Throughout the various workplaces I have experienced, there has always been a space dedicated specifically to the intern(s); whether a desk, a personal cube or a full room. At times, it can be petrifying to escape the assigned walls because of the comfort associated with familiar individuals; similar to feeling the need to look at your cell phone when you are alone in public, because sometimes speaking to others can be daunting. While it is comforting to have a space dedicated specifically to you, overuse of that space can put you at a disadvantage.
Often, a simple social interaction can be the difference between something good and something great. For example, the difference between a stranger passing and meeting the love of your life or a less-than-impressive referral and a dream job offer. As someone who has had a fair share of internship experiences, there are a few behavioral tendencies I’ve noticed among those new to the office, myself included, so I’ve put together a few guiding principles when it comes to interacting in a new work environment.
Leaving the room is like learning to walk for the first time. Scary, yes, but ultimately necessary for progress. Unless you’ve committed a crime, you probably aren’t banished to this place you call your home. Just because there is a designated space for you doesn’t mean you have to live there full-time. Get out! Tell a joke, introduce yourself to someone new, step outside and stretch with a friend.
Understanding the little pieces is just as important as the big picture. While status meetings may seem boring or mundane, they are just a part of the process. Everyone, even Beyonce, has to go to meetings. Attendance shows your investment, understanding and commitment to the end result!
Help is often welcomed and appreciated. There’s no denying that people work long hours. Some weeks are packed full while others may be a walk in the park. While you can’t change the workload, you can certainly help a co-worker out. It may be proofing a presentation or merely getting them a fresh cup of coffee – the point is that you recognized their need and lent a helping hand.
Recognize that your co-workers are real people. Some days are stuck staring at our computers with zero human interaction with only chatter focused on the project at hand. Go get a coffee or lunch with a co-worker to get some reprieve from the day and make a personal connection with your co-workers.
Technology and your own space are obviously factors that contribute to success in almost any workplace setting, but social interaction is often forgotten as an essential part of advancement in your career and in life altogether. 'Look Up' is a video that went viral a few months ago. For me, it reiterates the feeling I get when I’ve sat at my desk in the Launchpad room for too long. A feeling that can only be dismissed by looking up, making eye contact and building a bond with another human being.
Networking can be as uncomfortable as it sounds; I know this from personal experience. There are millions of fears that run through one's mind; Will I make a fool of myself? What's the point? How will I even know what to say? The fears are often coupled with the difficulty of trying to schedule coffee meetings or phone calls between two conflicting schedules. Ad Club St. Louis, an organization for St. Louis' advertising students and professionals, helps to remove one step in the tough equation – a meeting time and place. With events such as the Summer Kickoff Happy Hour and Beyond the ADDYs, mingling among industry comrades is simplified. As a rookie to the networking game, I learned a few things during the Summer Kickoff Happy Hour on July 15th about the art of schmoozing. Here are a few tips that you can tuck in your back pocket to better prepare for events such as these.
1. Strike up a conversation with 3-5 strangers.
That's the whole point, right? Reaching out to others opens up opportunities to meet new people, learn about new agencies and/or discover roles you hadn't had exposure to before.
2. Bring a friend in your field.
Ask a friend from another company to attend with you. With less than six degrees of separation, there are better odds of breaking the ice with that one person who could be the difference between 'a job' and 'my ideal job'. Since two other interns accompanied me, Jenny and Nick, I was introduced to some of the people they knew.
3. Have a working knowledge of current industry news.
With the agency world feeling like a small town, knowing the latest industry gossip can give you an upper hand on conversation topics to strike up with strangers. Who won new business? Who made a big agency switch? Is there a new campaign that caught your eye?
4. Don't be afraid – truth is, everyone has those first date jitters, too.
You have nothing to lose. As long as you aren't insulting the CEO of St. Louis' biggest agency or double fisting when you approach the HR Director of your ideal workplace, then you'll probably be okay. In fact, you'll most likely leave happy because you made an effort to be a part of such a valuable community of industry professionals.
The act of networking is often daunting, but Ad Club St. Louis has many resources for young professionals in the advertising field to alleviate the pain of doing so. A bit of bravery and knowledge can go a long way if only you are proactive and take advantage of all of the wonderful connections that St. Louis Ad Club has to offer. Now, all you have left to do is jot these tips down, put ‘em in your back pocket and join Team Quasar at the next Ad Club networking event!