25

I am doing my internship right now. My office has a large number of full timers. They are also much older than me, therefore our age group is not the same. Our job duties are also different, therefore I do not get an opportunity to talk with them by asking for help regarding work.

I hope to make friends with them as I feel that being friends with those who are working with me is important and gives me a positive environment.

How do I go about initiating conversation with them, without it turning to be awkward?

16

You are a intern, they are full-timers / You are much younger than they are.

I'll have a look from the other side of the lense as, for years, I've been on the other side: much older than the team (at the workplace) or the student (in my own company). It might be useful to understand how it works from another point of view...

What did I expect? As a newcomer, to become part of their group, or, in case I already was in the place, that they feel welcome and become part of my group.

What were the expectations?

  1. feeling good together whenever possible.
  2. do a great job as a team.
  3. teach or learn new things (yes! elders and full-timers can learn from younger and kind of inexperienced folks / newcomers!).

Wait! But that's just what you want to achieve too! :)

How did I manage that? Just trying to be as nice as possible... But it takes time. You can't break through right away. You first need to know the other one(s). Do they talk a lot or not? What are they interested in? Do they like to talk or just keep silent?

As for you, I could meet my colleagues for 2 / 3 minutes each hour, at the coffe machine, or at lunch time. Anytime I had a chance, I would just ask something nice: how is it going? Need anything? Where can I find this? and so on... My best advice is: don't start with something personal, keep it professional, but nice, in a way that, either you offer help, or ask for help.

This is the first (and major) step: if they see you as a nice and helpful guy, they/you just opened the door. From there, you'll have opportunities, they will come to you much more easily. And they/you can start the small talks.

I did that when working with up to 38 different nationalities mixed together (European / North American / Central and South American / Asian). And the age range was 20 -> 50. We pretty quickly found the ones that would gather together, and small groups were born...

10

Stopping by to make smalltalk is hard to pull off effectively unless you are really good in making smalltalk and keeping a conversation going.

From my experience, breaks, during lunch or simple coffeebreaks, are a great moment to socialize in the workspace. It doesn't disturb someone working, and it is something that most people regularly do.

Join the group during breaks, see what topics they're discussing, and try to contribute to that. Don't just insert yourself into the conversation, but ease into it.

You don't go from stranger right to friend. Get to know eachother, socialize, join in the conversations they're already having. Don't rightout demand their attention.

4

Sounds like you don't have many opportunities to socialize with your coworkers. So trying for water-cooler style small talk will probably come off as forced and not be appreciated very much.

Outside of lunch break, which is about your best bet for daily socializing, try to make time for special company events, if there are any. Often times, there'll be like a company outing or party for special occasions, for instance a christmas party. These are the parties you really want to attend because that is where a lot of the inter-company socializing happens.

Do take care that you restrain yourself and don't come across as trying to barge in to conversations, though.

4

I can very much relate to your scenario as I was an intern for 1 year at a very small tech company with only 3 others in the office all aged around 50 whereas I am 20. (I am now full time and feel that I fit in quite well)

I would say the best advice I can give is to take interest in the things they say and to not push it, but allow for familiarity to grow over time. Being involved in as many conversations as possible but perhaps not saying so much, contributing more and more as you learn more about their humor, interests and tasks in the company. (You don't want to be known for intruding frequently with useless comments)

Because of the age difference there will undoubtedly be a few areas that make some conversations particularly difficult to take part in. For me the worst was technical expertise. These guys were pro's in our field of work and comparatively I hardly knew anything. But taking interest, and allowing time for my familiarity to grow has helped me reach a point where I can at least follow the conversation occasionally querying a few points when the topic of conversation gets more technical.

More ordinary conversations are your chance to shine as a relatively new intern. With minimal effort you can easily stay up to date with the latest news for small talk when walking into the office or going on lunch break. I was fortunate as I really clicked with and enjoyed the office's sense of humor. Also, as someone of a unique age in the group your opinion can be appreciated as a new point of view in some of the more "modern" conversations.

Lastly, focusing and improving on your work will help immensely (after all, that is what you are there to do). So try to enjoy your time there, improve your skills and even go into your own time to mull over some problems as although it may seem unrelated it can add up and really improve your working relationship.

2

First, you should absolutely be friendly and engaging (without being creepy - the other answers give good advice on this) with your coworkers. You're right that a friendly environment makes for a better workplace.

But don't expect too much

You say your colleagues are "much older" so I'll assume they have homes and families. Why is that important? Their primary social focus is outside the office. In your 20's "life" is very often at the office. As you age, "life" moves home to your spouse, kids, hobbies, etc. So these aren't people who are looking for friendships at the office.

But let's assume they're open to new friendships at the office. Frankly, you're not a good candidate. You don't share duties, or life experiences, or really much on which to base a new friendship.

Beyond that, you're temporary. As an intern, they've probably seen at least half a dozen of you come and go. If you stick around with a permanent position, then expect them to be more open to friendship. But as it stands, the best you can really hope for is warm acquaintanceship.

1

What worked for me (because your experience may be different) was to ask questions about the job. Offer to take them to lunch if fiscally possible on your end. Always greet people when you walk by and if you notice that you see the same person a lot, like when you get coffee or something just ask them how they're doing. It also just takes time sometimes. They've probably seen a number of interns in their careers.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.