a blog by Liz Johnston… just a 20-something PR girl trying to find her way

Water-Cooler Conversations

My student internship this term in Portland is in essence a term-long interview. An interview that I do not want to fail at. Let me put it this way, it’s an interview for the best job ever – a dream job. So I find myself thinking how wonderful a regular interview is. You say your hellos, make some handshakes, make your pitch, answer a few questions and you’re done. In, out, bam, it’s over. It doesn’t last ten weeks. Now I’m not saying I’m not thankful for this opportunity, this is quite, undoubtedly, the best thing that has happened in my life to date; however, it ain’t easy.

What I am finding trouble with is not the tasks or projects the associates would like me to do, its the daily interaction – the water-cooler conversations. As much as I feel like I have grown-up over the past year, I still feel like such a kid when I’m at my internship. It is a simple fact of our interests just not being the same. Most of the people in my office are young, but they’re established. They’ve been hired. I feel like I am always walking on egg shells. Every interaction I have needs to be a positive one and I need to make a good impression. Especially so when the employees of the office are friends beyond the work hours. If I am lucky enough to be considered for a future job I most not only have the abilities for the position, but the right personality to fit within the already established public relations team.

I’m new to this city and I moved here alone. I’m not making an income for the term and am living off my parents generosity. I don’t have stories to tell from the weekend, and if I did, it probably revolves around going out to a bar, and I have to ask myself, how much of that is appropriate in the workplace? And during the longest interview possible? I doubt that.

My side of conversations usually sound something like this, “No, I don’t have any great dinner recipes to share, or great new restaurants to suggests, and no, I didn’t see Sunday night HBO.” I want so bad to be able to have serious conversations, but my life has just barely begun to verge into the serious. And I’m broke. It’s hard to be a sophisticated professional with no income. I really don’t know how to relate. Plus, they are either in, or have experienced some grown-up relationships. I can’t relate to that either.

Where is the line between being young and 22, and being a responsible intern, ready to tackle any sized coffee run?

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Comments on: "Water-Cooler Conversations" (3)

  1. You could always talk about the weather! But no, I’ve actually found that asking people about where they’ve worked is a good way to break the ice. Most people have a good story about their first job, or how they got the job they’re in now. It’s a good topic to get to know someone without getting too personal.

  2. Taylor has a good point for a conversation starter. Just be yourself, Liz. Listen to the conversation, ask good questions of people, ask them what their worst job/intern experience was. Don’t force the small talk. You’ll be great and you are just getting started. :~)

    Don’t forget, GenY is often trying to move up in the workplace too quickly.

  3. I know exactly what you mean! My office is small and two of the girls have known each other since middle school. It’s not that I feel like I don’t have anything to say, I just don’t have much to add when they’re engaging in a convo I know nothing about. Just try to pitch in some good input when you can. And smile a lot, but not in a creepy way 😉 Good luck!

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