One of the most daunting things about being an intern in an unfamiliar workplace is feeling like you are a true part of the team and not just a temporary employee. There are a few things I’ve found that aid in the process of becoming integrated in a new workplace environment:
- Match what you experience, but don’t disappear in the process: This is in reference to the clothes people wear to work (business formal, business casual, casual, etc.) and also in reference to the way people communicate with each other. Does most of the communication take place over email? Does the company use printed work orders or an elaborate sticky note system? Is it acceptable to approach someone’s desk or office directly and talk? The way you dress and how you approach your coworkers definitely distinguishes how much you fit in with the company norms.
- Work as often as your co-workers work: The way I have made connections with coworkers outside of my team is by being the only intern in the office until at least 5:30pm and on Fridays. Since I am at the office as often as full-time employees, I’ve had more opportunities to help out supervisors that I wouldn’t normally be working with which has created meaningful connections.
Don’t be a robot: The most frustrating thing I have experienced as an intern is feeling like you are in a “3 month interview” and thinking that means you need to be a robotic worker bee. I have found that the more I express myself and stay true to my personality in the office, the more connections I make with coworkers. It’s better to have fun and enjoy the place you are working at and the people you are working with than to worry that you might say something that will ruin your entire job future.
The bottom line is successful interns should act like they are full-time employees in order to truly feel integrated in the workplace.