We’re well into summer, and as a collegiette you’re likely to be embarking on a new job or internship. Whether you’re stuck in an office cubicle, waiting tables, student-teaching, or folding clothes at your favorite store, you’ll be working with people in some way or another! One of the most important parts of joining the workforce is learning how to work as a member of a team, regardless of whether you’re a manager at your long-time job or an intern just starting out. Learning how to interact with each of your unique co-workers is the first step towards a happier, healthier work experience. To help you out, we’ve broken down the different types of people you may encounter at your internship or job—complete with tips on how to deal with them!
1. The young, relatable mentor
One of the best parts of working is forming relationships with people who understand what it was like to be in your shoes and are willing to help you improve. If you’ve had experience with this kind of person in a work setting, you know how much less stressful it is to have someone you can go to with questions and be completely honest with. “At my internship last summer, I had a cool and young supervisor,” says Tabia Robinson, a senior at the University of Albany. “I met Candice on the second day of my internship, and I immediately felt like I could relate to her. Over time, she became not only my mentor but a close friend, and my work experience was pleasant because we always had fun together. Not to mention, she really helped me increase my professional network.”
As you embark on your new job or internship, be open to the supervisors or managers who try to reach out and help you. More importantly, initiate conversations and forge new connections on your own! It may just be the start of a lasting friendship.
2. The demanding boss
There’s nothing worse than going to work every day and having to face a demanding boss with unrealistic expectations. No matter how hard you try to impress him or her, it seems like you just can’t do enough. “I’ve dealt with a demanding boss for a long time, and it used to really affect my attitude negatively when I was at work,” says Emily Smith*, a freshman at the University of Southern Illinois. “However, over time I realized that they just liked to have things done a certain way, and I changed my attitude to be as flexible and understanding as I could. Still, if I get frustrated, I just approach them and try to talk things out or suggest a different solution.”
While some people’s attitudes are impossible to change, you always have the power to control yours. By flipping your perspective and seeing things from your supervisor’s point of view, you may be able to better understand how they work and why they expect the things they do. While this may not make them less demanding, it can relieve some of the stress and tension that you feel.
3. The fellow intern
One of the most nerve-wracking parts of starting a new job or internship is walking in on the first day and feeling completely lost. But don’t worry! Many companies hire multiple employees or interns at a time, meaning that more likely than not, there’s usually someone else in your exact same shoes, ready to learn and struggle along with you. Having someone right there by your side who knows exactly how you feel makes the work day much less stressful.
“When I first started my new job last summer, I was really nervous about learning the ropes,” says Danielle Schmidt*, a sophomore at Indiana University. “However, I started talking to a lot of the other college kids my age and realized they were just as worried as I was. Having someone there to understand your what you’re going through made it a lot easier to get adjusted.”
4. The competitive coworker
Regardless of the type of job or internship you’ve had in the past, you’ve probably dealt with the coworker who turns every day into a competition. While having someone to push and challenge you can be beneficial, the added stress can take a toll on you over time.
“Once I got to know my co-workers at my new job, I realized there was one person who was always trying to outdo everyone to impress our manager,” says Danielle. “They turned even the simplest of assignments into competitions, which made it really hard to be friendly with them because I was always stressing out. Working with an overly competitive person made me realize that you can’t constantly be comparing yourself with others, and you just have to focus on what you’re assigned.”
Learning how to be confident in your own abilities and not compare yourself to others is one of the best things you can do for yourself, both in and out of the workplace.
5. The office gossip
There are some things that don’t change whether you’re in high school, college or the real world, and gossip is no exception. When working in a job or internship, it can be hard to draw the line between being social, chatty, or a downright gossip.
“I’m a really talkative and outgoing person, and sometimes I catch myself gossiping when I don’t even realize it,” admits Emily. “However, I learned that there’s a big difference between gossiping with your friends and gossiping in a professional setting. You really do have to filter what you say, because word gets around quickly in an office and it can easily come back to bite you.”
As you get closer with your co-workers, you may find yourself feeling tempted to gossip about other people. As difficult as it can be to avoid it, remember that no job or internship is worth losing over a negative or hurtful comment. And if someone you work with initiates the gossip? Change the subject, and if you’re comfortable doing so, gently let you co-worker know that you’d prefer not to talk about your other colleagues.
6. The group leader
You may remember this person from your group project days: the one who isn’t afraid to take charge of any situation. If you’re shy or new to your job, the group leader is secretly your personal lifesaver.
“When I started at my new job, I had no idea what I was supposed to be working on,” says Danielle. “Luckily, I got close with one of my co-workers who had been working there forever. Whenever our manager wasn’t around, they were always willing to explain what we were working on and divide up the work for everyone else. It made the work day run much more smoothly.”
Don’t be embarrassed to ask for guidance—group leaders are there to help! Demonstrating your cooperative side can show a boss that you aren’t afraid to take criticism and know how to follow directions—an important skill for any intern or employee to have. Of course, it’s equally as impressive to take charge! As you become more comfortable with your role in your job or internship, don’t be afraid to become the one who initiates projects or reaches out to others. After all, there will likely be a new employee looking for advice just like you were on your first day!
Starting a new job or internship can be stressful, but making an effort to improve your relationships with those around you can help contribute to a more enjoyable work environment. If you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone, ask questions, and work as a member of a team, you’ll be on your way to becoming the best employee or intern you can be. Best of luck out there, collegiettes!
*Names have been changed.