Advice from Students Who: Intern During the School Year

Internships are great for the resume and (potentially) your wallet, but taking on such a responsibility on top of a regular course load can sound grueling. Fortunately, other students have paved the road and are ready to share some tips on how to work while also maintaining time for yourself and your studies.

There are several ways one can go about finding an internship. A good place to start is Barnard MillieCareers, also known as Handshake, a personalized website where students can make appointments with the Career Center, learn about upcoming career fairs and apply for jobs. Another way to go is to use your own connections or go fishing for new ones. Don’t be afraid to talk to your professor about your passion for his or her subject. Ask them if they know of any opportunities open which would allow you to explore the field. These conversations may go over better if you schedule an appointment during office hours. Alternatively, take a risk and venture into new territory—explore a career path that you’re unfamiliar with. It can’t hurt to take a chance or a shot in the dark and you never know where inspiration will hit. If you attend a conference or program and enjoyed the speaker’s message, reach out and send an email expressing your interest. Rosie Moss, a junior at Barnard, sent in an application for her spring semester internship after attending a program through the Barnard Athena Scholars. After listening to the CEO, Rosie sent out an email and found herself working at Vote Run Lead, an organization which trains women to run for office.

Rosie carved out two days of the week for her job. Reserving some days for the internship and others for classes made all her responsibilities easier to balance. Scheduling, she emphasizes, is key. It is important to be realistic and “know your limits.” However, while carving out time for your internship and school is important, don’t forget to do the same for yourself: “Taking the time to relax or socialize is always important!”

Julia Kelly, a junior at Barnard, had similar suggestions. Beginning in the spring semester of her freshman year, Julia first started to work in a clinical research internship at the University’s Medical Center in the afternoons after her classes. She learned about the position from an email from the Primary Investigator, or the supervisor of the study. On top of her normal school schedule, Julia also had to navigate around her job as a Barnard Student Admissions Representative and a coordinator for a Community Impact service organization, Community Lunch. Keeping track of your responsibilities and organizing your days, Julia agrees, is crucial—especially if you want to make time for social events. Though she sometimes felt isolated from campus events and found herself staying up late to study, Julia says, “I felt I was able to balance my obligations well enough, especially once I developed my routine.” When she found herself too caught up in her work, she took time for herself and made a regular time block for some sort of break.

Though her weekends took a hit, Julia loved her job and said that passion and motivation are must-haves in order to enjoy your internship and get a lot from it. As Julia puts it, “I realize some internships are more monotonous or stressful than others, but doing something you are passionate about will always make your life a million times easier.” In addition, as Rosie points out, if you enjoy your job, even if it’s more difficult, you will get more out of it than other jobs where you are assigned mundane tasks. If you’re in a position where you want more responsibilities or a position with higher stakes, speak to your supervisor. You’re likely already working for free—they’ll want to take advantage of all the free labor you can give them. However, if you feel overwhelmed by work, it may be time to step back and reflect on how you’re spending your time. Are you being efficient? What is taking up most of your time: schoolwork, your job, or something else? You may have to make some sacrifices or acknowledge the fact that your job just doesn’t work with your current schedule.

If you’re still unsure about whether or not taking on an internship or job is for you, ask yourself how much time you want to set aside for work outside of school. Keep that in mind and do research on current openings on the Handshake website. Don’t feel overwhelmed by the applications! The Career Center is here to help. Schedule an appointment on their website to be guided through the process. And remember, regardless of how you decide to spend your free time, be it working at a corporate office, volunteering for a local politician or conducting research, it's important to make time for your studies as well as yourself.