This feature was written by a freelancer

From the struggles of interpreting smart/casual to determining exactly what colour the boss likes her tea, work experience is full of potential awkwardness. Here we prepare you for those my-insides-are-shrivelling-and-I-wish-the-floor-would-swallow-me moments…

You forget someone important’s name…

Day one. You’re bombarded with an entire office of new people. At least three of them are called Katie. Two of those Katies have an identical haircut. Life is hard. Someone swans over to your desk and asks you to perform a task for them and you realise you have no idea who they are. Eek.

How to bluff it…

Take inspiration from all the times you handed someone your phone at a house party rather than asking them for their number because you’d already forgotten their name. Ask the person for their email address in case you need to ask them anything about the task. Boom. Awkwardness over.

Failing that, search the company on Twitter and scroll through everyone who mentions it in their bio. If you’re lucky (or interning at a magazine/ newspaper), the person will be there. It’s also good pre-work experience prep to check everyone out on Twitter.

Someone badmouths a colleague to you…

One unfortunate lunchtime you are left in the office with just Moaning Mildred. Mildred decides to have a whinge about Bossy Ben. You’re not really a fan of Ben. In fact, you think he’s a total idiot. How on Earth should you respond?

How to ride out the awkwardness…

Even if Ben is the biggest tosser known to man, talking about anyone in the office behind their back (unless, of course, you’re reporting aggressive or inappropriate behaviour) will earn you a bad rep. Even the person doing the complaining may not respect you for joining in. The best thing to do in this scenario, if possible, is to remove yourself from the situation (i.e. pretend you need the loo). If that isn’t an option then just remain neutral, nod in the right places and wait until they burn themselves out. Even if you think what they’re saying is bang on.

You get invited to after-work drinks on a Friday…

Congrats! Your colleagues don’t hate you. Before freaking out, think of this as a massive compliment. No one has to do this and if you were a pain in the arse they wouldn’t bother to invite you just out of politeness.

What to do…

Definitely go if you can. This is a chance to get to know the team better and it affords you a greater chance of being remembered. Don’t get pissed if you want to be remembered for the right reasons, even if everyone else is. If the group conversation isn’t easy to join in with you can still engage by making eye contact with the person who’s speaking and not just sitting there looking bored. Asking questions is a great way to get involved in a group chat. There’s nothing people love more than talking about themselves.

Signing a card for someone you’ve never met…

You’ve only been in the office two days and suddenly it’s Nancy’s birthday and everyone’s whacking their life savings into an envelope and writing hilarious poems in an oversized card.

How to deal…

You’ve probably never met Nancy and there’s a good chance you won’t be the only one in the office. Write something generic like you would on an acquaintance’s Facebook wall and don’t worry about contributing to the kitty. It’s unlikely that people will expect you to – you aren’t being paid. If the awkwardness is too much for you then chuck her in £1.50 but don’t go overboard, no one likes a try-hard.

You aren’t the only intern in the office…

Kanye-West-Im-the-number-one-rockstar-on-the-planet-GIF

She buys cakes for the snack table, wears amazing clothes and appears to know everything. She’s the stuff of your work experience nightmares – the ‘other’ intern.

How to style it out…

That irritating other intern who’s taking all the good jobs and trying to outdo you is the greatest gift you’ll receive throughout your internship. Rather than viewing them as competition, you should see them as a great contact in the industry. Invite them out for lunch one day and find out what they’re interested in doing long term – they are the only other person in the office who can empathise with you. When you’re editor of heat and they’re editor of Closer you’ll be glad you made the effort, trust us.

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