I have been an intern for four years now. In that time, I have had three different desk spaces, but one of them in particular has taught me so much about relationship building in the workplace.
My very first desk was in a nook in the hallway exactly halfway between the President’s office and the break room at a small company. There are some blaring cons to this setup – the most obvious one being no privacy. This entails eating lunch in the middle of the hallway where everyone has to smell your food and wander by asking what you are eating today because “it smells amazing!” – every time.
It also means that you have to be on task at every moment during the day because you never know who might walk up behind you and take a peek at your screen. Yes, this means no Netflix.
But, you will have the opportunity to say good morning to almost every employee while they are either en route to their desk or to put their lunch in the fridge.
When coworkers have a meeting with the President, they almost always stop to chat with you while they wait – because the President usually has a meeting or two run over each day.
The coworkers who bring their lunch and heat it up in the break room will stop to chat with you while they wait 3 minutes and 30 seconds for their SmartOne to be ready.
Why do these small interactions matter? Because one “good morning” every day totals 15-20 interactions per month. Coworkers waiting to speak with the CEO often share troubles and inspirations they have about an important piece of business that they are going to discuss in their meeting. 3 minutes and 30 seconds is enough time to learn what your coworker is doing this weekend – a way to connect on a personal level – or what one thing would make their job easier – a possible project you can take on as an intern.
As the intern, these interactions are so valuable. Knowing your coworkers and what they desire gives you the power to bring innovation to the workplace and create relationships that will last beyond the internship. You might also realize that the people you work with are pretty awesome – something you won’t necessarily learn in a meeting.