As an intern, do you ever listen in to your co-workers conversations in the break-room? You can be sure that they are not always talking about work-related stuff. Perhaps they’re all discussing last night’s episode of “How I Met Your Mother,” or the article that made the front page of The Boston Globe, or David Ortiz’s winning homerun for the Sox. If you catch yourself thinking: “I’ve never seen an episode ‘How I Met Your Mother’, I haven’t read the Globe recently, or I have no clue who David Ortiz is” this is a red flag that you need to get yourself in the loop so you can contribute to the conversation! Okay, so maybe you’re from L.A., just interning in Boston for the summer, and your cups of tea are The Los Angeles Times and the Dodgers. But even if you normally could care less about the topics your co-workers are talking about, you need to become interested while interning.
Small talk can lead to big opportunities. In my experience this past summer interning in a new city, Myrtle Beach, SC, my co-workers were very engaged in the local elections that were going on while I was interning. I made sure I read the local newspaper and listened to the radio to stay up to date on the election happenings. In doing so, became interested in campaigning, and decided that I wanted to get involved with one of the congressional candidates’ campaigns myself. One day while co-workers were making small talk about the election, I expressed my desire to volunteer and my knowledge of the candidate. Come to find out, one of the attorney’s husbands happened to work with the congressional candidate and gave me contact information. I then applied for a volunteer position, got the job, (and eventually helped him win the run-off, and go on to become Congressman this past November)! Just spending a little time following the local elections paid-off: now I have a new political connection in D.C. and I also got to know my co-workers better and impressed them by getting involved in their community!
So, be sure to familiarize yourself with whatever seems to be the hot topics for small talk in your office. Then, next time you hear your co-workers are talking about one of those topics, add your insight! Getting to know your co-workers on a personal level can be just as important as knowing them on a professional level. Your co-workers will notice that you are trying to immerse yourself into their “office culture.” In turn, you will begin to fit in and feel more like one of them and less like the Intern. After talking with a co-worker several times in passing, you’ll feel more comfortable approaching them to start the more serious work-related conversations. They’ll remember you as the intern with great communication skills who went a step above the rest and got to know their personal interests. There are no boundaries as to where small talk can lead you!
This blog was written by Melissa Olney, our Campus Ambassador from Wake Forest.