How to ace a project management internship
You’ve landed a project management internship and you’re ready to show the world your skills. If you’re embarking on a career path towards project management, that means you have strong organisational, communication, and interpersonal skills, and you can see the big picture while managing the details. Those attributes are going to be expected from you at a project management internship as well. Here are five tips to make the most of your project management internship.
1. Research the industry
Build your knowledge of the project or industry you’re in. If you landed the internship, you already have some knowledge of the industry you’re now working in. Don’t stop there. Dig deeper and become an expert in a specialised niche. You’ll impress the people you’re working for and with and make yourself a more appealing candidate for a future job.
2. Build your communication skills
A huge part of project management is making all the pieces—and people—of a project work together. You will be one of the few people with a big picture of how everything fits together, and you’re responsible for making sure that one person’s work on this part of the project does not interfere with another person’s role in completing the project.
This means you need excellent communication skills and the confidence to let people know about deadlines and when they need to rework their part of the project to better fit the whole. If you handle this part of the internship right, you’ll not only have increased confidence in your abilities, but a strong network of associates to vouch for you.
3. Find a mentor
This is true no matter what career field you’re entering, but perhaps even more so in project management. Because so much of a successful project management job depends on people skills, diplomacy, and multi-tasking, you can’t focus on just one area to develop.
By finding and learning from a mentor, you’ll learn how a mere human seems to be at 10 places at once, enforcing deadlines and requesting people completely rework a project, all while remaining calm, in control, and on friendly terms with everyone in the organisation. It’s possible, but it’s something you’ll learn best by doing. If you can jump into that with a mentor to guide you, you’ll have an advantage.
The added bonus to this is you’ll have someone who is invested in your success, someone who will help you ace the interview, and someone who will give you a good reference when the time comes to move on from your internship.
4. Own your project
If you have a project management internship, you’ll likely be assigned a project to manage. Probably not an organisation-wide, multi-million dollar project, but you won’t be filing papers either. When you’re assigned a task, own it. Treat it like a ‘real job’. Act as if nobody is going to be double-checking your work or looking over your shoulder.
Handing in flawless work is a sure way to make senior people in the organisation notice you. After all, if you put that much energy and effort into an internship, how much more enthusiastic would you be to advance your career?
5. Be grateful
Finally, never underestimate the power of a thank you. Once you’re internship has ended and you’re ready to start interviewing for other jobs, remember to offer a thank you to the company, supervisors, and coworkers you worked with during your internship. You will have gained useful knowledge and skills and will be genuinely appreciative for the experience. Send cards, shake hands, and leave everyone with a lasting impression of your professionalism.