How can I be more enthusiastic about my job?
June 23, 2013 6:01 AM   Subscribe

I have a really great summer job that I enjoy, but I'm afraid that all my coworkers think I hate it. How can I get better at *showing* my enthusiasm for the job?

I could, quite possibly, be paranoid about this situation but there is another student intern working there this summer and she is just excited and perky about EVERYTHING. She's always smiling and cheery and everything is "awesome!!1" to her. I've always been a bit more low energy (I don't think I've ever called anything "awesome" in my life), I get excited about things and I enjoy my life, but I just can't seem to get up to her energy level.

She also has a lot more experience in the field that we're in, so I'm feeling a bit of pressure/stress over how well I am doing at the job in general. I also guess that I'm a bit of an anxious person in general.

Are there things I can start doing to be more outwardly enthusiastic? I just can't seem to show the same enthusiasm about this job, but I love it and I'm thrilled that I have it for the summer.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Of course you could pepper your chatter with the occasional "isn't this great?!?"

But seriously, do yourself and the world a favor and just be yourself.
posted by Unified Theory at 6:07 AM on June 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

Don't fake enthusiasm, but do things that show you're interested. Ask a lot of questions. Volunteer to help out with the more mundane tasks. Show up early and stay late. Be a problem-solver.

People who are really enthusiastic about the work do the work.
posted by xingcat at 6:14 AM on June 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Don't be someone else. Be yourself. Being pleasant and responding to requests cheerfully are part of the job as much as doing what's asked of you quickly and thoroughly, but being perky and calling everything awesome isn't (and can get annoying after the first few times). When you're working alongside someone, say "I really appreciate the opportunity to learn this" or "I like what this company is doing in X field" or whatever.

She also has a lot more experience in the field that we're in, so I'm feeling a bit of pressure/stress over how well I am doing at the job in general.

Don't compare yourself to other people, you will always come up short against someone. It's a summer job and everyone knows you are there to learn as much as you are there to help. If you want to learn something, ask for the opportunity and do it well.
posted by headnsouth at 6:18 AM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well there is projecting enthusiasm "Awesome!", which takes 1 second, and then there is taking the time to learn about those things, which can project enthusiasm because you are doing something.

So here are some ideas for you. I have to be honest and say that these strongly lean towards what I wanted to learn at a workplace, but it can work for projecting enthusiasm. Maybe there is something low key that you can adopt from here if it fits in with your goals and your workplace:

• Is there a journal or magazine(s) for and about your industry (google online a bit). So if you intern at a digital agency, and you find an article about how another agency (or even your agency) has the best mobile app -- ask people who previously worked at the company details about it, or ask to see the one at your company, or ask questions in general to others during your downtime. If you have a coworker(s) who love mobile apps, you can forward the article to the person, too (provided that this is something the person is interested in, likes sharing info, etc.).

• Back up and make a list of things that you want to learn about or projects that you want to participate in at the workplace. Let's pretend you identify learning how to make widgets, learning how to paint widgets, and working at a widget conference as a project. Hold onto the list, but move forward to learn how to do those things and get that experience (next steps).

• For interest in the project, let your boss know if you hear about a project that you love widgets and would love to participate in the project, if possible. Any coworkers working on it, let them know that you are interested, too (usually someone takes the time to show you something about it, teach you something about it, or lets you be part of it). Volunteer if you have the downtime (if this is something that you really want to learn/is important to you, consider even giving up a lunch hour/weekend time if anyone gives you an opportunity to participate or learn it). You can also use enthusiastic words in email-"I am very interested in widgets, and would love the opportunity to ...."

• If you know that Sally is great at making widgets and Bob is great at painting widgets and you want to learn those things, during lunch one-on-one share this info with these people (and ask for suggestions - how can you learn? Is there anything that you would recommend that you can do?) If you are assigned to make and paint a widget, again approach the experts in those areas and ask if they would take a minute or two to give suggestions/recommend improvements - don't eat up their time, but approach them as colleagues and see what they would be willing to share. Check in as to whether they have availability, etc., but it is a great way to learn best practices and from the people who produce what a client wants.

So you can say "awesome" --or you can go do research about whatever topic in your industry interests you, share the info at work, make a point of learning how to do those things, master the skill to whatever degree possible--isn't that enthusiasm?
posted by Wolfster at 6:33 AM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Seriously not a problem at all, unless it's an service/public-facing environment where perkiness is part of the message. But if it's an office type situation, I guarantee the full time employees are way more sensitive to who is being productive and engaged and thoughtful about their work, and excessive exuberance may well be annoying to them. Just be yourself!
posted by heresiarch at 6:36 AM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have your coworkers said things that suggest that they think you hate it? Or are you comparing yourself to the perky intern and assuming that they think this?

I'm not really asking you to provide me with the information, I'm asking you to think about that. If you are making assumptions, know that you are doing it.

