It seems like every college students is always stressing about getting an internship. Being in New York City, the anxiety and pressure of securing an internship job is amplified.
The city is a student intern hub, as undergraduates from schools across the country come to work in the summer. Studying at Columbia, we have the opportunity to intern not just during the summer, but throughout the academic year too. But should we take internships during our fall or spring semesters?
Would we have enough time in our increasingly hectic schedules to be able to handle the workload of a professional job? I interviewed three Columbia students who currently hold internships to see why they took them, how they manage the work, and what it’s like. First let’s meet the three students.
is a sophomore at Columbia College majoring in financial economics with a concentration in business management. Hamidi started interning this fall semester at an event planning company in midtown.
Dominic Benitez is a sophomore in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, who’s majoring in Operations Research and interning at a Venture Capital Firm.
Finally, Sarah Nedjar is a sophomore in Columbia College majoring in neuroscience and behavior who has held multiple research positions at the Columbia University Medical Center.
I started out by asking these students why they decided to take an internship during the academic year, and the main consensus was resume building. Each of them wanted to add work experiences in their respective fields to their resume. In addition to that, Hamidi found that there weren’t many classes in business management or entrepreneurship at Columbia that allowed her to express herself creatively. She views her internship as a creative outlet, as much of her work includes making vision boards filled with flowers, circus performers, and photo booths.
Benitez took his internship to get his foot in the door earlier so he could more readily secure a spot when summertime applications roll around. Especially in finance, companies start recruiting for full-time position very early, often when students are just in their junior year. Nedjar, being a premed student, especially felt the need to hold multiple research internships during the school year. She felt like she didn’t do as much research as her peers during high school, and is using these experiences to learn what she really likes to do within medicine.
So the conclusion is that students have their varied reasons for taking on internships during the academic year. I work at the Columbia Alumni Center for Athletics Development. I took the job because as a student athlete I wanted to see what college athletics was like from the administrative side. I also like the experience on my resume and the income I receive from working every week. But what is perhaps more intriguing and helpful to students contemplating taking on an internship in the school year is finding out how student-workers manage to fit an internship into our schedules. Nedjar, who held two research internships last semester, used to stack all her classes on two days and research the rest of the week.
She quickly found that stacking her classes wasn’t a good way to manage her schedule because she would have class on those two days from 8:40am to 10:00pm. This year her research position is more flexible on hours, which helps Nedjar manage her academics with her workload. Instead of being a strict 9:00am to 5:00pm job, her lab allows her to work evenings and weekends. Nedjar’s best advice is to find a position that works with your schedule.
Similarly, Benitez spoke to the importance of efficiency. He found that his schedule allowed for an internship so long as he worked efficiently. With a time commitment of a minimum 20 hours a week, he found he had to better plan his days to manage classes, working out, and the occasional nap. When I asked Hamidi how she managed her internship with her schoolwork she explained that she’s “learning quickly that the internship is very demanding and it’s important when seeking out an internship that they understand you are a student first.” Her current struggle is figuring out how to balance both activities when both are looking for her full commitment.
My advice to managing an internship during the school year, as simple as it sounds, is to do something you really enjoy. I love working in Athletics Development and actually find it a stress releaser. Instead of something that I dread doing, I look forward to going to work. My job is a very personal-oriented position, meaning I get to attend meetings to talk about my experience as a Columbia Student-Athlete and attend football games working in the donor’s suites.
Overall, there are definitely pros and cons to having an internship during the academic year, but the main thing I want to emphasize is that if I didn’t genuinely enjoy my internship I would not be able to make it work in my schedule. Alternately, I don’t think any student should ever feel pressure to take an internship outside of the summer months. However if it is something you are thinking about doing, take these examples as inspiration that it’s definitely something you can manage and is worth trying if you want to.