Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

Friends in the Workplace

When I started to work at my internship I was very anxious. A lot of the people I was around were accomplished artists and creatives that I had admired for a very long time. Meanwhile the only recognized artwork I had was a framed drawing from my oil period on display in my parent’s basement. I was also the only one in the space who was an intern and not someone on the actual core team. I felt very out of place.

The reason I chose to work at the non-profit for the summer was because I thought it would be an amazing opportunity to get to know the community I really want to be a part of. All the people I worked with were doing amazing work like using art to make Trans voices heard, forming activist groups for immigrant rights, leading protests for Black Lives Matter and so on. They were actually making a social impact and working hard to help people that society continuously ignores. They were essentially doing work that I want to dedicate my career too. Needless to say, I wanted to be a part of their group very badly, but I had no idea how to go about becoming their friends.

The first couple of days on the job really made me miss the simpler days of kindergarten where you could literally stomp up to someone and directly ask, sometimes demand, will you be my friend? No fear, no qualms, just plain and simple, but unfortunately that’s not considered appropriate social behavior for adults so I didn’t do that. Instead I spent many different events smiling really big and trying to enter conversation wherever I could. I tried this method for about two weeks but despite my efforts I still got the question. “so who are you?”

It was at that point that I decided that maybe it wasn’t in my cards. Maybe I wasn’t meant to be part of the cool, hip friend group, but at that point I decided it wasn’t as important. Instead I spent my time focused on my work as I had my first core meeting coming up. I drew up reports, worked on software, did marketing like crazy trying to prepare myself for the meeting.

In the meeting all my previous stress of being out of place fell away. I realized that though I wasn’t as artsy as the rest of them, I did know more about business and how to run a team. I was surprisingly really comfortable, throwing out suggestions on what we could do better, what needs work etc. I felt in my element and felt confident. I think the other members could sense my new courage, because they all seemed to see me in a new light. They began to invite me to hangout, took time to hang out with me, give me art advice, and just like that I was part of the group.

When I focused on my own work and believed in myself, other people started to notice and also believe in me. I think that’s the most important lesson I learned this summer. I learned to believe in myself and to work hard because I am worth it. In whatever new project or job, I begin, I will remember that I am capable and work hard to put my best work and my best self forward.