How to Balance Your Schedule While Advising an Intern

Another class of Viget interns has just gone back to school, and I find myself, once again, in awe of the budding talent we bring in each year through Viget’s internship program. This summer, I served as an advisor for Libby Perold, one of two UX interns.  Libby did incredible work, and the experience was extremely rewarding for both of us. I wouldn’t hesitate to advise another intern next summer.

This got me thinking – why don’t more people take an interest in mentoring new talent? Sure, some people don’t particularly enjoy that role, but what about people who would otherwise be willing to mentor that don’t? What’s holding them back?

As a mentor, you have to juggle your own work while making sure your intern is productive and happy. I imagine that this is the biggest reason people decide not to serve as a mentor – the prospective workload seems like too much. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: Libby had a wildly productive summer and I only put in about 3 hours of advising time per week when my client workload was packed. Here are a few things I did to balance my responsibilities.

Pre-Internship Chat

I wouldn’t start a client project without a kickoff meeting, and I treated my summer as an advisor similarly. In order to get the summer started off right, I set up a pre-internship chat with Libby to discuss her strengths and interests. This gave me meaningful insight into our overall dynamic and how to create the best experience for her.

Time spent: 30 minutes

Summer Curriculum

I like to think my secret weapon this summer was the 10-week internship curriculum that each advisor is asked to complete. This informal Google Doc outlined a plan for a summer-long project (something Libby could do largely on her own with little oversight) which closely followed a traditional UX process. It included:

  • Goals for the summer.
  • Weekly themes (ie. UX research, prototyping).
  • A rough list of tasks/deliverables.
  • Articles and resources (Note: This would have taken a while to compile up front, so I added articles week to week throughout the summer).

Having a 10,000 foot view set before she ever walked in the door gave us a solid vision, one that was flexible as needed and saved me from having to try to think of things for her to do week to week.

Time Spent: 4 hours (plus ~30 minutes/week to compile a reading list)

Weekly Check-ins

Once the internship program started, I set aside about 30 – 45 minutes each week to discuss Libby’s progress. While we had conversations in between those meetings, this formal check-in helped each week feel anchored. This gave us protected time to discuss her progress, and to make any adjustments needed to the original curriculum. These check-ins kept the summer on track from the beginning, which avoided potentially timely roadblocks later on.

Good advising always happens over post-it notes.

Time Spent: 30 – 45 minutes per week for our formal meeting; 30 – 60 minutes for informal chats.


While interns do not formally work on client projects at Viget, observing meetings is a great way for them to learn about what client work looks like. Libby participated in multiple group sketching sessions for one of my clients, which provided a valuable chance for me to mentor while taking no additional time outside of my normal schedule.

Libby, with her back to the camera, participating in a sketching session for a client. I promise that's her even though you can't see her face.

Time Spent: No additional time outside of my normal schedule

Soft Skills

Making sure interns feel comfortable and welcome in the workplace is part of being a good mentor, but it’s not something that has to take much additional time outside of your normal daily routine.

Outside of regularly asking Libby how she was doing, there were two things I did to help her feel welcome. First, I made it a matter of practice to introduce Libby to everyone she talked to in the first couple of weeks if I wasn’t 100% sure she’d met them before. The time this took was negligible, and usually happened in the course of other meetings and conversations.

Second, many of us had lunch with Libby regularly. This took no additional time out of the time we would have spent eating anyway, and as an added bonus, it was a lot of fun.

Funny faces and lunchtime advisor/advisee bonding.

Time Spent: No additional time outside of my normal schedule


To be clear, I love mentoring, and I would have been happy to give Libby so much more of my time this summer (and I did give extra time as my schedule allowed). I understand that’s not the case with everyone, whether that’s based on personal preference or existing responsibilities. However, I’d still encourage you to consider mentoring. With proper planning and structure, client work can get done, and you can create a challenging and productive learning experience for budding talent all at the same time.

Samara is a user experience designer in Viget's Falls Church, VA, HQ, where she works with clients such as Catholic Charities and the White House Historical Association. She enjoys sketching, creating information architecture, and teaching UX to fresh industry faces.

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