Five ways to help your shy intern grow

Five ways to help your shy intern grow

We all know that interns can be fantastic for companies and organizations. While there’s a learning curve for every intern, some interns can be overly shy, making their learning curve different and potentially more challenging.

If your intern is overly shy, incorporate these five ways to ease his shyness and help him grow in the workplace. He’ll be better for it.

    1. Plan occasional lunch dates

      Simply plan occasional lunch dates with your intern – it could be once or twice a week, or every other week, just do what seems manageable. Perhaps you will have lunch with him most days anyway, depending on your office size or company culture. Do note that if you are pretty certain that your intern is rather shy – even before said intern is onboard – make it a must to have lunch with him for his first couple of days. It will create a more welcoming atmosphere and ease some of his tensions.

      As his manager or superior, taking him to lunch will allow you to get to know him a little quicker and easier. And your intern will probably grow to look forward to these lunches and will become comfortable with you much more quickly. It’s no surprise that many shy people prefer small groups of people to large groups, and it’s also common for a shy person to be more at ease with a one-to-one environment, so keep that in mind when you begin having lunches with your intern.

    2. Be proactive in talking to your intern

      Whether you directly manage an intern or frequently oversee him, start conversations with him. Of course these conversations don’t always have to be about work projects, but do make it a habit to seek out the intern’s company. In doing this, your intern will feel that you value him. Perhaps he already has a sense that you do value him, though by actually seeking out your intern, you make it quite obvious that you like him and want to talk. It’s all about creating an environment of approachability. As I noted, these conversations don’t always have to be about something work related – they can be lighthearted at times, and more serious at other times – you will have your own style. At some point, the shy intern will probably initiate more conversations with you and others at the office.

    3. Be clear about work goals

      You or your company picked this intern for a reason: he has key talents that you want and has an interest in your business or industry. And it’s likely true that he can do his work and do it well without having to be outgoing or the center of the office. Each intern has a goal associated with his internship – something he wants to get out of the experience – so help him stick with his goal by knowing exactly what it is. He’ll appreciate you for it, and you, as his manager, will gain a more in-depth view into what makes him tick.

    4. Slowly get other colleagues involved

      At first the intern may find it daunting to make the initial move in talking to his colleagues. It’s even tougher for a shy person to break into a group that already might be tight knit. Make it a little easier by helping the intern get acquainted with others in the office or on the floor. Invite a colleague to join you and your intern on a walk break outside or just a hangout in the company lounge. After some time, have a colleague or two join you both for lunch. The intern will begin to be comfortable and familiar with more than just a few faces in the office.

    5. Most importantly, be a mentor

      Much of the duty in being a mentor for your intern is just being there for him on a work basis and also on a personal basis. At least initially, when your intern has a question or an issue, you should be the first person he thinks to talk to.

      In the beginning, invest sufficient time in orientation and training for your intern as it will do wonders for their assimilation to the company and its practices. Consider going through this stage a little slower with your shy intern, lest they become overwhelmed. After some weeks or months, provided that you and your intern are getting on well, consider finding another mentor for him, maybe one that is closer to his age and that you think would excel in a role as a mentor.

Let’s be clear – shyness is not necessarily a negative thing or something to frown upon. People can’t just snap their fingers and, voila, not be shy. It’s a part of who they are. Some people will always be shy and that’s perfectly acceptable. However, shyness can be eased and sometimes fully overcome with the right experiences and meaningful support from others. Keep note of these 5 ways to help your shy intern be less shy and more confident in the workplace. Then watch them grow!


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