Casual Lessons


As we entered into a meeting yesterday at my internship, I was expecting the usual discussion of assignments and strategy that often takes place in our group sessions.

I was wrong.

As we sat in the meeting room, we covered a flurry of random topics ranging from shopping carts to introverts, and great books we’ve read. I used to participate in these conversations simply because I found them fun, but over my weeks at this internship I’ve learned to use the tangents we go on in meetings for much more. Even if we are not talking directly about work, I am getting to pick the brain of exponentially more experienced professionals through casual conversation, and after yesterday’s discussion I can see how that could be incredibly useful.

If you don’t believe me, listen to this coincidence: after work, I was looking up a PR firm that I am interested in, and there was a section in which each of the employees answered questions about themselves. One of the leaders of the company named the book my boss had recommended to me as the last great book they’d read!

There is more than just job-related work involved in being successful, and these talks allow me to figure out what else my superiors have done and are doing in order to get where they are. As interns in the infancy of our careers, learning things like the books people that might be hiring us read and the day-to-day behaviors that they notice in others could make a huge difference one day in whether we get that dream job or competitive promotion.

So take the time to just talk with the people around you in your internship. You could learn lessons from your mentors that they don’t even intend to teach! Keep it appropriate and don’t let it hinder productivity, and you could get great advice.

-Katherine Cook

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9 Responses to Casual Lessons

  1. pdxsx says:

    Bam! You nailed it, Libby. What a great strategy and suggestion for turning random conversations into powerful workplace tools! Some of the best advice I have seen in a long time.

    Well done!
    ~J

  2. You make an excellent point of getting to know your coworkers through casual conversations and to really pick up on the advice they are giving you; even if they don’t know it. This can then be translated into strengthening your networking skills that may lead to your future job. Strategies like these are often overlooked, but critical to growing in your occupation and the way you network yourself. Thanks for the great advice!

  3. Some really interesting ideas here. I was advised by a superior to eavesdrop on the conversations in the offices to really get an understanding of how people communicate and especially the dialogue with clients. Learning a crafty way someone responds to a tricky question from a client could prove to be invaluable. Great point about emerging yourself into the culture of those in the industry, you don’t want to be the one person who doesn’t understand reference.

  4. pcriscola says:

    This is really encouraging and awesome that you got to see how casual office conversation was useful in other areas! It’s really valuable to be in communication with co-workers and feel comfortable to chat with them but realize what is office appropriate and isn’t. We spend a lot of time with our co-workers and superiors so it’s important to get to know them. Great advice on how to take conversations and apply them, thanks!

  5. feeneyy says:

    Thanks for sharing Libby! I love the idea of getting to know co workers because you really never know who they know outside of your internship. I have found that the elevator is a great place to strike up a conversation with someone you wouldn’t usually talk to.

  6. Great idea for a post! You have a good point about getting to know the people you work with and your mentors. Although our internship is a great place to practice our skills, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to learn about the life and careers of people we hope to as successful as some day. We should take every opportunity we can to learn from them and build relationships that will last longer than our internships!

  7. Kathy Kwong says:

    Great topic. Sometimes I feel as though I am eavesdropping on my colleagues when they’re conversing, but in reality it is a real ice breaker. It’s always good to be in the know, especially when they’re the people you most want to impress and spend much of the day with. It is also easier to spark up conversation with co-workers and superiors when you have a thing or two in common. That casual conversation could turn into something bigger and better and if for nothing, at least you learned something new about them.

  8. keegansch says:

    This is so very true. I went to one of the editorial meetings at my publication, and although literally nothing discussed at the meeting was directly relevant to me, it was still incredibly helpful. I got to learn about professional rivalries going on in Portland’s journalism community, who was leaving what job and going where (and, incidentally, what job positions might be open for applications soon…), and, generally, who everyone was. Being able to chat with people I met in that meeting over the coffee machine – our version of the water cooler – will be tremendous help.

    Meetings aren’t just meetings. They’re opportunities.

  9. madelinestone says:

    This is a great idea! I feel silly for not paying more attention to out of office casual conversation. Sometimes as the newbie it can be intimidating to join in a conversation when everyone else knows each other fairly well. Now there is no excuse not to chime in when you have career opportunities on the line. Thanks for the insightful advice!

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