Like most recent graduates, I left my alma mater, Lee University, wide-eyed and eager for another opportunity. The possibilities were endless.
I could move abroad, learn a new language and start fresh.
I could take the safe route, securing a nine-to-five with ample benefits.
I could try something new like dye my hair or start a 90s cover band (bad idea).
Somewhere between googling flights, job postings and band names, an internship listing for the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce appeared. They were looking for a marketing and communications intern who would primarily help them with their online and print publication, Chattanooga TREND.
My relationship with the chamber world went back a few years to my college job at a local retail store in downtown Cleveland, Tennessee, Terra Running Company. As a member of the Bradley County Chamber of Commerce, Terra Running Company showed me firsthand how important the Chamber was to its success as a small business.
Because of my experience, I knew the Chamber was an outlet for opportunity. So, I applied, and a few weeks later, I was sitting in my first ever cubicle holding a parking pass and a work badge. I was official.
On my first day, Amanda Ellis, the Chamber’s Marketing and Communication Manager, asked conversationally, “Have you heard about the virus in China?” It was early January and news of a worldwide pandemic was new to me, so I shook my head without a second thought.
Within a couple of months, coronavirus hit home, forcing my new internship to go remote.
Admittedly, I was disappointed at first, partly because I knew I would miss our administrative assistant, Ann Riley, and the sweet treats she gifted us with on a weekly basis.
But then, the communications team got in the swing of things. We figured out how to manage meetings remotely, launch virtual events and adapt to the new normal.
Personally, I learned how to work more independently, even though Amanda was always a phone call away.
Under Amanda's guidance, I entered the world of print media, and wrote copy for email campaigns, radio scripts, social media and this site. I refined my interview skills and got connected with various public officials, local CEOs and other community members.
Over the course of my internship, I wrote an average of one to two articles a week and at least one print feature a month. As a writer, there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing your byline published in print.
Under the guidance of Jeremy Henderson, the Chamber’s Creative Director, I expanded my graphic design portfolio in a series of Chattanooga TREND magazine covers. Via Zoom, Jeremy patiently helped me navigate the ins and outs of Adobe Creative Suite.
Though our relationship was mostly virtual, the Chamber staff proved to be valuable career mentors. Amidst the chaos, they made an effort to make me feel like a valuable member of the team and invited me to join them in being a resource to businesses during COVID-19.
When looking for a job, some people say it’s about who you know. With its vast array of business contacts, the Chamber is the ideal place for young professionals looking to jump-start their careers. For future interns, my advice is to find what you’re passionate about and go after it. More than likely, the Chamber can help you get there.