Fact: The kitchen is often where it’s at. (There’s food there, I hear.)
Another fact: Everyone needs water and food. (Except Charlie Sheen who only needs tiger blood. And I promise that will be my only Charlie Sheen joke.)
That said, if you’re looking for time to connect with a coworker, the office kitchen may provide the perfect space in which to do this. The trick, though, is that you can’t just talk about anything. While my internship experiences have been limited to the world of film and TV, everyone needs a break during the workday, regardless of their field of work. Given the long hours jobs often require (particulary in entertainment production), people don’t want to work around an awkward, uncomfortable intern who’s going to corner them in the break room and hound them with career questions. After a twelve-hour day on a film set, your coworkers are going to want someone they can shoot the breeze with at 3 AM when tensions and emotions are highest.
So what is kitchen talk and how do you do it? Even if you’re place of work doesn’t have a kitchen, these rules still apply. Casual conversations with coworkers can happen anywhere and anytime.
- The birth of a kitchen relationship. Beginning a kitchen relationship can be difficult. If you don’t know your supervisor or coworkers on a personal level, how do you know what to talk about? Easy. You work in the same place, so there’s a very high chance you share similar interests. If you feel it’s too much of a risk to open a discussion on a seemingly random topic, open your eyes and ears while at work and try to look and listen for any clues as to what’s on your coworkers’s minds that day or week or month. Then, when the time is right, bring it up to show them that you, too, are interested in this particular show or book or political happening.
- Beware when gossip turns on you and yields his or her unruly rath. Yes, gossip is a quick and easy way to develop a bond with someone, but it may also elicit the illusion that you’re closer to someone than you really are. If someone seems to be blowing off steam while on a break, be wary of what you say in response. This person could easily share something you said with another coworker soon after, and we all know where it goes from there. So, avoid being the water cooler gossip. As harsh and unfair as it may sound, one slip-up may make it difficult to repair your image. Not everyone gives second chances, especially when there are hundreds of interns who want your position.
When it comes down to it, most people want to be surrounded by people they like while at work. I unfortunately can’t tell you to just relax and be yourself because, in truth, you may have some quirks and interests that are best left outside the workplace. So, my final piece of advice is to anticipate moments of crises and be a friend. That way, when it’s 3 AM on a film set and you know this is when your supervisor wants to throw his walkie talkie on the ground and then run home and sleep for days, you can show up with a cup of coffee and say, “Hey Mike, drink this.” (Note: This is a fictional albeit very realistic situation.) Showing someone you see them and, moreover, that you care, is a quick way to foster the “We’re in this together” friend mentality.
I now pronounce you a master of Kitchen Talk. Go talk it up.
Jonathan Hurwitz is a senior in the Film & TV Production program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. After transferring to Tisch two years ago from the University of Michigan, Jonathan has held more than six internships on feature films and TV shows, including last summer’s Just Wright featuring Queen Latifah and Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He is currently an intern through Universal Pictures on the upcoming Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy movie Tower Heist. He writes about everything from happiness to Justin Bieber on his own blog and that Twitter thang.