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From One Intern to Another: Juggling Projects by David Fresne

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Time management is an invaluable tool to have at your disposal at any point in your life, whether it be during college or your professional career. Any college freshmen can tell you that the first semester is hectic and a rapid change of pace from that of high school. But as you begin to get more experience under your belt, you learn how to prioritize and set time aside for various assignments. Having good time management and organizational skills is also vital in a internship setting. It can be easy to lose track of time working on one project when another requires more of your attention.

It may be tempting to have your supervisor pile on the work in an attempt to impress and stay busy, but remember to have realistic expectations on how much work you can complete in a timely manner. It would look much better for you to finish and do an outstanding job on five projects versus leaving ten projects unfinished or rushed to completion.

When you first get your assignments as an intern, it can feel overwhelming but remember to prioritize based on importance. In my experience as an engineering intern, it is not uncommon to complete work on one project and then have to wait a few days or even a week to hear back from a vendor for a quote or other services. So, while you wait on an answer regarding one project, you have time to work on others that you may have on the back-burner. 

For my main project, I developed a timeline of important milestones. As someone who is a visual person and prefers diagrams, a Gantt chart is great way to organize dates on a project. This helps keep things on track and, since I'm only here for ten weeks, time is valuable. An internship may be your first taste of real world experience, and delays are a part of that. Delays can and will happen; learn to expect them and how to mitigate them. When a vendor is preparing a quote and needs a specification from you, try your best to answer them the same day. The longer they have to wait for you, the longer it will take before they finish their quote. 

Keeping tabs on the progress of your projects will also help you stay organized. There are many ways to do this, it may be as simple as jotting down notes or putting reminders on your computer. Also, don't be afraid to follow up with other people you're working with. They're probably just as busy if not more than you and can forget that you need help from them. Just remember to do so in a professional and courteous manner.