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Do I fit in with this company? Please help


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Hi all,

 

I've been working as a part-time intern at a certain company for well over 8 months now. I've enjoyed working for this company very much, and the pay is great, but I'm starting to question how much I fit in with this company given certain variables.

 

Roughly 6 months into the internship, a lot of changes took place. My supervisor abruptly left, as well as other people I had met from other accounts in the office. The cohesion and comfort zone I had forged with the client team I had joined lost its shape. Once my supervisor left, and once the girl who trained me rotated to work for a different account, a different girl came to the client team (i'm still part of the same one) and another coworker who once was involved with this account before I started working here was once again assigned to this team. The only one who stayed from the beginning was another girl who has handled this account for many years.

 

Ever since my supervisor left, things have felt different. Although someone recently filled that position, I don't directly report to that person. I report to two other gentlemen for different reports. Luckily, my schedule is extremely flexible, the pay is great, and I'm able to work from home since the senior VP told me he doesn't want work to interfere with school (i'm a full-time student).

 

I've been questioning whether I fit in or not for a few reasons. I live in a city in Florida that's predominantly hispanic. I was born here in Miami but my parents are Latin. Still, I speak English perfectly, which is in sharp contrast to nearly 90% of the people working at my company. Since my company deals with offices accross latinamerica and south america, speaking Spanish is a must. When I applied for this job, I was told I needed to be fluent in English and Spanish. I don't know why I would need to be fluent in English because 99% of correspondence is done in Spanish (since I too deal with offices in these other markets). I speak and write very fluently in Spanish though (got a 5 on the AP exam). In my opinion, though, I could have still done this job perfectly fine if I didn't know English. Most of the people working there know very little English although they could speak it well enough to hold a conversation.

 

My point is that when people hear me talking on the phone, they notice how well I speak the language and the frequency with which I do so. Most of the time, people like the office manager will come up to me and will attempt to speak to me in English, while I attempt to talk to them in Spanish. It's almost as if we each try to accommodate each other. So based on the fact that I was born here, speak the language perfectly, and do not have a preference for Spanish, I feel like at times they label me as some sort of outsider or minority (as in "you're not one of us, "you're not like us" type of thing). Keep in mind most of these people came from their respective countries maybe 10 years ago or less, on average.

 

Another reason why I feel like I don't fit in sometimes is because of my age and limited experience. We recently had an off-site meeting where we convened for workshops and meetings. Towards the end when drinks and desserts were served, everyone seemed to go into their own little group, and I felt left out (I acknowledge that a few people did try to talk to me throughout the day, but not at the end, when it became more of a social "talk about whatever you want") type of thing.

 

I am the youngest person in this company with the lowest position (intern). I met someone at this offsite meeting who is the second youngest (roughly 25 or 26) and he introduced himself once again. Even though he made conversation with me for a little bit, he seemed more interested in getting to know the group as a whole (since he is full-time), so after a while, he would jump from my conversation with him (at the lunch table, for example) to another conversation consisting of 6 other people.

 

Perhaps the fact that there are about 3 or 4 other Americans born in the US working for this company (who also know spanish as a second language) somewhat discredits my first reason for not fitting in, but the age factor is still there. Maybe since i'm a young intern, people don't hold me in such high regard. I don't know if they're used to seeing interns enter and leave the company quickly or what not (since internships are usually temporary). Mine was originally 6 months but recently I was offered an extension until the end of the year. At that point it may be terminated or extended based on the HR dept's decision.

 

Something else I admit is that I am not the most sociable person on the planet. I tend to be more sociable with people my age, because obviously you'd expect to have more in common with them. At my community college, most of the students in my honors program came from other countries a few years back. But I was able to cement strong relationships with them because we had a lot in common given that we are in the same age group. So in a way, I guess I would understand why the older people in my company would tend not to socialize with me as much. They probably feel they wouldn't really have a lot to talk about since we are from different reference groups. Still, the fact that I work part-time and go to school limits the time I spend in the office (roughly 15 hours a week, the rest of the hours from home.)

 

My supervisor's departure was a bit of a shocker because him and I were becoming closer (not just coworkers but more like "buddies). He didn't seem to mind speaking to me English and he spoke it very well considering he hadn't been in this country that long. From the two guys I report to now, one of them speaks English fluently and I can certainly identify with him. He talks to me about sports and other issues that allow me to connect with him on a level that I can't reach with other people within the office. Since most other people haven't been in this country all that long, they probably can't identify with and contribute to conversations about sports, local colleges, and other topics I have strong knowledge of. The VP (who was my ex-supervisor's boss) speaks English fluently as well but as you can imagine I have very limited contact with him because he always tied up.

