Q. I have so much work to do at my internship. How do I prioritize my assignments?

A. Consider yourself fortunate and take the overload as a compliment. Obviously the company believes in your ability to accomplish multiple tasks in your internship. You’ll master new skills, and time will fly when you’re busy. Some interns complain that they have nothing to do except to sit around and watch everyone work or go fetch coffee for the office staff. (See the Forbes.com May 7 article on “Interning When All They Ask You To Do Is File.”) Don’t panic or complain to your supervisor or other staff about your assignments. Instead, follow these tips to manage your time effectively:

  1. At the end of every day, make a list of the next day’s assignments, arranging them in order from most important to least important. If you’re not sure, ask your intern manager to help you prioritize your responsibilities.
  2. Check to see if your assignments are the same ones that were in the description for the internship. If you see lots of new additions, it’s perfectly fine to question them. Don’t feel shy about asking for advice. Remember, people like to be asked for help because it makes them feel important.
  3. After you organize your list, allot a specific amount of time to each item. Note deadlines when necessary. Make sure that you do the top items to the best of your ability. You can probably do the least important items quickly. If you run out of time to complete the list, you could shift the bottom items to the next day.
  4. Make sure to get to your internship early every day, even if it’s only 15 minutes before the rest of the office. You’ll make a great first impression, which is the lasting impression. People will automatically expect that you’ll do an excellent job since you’re so enthusiastic that you even arrive early. Then, if you don’t get everything done, it won’t be a disaster because you’ve already established yourself as a thoroughly competent person.
  5. Maintain a positive attitude even if you feel frantic about the pile of work on your desk. However, it’s acceptable to sit down and talk with the intern manager, explain the overload, and ask if some items could be deleted from the assignment list. Emphasize that your priority is to do to a really good job. But with so many assignments, your work could be compromised.
  6. Take advantage of your many assignments as a way to prove that you have multiple skills. You’ll be more valuable to the company
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