Sometimes I feel unbearably awkward. I don’t hate people… I’m not even always bad with people. I do, however, have some pretty intense anxiety about new people and situations. Internships are full of new people and situations. Always. I want to have a job someday, and so I need to work on that fear. I survived my first internship and I’m here to help!
So if you look back to my entry on my first day of work, you’ll find that I ripped my pants. There is nothing more awkward than ripping your pants on the first day of an internship. That was the high point of awkwardness but I struggled in other, less obvious ways from time to time.
So here are my tips:
1. COMMUNICATE. I am very shy in new situations. My biggest struggle is making conversation. I know a lot of people in the same boat. As nervous as you are, make sure you are communicating with your coworkers and your boss. You can be a great worker, but it’s easier for people to forget you are there if you are silent. Also, though email is the favorite tool of socially awkward people, in person communication is usually better.
I actually had the President/CEO of the small company I worked for ask me if I spoke on a weekly basis. I did not necessarily follow my own advice. When I finally had a full conversation with him, on my last day, he was amazed. Don’t be me. People like people who chat.
2. ASK QUESTIONS. I hate asking questions. Anyone who has worked with me knows that I’m a “figure it out on my own” kinda girl. Questions make me feel stupid and inferior because I have a tendency to lean towards those feelings anyways.
Questions, however, are really good. They help you do your work better. And they prevent misunderstandings. Like once I didn’t ask about getting paid and I then I didn’t get paid like I was supposed to.
3. YOU AREN’T AS BAD AS YOU THINK. I tend to be really dramatic about my social awkwardness. I have a stilted conversation and I think “I’ll never succeed at life.” Almost everyone I’ve talked to has told me that I’m not nearly as bad as I think. It’s important not to over think it (easier said then done, I know). Every day is another chance to make another impression.
Just try to be confident, and if you can’t be confident, fake it til you make it. You are much more awkward in your head than you are in real life. Even if you are just faking it, eventually you’ll have the confidence to realize how awesome you are.
Internships are great learning opportunities. Don’t let your fear of your awkwardness keep you from doing and learning everything you can!