If I were to pass on one piece of advice, which I received during my semester-long internship, it would be to go eat lunch. During my first week, my supervisor told me to go eat lunch with some of my colleagues from the firm. Whether or not this was his way of getting me out of his hair is something, I may never know. Regardless, eating lunch with my co-workers turned my internship into a networking springboard for my career.
At the onset, the task was daunting. A week into my internship, I sat down at a lunch table with people, whose careers spanned longer than my entire life. Their work was that of my college research material and their swagger was something that I hoped to emulate.
So what did I, a part-time intern, have to contribute to the lunchtime conversation? Initially, hardly anything. I listened and laughed more than I spoke, in an effort to gain an understanding of the group dynamic. A few weeks and couple of Chipotle burritos later, I became a part of the lunch time gab session. I was more than an intern, I was a part of the office. However, lunch with my co-workers extended benefits beyond simple networking. Because my colleagues got to know me personally, they were much more willing to include me on new projects. I had found a way to prove myself, with regards to my creativity and work ethic.
I would be lying, if I told upcoming interns and budding young professionals, that this was a fluid experience. The truth is, you don’t belong yet and the people you work with are still trying to gauge you, just as you are trying to gauge them. However, realizing that you will only further your career my allowing yourself to feel vulnerable and eager, is the best first step you can take, in developing career-long relationships.
Start showing up for lunch, keep listening to the conversation and when the time is right, speak up. One day you will crack the right joke, share something profoundly interesting about yourself, and then the ice will break. In so doing, you will be amply rewarded with a network of connections and cool creative friends, who will help break up the sometimes monotonous days of work.
“History admires the wise, but elevates the brave.” So be brave and go eat lunch! You know you’re hungry.