours.  Do you have an eagle eye for editing papers? Can you still remember how to solve SAT math problems? Turn to Facebook to publicize your services as an academic or SAT tutor. You're bound to catch the attention of younger friends or siblings' friends who are in need of a little extra help. You can also contact your high school guidance counselor and ask to be put in touch with students in need of assistance.
 
If you love to be active, contact your town's youth sports organizations about coaching a sports team in your spare time. Coaching kids is a rewarding, upbeat job, which means it'll be easy to keep up your spirits while maintaining a busy schedule.
 
Note that retail jobs or camp counselor positions tend to have less flexible hours, so those might not be as ideal to balance with an internship.

Nail Down a Schedule You Can Handle

If at all possible, work with both employers to find a schedule that won't drive you crazy. Whether that means spending mornings at your internship and afternoons at your job, or Mondays through Wednesdays at your internship and Thursdays through Saturdays at your job, or another combination, your best bet for staying sane is to find a schedule you can cope with. For example, if you're an early bird but plan on waitressing on the side for tips, plan to pick up extra hours on weekends — not late night shifts.
 
When you're exhausted and worn out, you won't be able to perform your best at either job. After all the effort you're pouring into this summer, you'll definitely deserve a recommendation letter — but only if you're able to stay alert, engaged, and on top of your work! Avoid slacking on the job by sticking to a schedule that allows you to get enough rest... and, yes, that might mean taking it easy on Saturday nights from time to time.
 
Explain the Situation to Your Friends

talking to friends

Between interning and working, there's only so much room left over for the three S's: socializing, sleeping and sanity. 
 
Two summers ago, Kali Grant, an alum of Ohio State, worked at a coffee shop in the mornings and interned at the Salvation Army in the afternoons. “It was hard to make time for a social life,” she explains. “I'd often have to be at the coffee shop at around 5:30 a.m., and wouldn't get home from my internship until around 5:00 p.m., so I was usually too exhausted to do anything with friends in the evening! When you only have three hours between last call and when you have to get up in the morning, it's a lose-lose situation—you're either completely exhausted at work the next day or you feel like you're missing out on the fun.” 
 
Before your schedule gets too booked, squeeze in time to explain to friends what your summer is going to look like. Let them know that you're not planning on blowing them off, but your schedule is hectic and might not allow for as much free time as you had hoped for. Your friends will understand—and they might even be jealous of your rock star time management skills and career savvy! 

Bring Up Vacation Time ASAP

Because you have two employers to report to (and two schedules to juggle), it's doubly important to bring up any days you're planning on taking off as soon as possible. The earlier you can clear vacation time, the better — don't get stuck finding out on July 3rd that one or both of your employers isn't cool with you taking off July 4th. 

Check in With Yourself

It's one thing to be busy. It's another thing entirely to be stressed around the clock, cancel on girls' night for the third time in a row, and feel miserable at the prospect of another day of juggling your two positions. Check in with yourself on a regular basis throughout the summer to evaluate if you're starting to feel burnt out.
 
Rather than letting your work (not to mention your mental state!) suffer, speak up. Talk to your supervisor at your internship, job, or both. Can you scale back your hours? Switch shifts with someone else? Take a day off? Work with your supervisor to figure out the best course of action for all involved. If the problem runs deeper, as in a serious conflict with your fellow interns or employees or you're not happy with the atmosphere, it might be in your best interest to quit. There's no shame in having piled too much on your plate, and you'll be much happier if you're honest with yourself and your boss.
 
Search for Scholarships and Stipends 

A part-time job isn't the only way to make money while interning. Some schools offer scholarships or stipends to allow unpaid interns to focus solely on their internship without the added burden of a job. Stop by your school's career center to see if you're eligible for any internship-related financial aid.
 
Ask your internship supervisor or your company's Human Resources department if there's any way for interns to receive a stipend. While this opportunity tends to only be available at larger companies with established resources, it's always worth a shot to ask.
 
If you're interning at a magazine, apply for Ed 2010's Trust Fund, a $1,000 stipend to help cover the costs of living and interning in New York City! The application for summer internships is May 30.
 
Commit to an Awesome Summer

You might not have a ton of time to hang out by the pool, but your professionally-oriented summer can still totally rock. Pick one goal — whether it's finally taking that mini-road trip you and your BFFs have been planning for years, or finishing the Hunger Games series — completely unrelated to your job or internship that makes your heart sing. When your busy schedule is stressing you out, take a breather by mapping out your route or reading another chapter. Remember, it's still summer vacation —  enjoy it!

 
Looking ahead at a fully scheduled summer can be intimidating, but if you plan ahead and schedule in some fun, it'll fly by in no time. When you return to school in the fall, you'll be thankful for all you learned at your internship and the extra cash in your bank account!

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