Look at your other coworkers and see how they express enthusiasm. Probably in a lot of different ways, right? There's no need for you to show your enthusiasm in exactly the way that she does, and in fact it would probably be counter-productive to try. It will be clear you are imitating her, and you will seem insecure. So be yourself. They may see you as "calm, thoughtful, diligent" to her "chatty and enthusiastic."

You can also have a talk with your supervisor about your goals for your internship, what they expect of you, etc. This may help allay your concerns about whether you are doing well.

And what Wolfster said.
posted by bunderful at 6:51 AM on June 23, 2013

We have two summer interns in our office right now. One of them is pretty low-key, and the other is SUPER! PERKY! ALL! THE! TIME!

Guess which one of them my coworkers complain about?

So I'm sure you're fine. Just accept projects eagerly, ask plenty of questions, and be friendly when people talk to you.
posted by phunniemee at 6:59 AM on June 23, 2013 [8 favorites]

Co-workers will find a reason to judge you and dislike you no matter what you do. Just be yourself and don't worry about what they think.

And congratulations on finding a job that you love!
posted by myselfasme at 8:03 AM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've worked in a field where perkiness was almost a prerequisite but some of my coworkers were just super low key. I used to think they just weren't into what we were doing but once I realized how proficient they were in the position and how the individuals we felt with enjoyed them I realized being bubbly wasn't as big of a deal.

So- do your job well. Trust your skills and instincts and never turn away from an opportunity to display what you're good at.
posted by missriss89 at 8:03 AM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Came in here to say almost exactly what phunniemee said about our current two interns. The perky one has more experience, and is very willing, but the quieter one is smart, picks things up quickly, and is willing to learn and also go the extra mile. She is the one we picked for help with an upcoming project over the perkier one. The perkiness can be a bit off putting because some of it seems put on to impress, and I wish I could find a way to tell her to calm the f**k down a little in a nice way.

Also, take a look at who you are working for and take some cues from them. Does your workplace culture skew to the extroverted side, mixed, or more introverts? No one in my office is an extrovert, and some are super introverted. The extrovert intern gets on our nerves sometimes.

Don't get me wrong, you do need to express enthusiasm in your own way. I also had an intern who was an introvert, but treated the internship like a job she just was not that in to. She did exactly what she was told, but not one single thing more, and never asked to do anything extra, learn anything, or help me with things I really could use help with. When I asked her for help with things, I never felt like she was super interested in learning about *new thing*.

So this from missriss89 is good advice:
So- do your job well. Trust your skills and instincts and never turn away from an opportunity to display what you're good at.
posted by gudrun at 8:29 AM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Hey there! This sounds very familiar. I'm passed interning age but I often run across situations where people who don't know me think I must hate them/my job or whatever is it because I'm not a naturally effervescent person. And little do they know, that I'm actually usually pretty happy or even, sometimes, thrilled! I agree strongly with the other posters who say don't change your personality or behavior. No one likes a human emoticon. :(

In my work environment, I do my best to remember to throw in positive statements about my job/project whenever it seems natural. For example, "Yeah, I know what you mean about (whatever). By the way, I'm just so glad to be working on this because so and so is such a great guy and I think this is going to be an exciting new release." Try to do that sort of thing whenever it seems appropriate to you (and maybe a little more than you might usually do), and people will think back to those statements if your enthusiasm ever comes into question.
posted by Kloryne at 6:07 PM on June 23, 2013

It can be difficult to make the decision that you would like to change something about yourself. I applaud the fact that you have made a decision about what a better you looks like and are reaching out for advice to put it into practice.

I agree with the advice that you should strive to be yourself. But also a few key behaviors will help you feel and appear more enthusiastic. First off, use eye contact to your advantage when interacting with folks. Make eye contact, hold it (but for goddess' sake be sure to blink at appropriate intervals) and slightly lean towards them. This works for individual and group settings. This physical cue will both help you tune your attention to them and make them feel you are interested in what they are saying.

Practice it with a mild smile, and as appropriate, nod in understanding, give feedback verbally such as 'mmh hmm' or 'yes'.

In general, it is a matter of practice to perk oneself up in terms of how one projects. Good posture in the lower back and not shoulder slumping does wonders for the circulation and, if you believe in that sort of thing, aligning the chakras and maximizing your chi. You need to maintain this while no one is looking, too. It takes diligence and effort to bring about a transformation in how you feel and how you project, but in the end it will pay off in being a more you-y you than you knew previously and will not come off as flaky, overly enthusiastic, or insincere.

The key is learning how to maturely project the enthusiasm you indicated you already have. And unfortunately, just a couple of quick paragraphs aren't near enough to do anything but hopefully assist in getting you pointed in the right direction.
posted by valentinepig at 9:37 PM on June 23, 2013

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