Intern Insight: Working As A Chamber Intern During A Pandemic

By Natalia PĂ©rez

I was four years old when we welcomed the year 2000. I remember some welcomed it vibrantly, dancing in the streets and celebrating with fireworks, while others feared for the end of the world. I was too young to remember or really process the fullness of it, but I know it felt big and promising--the only time I'd ever experience the beginning of a new century.

I felt similarly when approaching 2020. We were just ending a decade, yes, but it felt bigger than it did in 2010. It felt futuristic and larger-than-life to me, like a shooting star I should definitely hitch my wagon to. 

I'd recently graduated from Southern Adventist University in May of 2019, had moved back to my home city of Worcester, Massachusetts, lived the freelancer life and worked as a barista at this adorable women-owned bookstore, and was ready to explore the next phase of my post-graduate career. Maybe land a full-time job, travel some more, move to a different city--the possibilities felt endless (as they often do for graduates). At the time, 2020 represented a promising new chapter. 

I'd been job searching for a few months at the beginning of March 2020, and had landed an interview at a company in Orlando, Florida, that I was highly excited about. I'd longed for some financial stability, to be closer to my college community and to my best friend. I'd made it to the final round of interviews before my interviewer abruptly cancelled our meeting without explanation. It'd been two days since the novel Coronavirus was declared a national pandemic, back when shops and businesses were still open and many of us naively thought this would blow over in just a few weeks (yikes, remember when we all tried to "flatten the curve" within two weeks? We had no idea what we were in for). 

A week and a half later, I was told the company went on a hiring freeze, and because the virus seemed to be settling in for a long stay by this point, I'd lost all of my work within a matter of hours. I'll spare you all the emotions that ensued, and the 300x peptalks my loved ones gave to me during this time. 

By the time we reached August, though, my friend Lizzie Williams, who formerly worked as the Economic Development Marketing Coordinator at the Chamber, called me about a possible opening for a Chamber intern in the communications department (friends are your best and strongest network, by the way!). Formerly a comms intern herself, she had an insider perspective to the experience, and encouraged me to apply. 

Although I'd been used to working independently as a freelancer, interviewing and then luckily working with the communications team at the Chamber was my first experience working completely virtual. Working alongside Amanda Ellis, formerly the Marketing and Communications Manager at the Chamber, was an absolute delight. Her collaborative, flexible leadership and drive for excellence matched the type of boss and leader I'd always wanted to work with and learn from, and partnered with our intentional, talented comms team, I pretty much won the lottery of internship experiences.

Regardless of being fully virtual (and in a different state than everyone else), the Chamber's communication team took the time to get to know me as a person, allowed me to sit in on all strategy  and team meetings, asked for my thoughts on things that were happpening, and were always available to help walk me through something whenever I needed it. I felt like a valuable member of the team, and was given weekly tasks that were vital to the Chamber's communications.

I mainly focused on print duties--writing/editing 2-3 articles weekly, drafting press releases, conducting interviews, drafting our business and internal newsletters, translating documents, and anything else the team needed. Since I was working remotely from Massachusetts, I sharpened my skills at keeping a pulse on a community that I was no longer living in, and forming relationships from afar. 

One of my favorite parts about this internship, though, was the many opportunities to learn and cater the experience to your own interests. Outside of working with Amanda on print communications, you could perhaps help Jeremy with design or Eric with website and production duties. There's also a built-in network at the Chamber to help challenge and grow your skills, as well as provide a vast array of local business connections, making it an ideal internship for young professionals to further their careers, build a portfolio of writing/design/production clips, and feel more confident entering the work force. 


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