 

I think part of this problem of not fitting in is partly my fault, too. At lunchtime, everyone convenes in the cafeteria area. I would join them during the first few months, but once the changes I spoke of earlier took place, I somewhat lost interest. The conversations involve topics that i'm normally not familiar with (in spanish), which again, would make me feel left out. This is why when I buy lunch from a small deli shop downstairs, I sit at the tables there by myself. I also like to spend some time alone there to reflect on things. But I know that in doing this, I'm isolating myself and perhaps giving off the impression that i'm not very sociable.

 

In summation, I feel like I'm not part of the main "nucleus" of this company. Given my age, limited experience, limited time in the office, and different cultural background, I think most people in this company just don't identify with me as much as I wish they would. I guess if I was in my 30's and 40's, I would not attempt to be talking to the "21 year old intern" as much as with the professionals that make up the client teams. I feel like I was warmly welcomed into this company the first few months when the client team consisted of my ex-supervisor and the girl who trained me. They even took me out to lunch on a few occasions (including my birthday). But once the changes took place, I felt more distant from the company as a whole.

 

I think it's all a matter of earning respect, trust, and moving up. I don't know if i've analyzed this correctly but I'd like further imput and perspectives on this. Has anyone had a similar experience, or wouldn't mind giving their feedback? I'd like to know if I'm just overanalyzing things here.

 

Thanks in advance

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Hey DJ,

 

I have had a similar situation but not in a work environment.

 

I myself am 1/2 Mexican, 1/2 Caucasian, and I find I don't really fit into the Mexican group.

 

Just like you, I got a 5 on my AP exam, speak and write well in Spanish, have been raised fully in the culture, but I look predominantly white.

 

When I tell people I am Mexican, they say NO WAY!, say something in Spanish to prove it.

 

My response is, what do I have to prove to you, we come in all colors and shapes, there is no one type of person from each culture.

 

I don't think you are overanalyzing because I have felt this many times before.

 

Sometimes, people can subconsciously prejudice without realizing it.

 

Hopefully things work out well with you in the company.

 

Hugs, Rose

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hey, i know how you feel. it's totally a night and day experience who you work with. the first real post-college job i had was a blast. i worked with people the same age, the same sense of humor, just great easy going people that worked hard, were smart and liked to have fun. and the worst part about it is you really don't realize how good you have it until you're put into a different situation.

 

i still keep in touch w/ those guys (we have a little e-mail distribution list that we use weekly) and miss that place.

 

the current place i work as can be described similar to yours. and i have a similar reserved personality so i don't make friends very easily. but i tend to be friendly and open, so people like to come to my cubicle just to talk to me. i go to our company cafeteria and just bring food back to my cube so i know how that feels. i don't really mind as i'm fine eating by myself. i can also relate when we have group meals... i'm good in one on one or with a few people, but when there's like 20+ people, i turn into a vegetable. i think we could both afford to try to be more social at these events. one of these days...

 

as far as advice, just continue to be friendly/open/pay attention to their interests, and where there's something you're familiar with, go for it.

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The truth is I do try to be friendly with my co-workers. And don't get me wrong, a lot of them are. But it seems like some of them still hold a barrier - like they don't mind being friendly but don't want to be TOO friendly. I don't know if it's just me overthinking this.

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i think it's a combination of you not being in their social inner circle, not having much interest with them and also your personality. some people are great people persons and they can fit in anywhere. and then there are people like us, that kind of watch from afar.

 

hmm, i guess you could watch them in action. my cubicle neighbor started working at the company one month after i did and everybody says hi when they pass by his cube. why? because he's always talking to people. he says hi, introduces himself, says blah, blah blah. he comes to my cubicle a couple times a day just to sit down and talk about nothing. he's one of those people that likes to have the limelight on him. there's a couple of qualities i don't like about him (talks trash about people behind their back, doesn't take responsibility for things, etc), but he's definitely good at being social. so if you really really want to form that bond with your coworkers, you might have to pretend to be a social butterfly to get into their good graces. that is if you care... sometimes i like the peace.

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I don't know if they're used to seeing interns enter and leave the company quickly or what not (since internships are usually temporary).

 

Thats probably it.

I guess, i'd just walk up to a group of them and start talking, if they frowned at me i'd walk off... but i haven't had any corporate experience.

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