Many of you are 21 years old and of legal drinking age for your summer internships. While I’m sure this makes for many fun nights out with friends it can also make for some pretty sticky situations work-wise. When you are under 21, the staff at your internship is probably NOT going to invite you out, especially if it’s a drinks situation. But now that you ARE 21, be careful. Lots of responsibility comes along with the cool invitations to attend networking events and happy hours. Here are a few rules of thumb to follow when alcohol is involved with internship time:
1. Two Drink Limit. I have news for you. When you are out at a bar, no one is going to hold you to any sort of limit. You MUST hold yourself to a limit of two drinks at all networking events. Even if your co-workers are throwing the drinks back, remember you aren’t their peer, you are their intern.
2. Go Light on the Alcohol. If you can stick to beer or wine, that’s what I’d recommend. My drink of choice is a dirty martini but that’s a bit strong for a networking event. Go as light as possible on the alcohol and make sure you get yourself something to eat beforehand!
3. Don’t Drive. With taxi cabs, uber, and lift, there is really no reason to drive yourself to an event with alcohol. Even if you’re only planning on having a glass of wine, don’t risk it. You never know how that one glass will affect you. Think ahead and plan your evening. If you have your car with you, drop it off at home and uber back to the location.
4. Push Yourself to Be Social. This is an opportunity for you. It can definitely be overwhelming to be out and about with a bunch of co-workers who you don’t really know. Challenge yourself to have at least three conversations with people you’ve never spoken to before. Take a deep breath, walk up to them, and introduce yourself.
5. Keep it Rated G. Just because you aren’t in the office, doesn’t mean the conversation should change too much. Remember, these aren’t your friends, they are your colleagues. Whatever you say will be brought up in the office the next day. You must have that mentality. These aren’t your personal friends. You can talk about your life, your vacations, your boyfriend, and whatever you’d like but keep the topics rated G. Don’t give anyone anything to talk about the next day.
6. Avoid Flirtationships. No matter how much chemistry you think you have with a co-worker, avoid flirting or hooking up while you are an intern at that company. If you’d like to pursue a relationship after the internship, cross that bridge when you get to it. But for now – you are the intern and it’s inappropriate to be in any sort of relationship (other than professional) with your co-workers. If you sense a colleague is flirting with you and might be interested in you (physically or romantically), be polite, and go talk to someone else. Do you really want to be the intern that’s hooking up with someone in the office?
7. Show Restraint. Just because the people around you are getting drunk, doesn’t mean you need to. Just because the people around you are talking about inappropriate things, doesn’t mean you need to join in. Show restraint in these situations and remember what you are trying to do here – build strong relationships, network, and make these people think they should hire you when you graduate or tell their friends to hire you after graduation.
8. Use the Opportunity to Understand What Drives People. Once you get people outside of the office, they do start to relax and loosen up a bit. Use this opportunity to get to know your co-workers and understand what’s important to them. Do they live for vacations? Do they have kids? Where did they go to college? Networking drinks can be a great opportunity to build strong relationships with co-workers.
9. Be Prepared to Pay. Just because you are out with the company, doesn’t mean they are paying. Make sure you order drinks you can afford and pay for.
10. Thank Your Team. It’s nice that your team invited you out with them or to an event. Thank them for thinking of you and let them know you’ve had a great time.
For more internship advice and ways to rock your internship – read ALL WORK, NO PAY.