[I’m INFECTED: Life As a Virus, Inc. Intern] The Importance of Being Social

3/5!  We’re more-or-less halfway there!  I forgot to mention that these journals are my last pending academic requirement (other than the final supervisor and BAP mentor evaluations, which I promise I will have sent to you within the next week, Sir Zeta!) before I graduate on June 7th.

I’m graduating on June 7th!



Okay, okay, getting back to the point: update 3/5.

I won’t call myself an expert marketer by any account.  Most days at Virus I’m a sponge–taking everything in and learning as fast as I can so that I’m prepared for whenever I’m called upon.  Sometimes, it works.  Most of the time, it’s a trial-by-fire, and I learn as I go, asking questions and admitting temporary “defeat” when necessary (i.e. asking for help).  It isn’t easy, but it’s a process I’m comfortable with–working is something I know I can do, even if the particulars of the work may be foreign to me (after all, as a student, everything is foreign to me until I learn it).

But work isn’t the only thing Virus is about.  What makes Virus Virus–something I’ve made clear in previous blogs–is its focus on cultivating working relationships.  It’s the only office I know where working through lunch isn’t necessarily encouraged (Rashmi is constantly telling me to actually take a break during lunch.), and where teambuildings are given equal importance to departmental meetings.  Relationships–friendships even–are an essential in an industry in which teamwork is paramount.  And, sadly, relationships are a thing I fail at.

As mentioned in this blog, I am borderline anti-social.  In fact, a Buzzfeed quiz told me once that I’m a moderate people-hater.  For all of my natural gregariousness, social interactions leave me absolutely puzzled and tense: I’m constantly calculating implications to statements or appropriate versus inappropriate reactions, like a Vulcan, albeit a highly-emotional one.

…wait, is that even possible?  

All right, bad analogy Trekkies, sorry, but you get the point.  I’m not good with people.  I’m constantly afraid that I dominate conversations with myself (a habit which prompted one (former) friend to call me out constantly for making things all about me and for being a very bad listener), or about topics that people will find “uncool” and “awkward,” which leads me to generally avoid overtly social situations like parties or even, well, going out to lunch.  When I do go out, I feel like an awkward parrot, nodding my head and smiling and repeating words that appear to be the group’s general sentiments like some walking social analytics tool, taking the temperature of conversations.

As much as “I need to finish my thesis.” is a valid reason to beg off a few days of work, pleading social anxiety is unacceptable in Virus terms.  Marketing is a relational industry, and thus everyone has to be willing to put in the effort (and boy, does it actually need effort on my end) to be, well, relational.  With clients especially, in the case of BD, but in general with everyone.

The people who have been most vocal about this have been, appropriately, the social media managers: Nike, Arra, and Helen (with the one-month addition of UA&P-IMC intern Dani De Leon).  The naturally enthusiastic trio keep a steady stream of good vibes with bouncy music and random singing (usually during overtime/after hours), and like going out to lunch as a unit while I sit sullen at my desk, pondering my ideal anti-society where people work and don’t have to have “fun.”

All this came to a head when I had a bit of an “intervention.”  it wasn’t so much an intervention as I finally agreed to have lunch with them because I didn’t have ba-on, and during the course of the conversation they mentioned to me that it was a bit off-putting that I didn’t hang out with them more.  But more than that, from hanging out with them I learned that the reason why Virus puts a stress on being social is that, by interacting with your co-workers, you learn from them.  Not just how to work, really, but also how to be a good worker–that is, a good person.

The workplace, like a theater, is a collection of energies, ideally all positive.  You feed off each other in one wave of moods and emotions and what we like to call “vibes” (i.e. “good vibes,” “bad vibes”), and just like in theater, you learn from each other–how to cope with stress and tension, how to laugh at yourself, how to deal with mistakes.  “Soft skills” are as important as the “technicals” of any occupation, and it is the soft skills you pick up by socializing.  My remaining isolated from the team essentially made sure I stayed “robotic”–static and unevolving as a Virus employee, better at working but not really better at working: not a true member of the unit.

Not as a true member of the workforce in general.

Like any life experience, I realize that being part of the working world is a study of growing up.  It’s a growing experience, not just a 9-to-5 responsibility.  And, to get the full experience, socialization is necessary–so you can benefit from the life-lessons and working wisdom of your peers, and by doing so, become a better part of the unit.

So I’m taking lunch breaks now, when I need to, taking care to chunk out work so that I can afford to.  And I’m trying to socialize more.  All of this, really, because I don’t want to miss out on a second of the full Virus experience.  After all–I’ll only be a Virus intern once.



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