Being thrown into a new professional environment can be scary, but for collegiettes who are introverts, it can seem almost impossible to thrive. There’s nothing wrong with being an introvert in the workplace. With that in mind, there are some struggles introverts may face when they start a new internship. It’s important not to let your fears get in the way of your overall experience. You don’t have to be a total chatterbox to make a good impression! In fact, there are tons of ways to be successful as a shy intern.
1. Don’t let nervousness control you
Being nervous at the start of an internship is normal, but when you let it affect your work, it becomes a problem. Expressing that you feel nervous may actually help you feel more relaxed. Everyone is nervous on his or her first day, and your coworkers will probably expect you to be overwhelmed at first.
When it comes to dealing with nerves, Suzanne Dagger, director of career services at Hofstra University, says, “Try and develop a mentoring relationship with your direct supervisor or a co-worker. Share with them your worries or concerns, and see how they can help.”
Isabel Fontana, a junior at Albion College, had to shake off her nerves to get the job done. “My internship involved calling people I didn’t know on the phone, which was very awkward and made me uncomfortable,” she says. “Once I forced myself to call, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.” Sometimes you may psych yourself out in preparation for the absolute worst outcome—don’t do it! Instead, envision a positive result.
2. Introduce yourself to one new coworker a day
Walking into a room where everyone else knows one another can be intimidating. Even if you’re shy, making a point of introducing yourself to your coworkers is extremely important.
“A more introverted or reserved individual may hesitate when being asked to go to the weekly happy hour. However, there are other ways to make connections,” Dagger says. “Find one other intern or a coworker and see if you can make plans for lunch, or, even better, ask them questions about their career path, educational preparation, their goals and what they like and don’t like about the industry.”
Imogen Hawley, a junior at the University of St Andrews, found a way to make conversation while waiting at the copy machine. “It was awkward to stand around at the copier by my coworkers’ desks in silence, so one Friday, I made the effort to ask people about their weekend plans,” she says. “Knowing things about my coworkers made me feel more relaxed in a new place and more confident to ask them about their experiences.”
Making connections with people and learning about their lives will make you feel more comfortable in a new environment. There’s no use in hiding at your desk, so instead start slow by trying to talk to one new person per day.
3. Prepare your questions before you ask them
Asking questions can be scary for an intern who is shy. However, “keep in mind, most supervisors want you to check in with them and ask questions, because if you are doing it wrong, you are wasting company time!” Dagger says.
No matter how simple the question may be, you’ll be better off asking for help rather than getting frustrated on your own. If you’re uneasy about asking a question, it will help to plan out exactly what you want to say beforehand. Be sure to explain how you tried to solve the problem yourself first. This will show that you are dedicated to the project and focused on doing a good job.
4. Accept that you will make mistakes
An introvert may be more scared of making mistakes at her internship. Kaley Schwind, a recent alumna of Indiana University, dealt with the fear of messing up at her internship.
“I did not want my boss to think I was unintelligent or not ready for the internship,” she says. “However, as an intern, it’s almost impossible to NOT make any mistakes. You have to get past the ‘feeling like an idiot’ part and take each mistake that you make and learn from it.”
Don’t spend your time worrying about making mistakes, and instead remember that internship coordinators create these opportunities for people to gain experience. If you mess up, don’t be scared to admit it. You’re not expected you to know absolutely everything about that particular job field and do every task flawlessly all the time! Try to approach this internship opportunity with a positive attitude, and don’t get down on yourself if you mess up. Look at any mistakes you make as lessons that will benefit you in the future.
Don’t let the fact that you’re more reserved than others stop you from doing your best work. If you put yourself out there and take a step out of your comfort zone, you’ll not only feel more comfortable, but also, you’ll feel accomplished. Remember that the internship coordinators chose you for a reason. Even if you identify as an introvert, you can use this opportunity to take risks and reinvent yourself any way you’d like. The professional skills you’ll learn during an internship will help you in future jobs, so don’t hold back!