Sharing beer is not nearly as much fun as sharing your internship. Photo courtesy of Adrıen. Licensed under CC BY-2.0.Last Wednesday I came into the office of my internship after my week-long vacation. I was pumped, ready to get back to work at my awesome job after a week off. I had a list of things that I knew I needed to get done that day and I was excited to jump right in. However, when I turned the corner I stopped when I saw my desk. A strange purse and a stack of papers that I know I didn’t leave on my desk before I left the week before. Another girl walked by and sat down in my chair. 

It wasn’t then until I realized that the other intern had started work while I was gone. My boss had mentioned that they had hired a second intern to work the half of the week that I wasn’t there. But until now, I had had my desk and intern job all to myself. I knew exactly what projects I was working on, exactly what needed to be done, and exactly where everything was on my desk. And now… well, someone else was sitting in my chair.

Working with another intern in your space can bring up some difficulties. Things may get tight with physical space or even highly competitive. Here are a few tips to help you deal with working with your intern alter ego.

Be Extra Neat and Organized

Because you’re sharing your space with another person, it is even more important to keep your work area organized for two reasons. Firstly, you need to make sure that you know where all of your stuff is. Whether it’s papers, lists, or your favorite pen, keep all of your stuff in one part of the desk, especially in a drawer. If you don’t keep your stuff in a specific place, there’s more of a chance that the other intern might accidently misplace it. Secondly, being neat is important because it’s courteous to the other intern. Nothing is more annoying to me than getting to my desk in the morning and having papers that aren’t mine strewn everywhere on the desk. Keep your shit in its place so you and your alter ego can work in the same space with more ease.

You may even have to have a conversation with the other intern to set up “rules” of the space. Let them know that this drawer is your drawer for your stuff. It’s not to say that they can’t touch your stuff, but make them aware that this is where you put important things you need and that’s where you expect to find them. Hopefully your boss doesn’t have you working on the same days or if they do, it’s not very often. This will ease a lot of problems. Talk to your boss if the scheduling needs to be arranged differently.

Even if you’re not sharing physical space with the other intern, keeping your stuff neat and organized will at least keep the intern area looking nice and will probably be appreciated. It’s like having a roommate in some ways. You may not be sharing the exact same space as your roommate, but it’s nice when everyone picks up their own stuff.

Be Your Competitive Best

Because you’re working the exact same job with another person, you are going to be compared to that person by your superiors and the other people you work with. Internships are a chance to make great impressions in the company you’re working for so that you can use these contacts in the future when you’re looking for a job. Several of the people I work with now had the internship I currently hold. If I make a good enough impression, I am hoping for a job offer in the future or at least fantastic recommendations. When you’re being compared so closely to another person, it’s even more imperative that you are doing your absolute best work.

This introduces a little bit of competitiveness to the internship, which, if done properly, could work to your advantage. Be detailed oriented, thorough, and do the best work you can do because you should assume that the other intern will be doing the same. You’re going to want to come off as the intern who works the hardest and does the best work if you want the job offer that your company is going to offer. Be sure to be proactive when you have finished work, ask questions to gain more skills, and offer to help whenever you can. Become “super intern” if this job is really something you want in the future.

Don’t Be an Asshole

Even though you should be doing your best work in order to gain a competitive edge and to hopefully come off as the harder worker, you shouldn’t throw the other intern under the bus to get a leg up. No one is going to offer you a job if you come off as a conniving bitch. Do not badmouth your alter ego intern behind their back to your boss. Do not sabotage their work, don’t “accidently” misplace their important notes, etc, etc. Just don’t be an asshole.

You don’t have to be best friends with your intern alter ego. You don’t even have to talk to them if you don’t want to. But you do need to be polite and play fair. You can work in different parts of the office or on different days. Work on your projects, and they’ll work on theirs.

The longer you work with the other intern, you may even find that working with them is actually helpful. You may be able to tagteam certain projects that seem impossible for you to take on yourself. But even if you find that their working style completely clashes with yours, just do your best at your projects and working with an intern alter ego might not be so bad.

Do you have any tips to working with another intern? Let us know in the comments!