SPARKING AUTHENTICITY: WHAT AN OPEN MIND AND WORKPLACE DID FOR ME
By Novia Chiang
Cubicles. Rows and rows of cubicles, each separated by plain dividers. The faint smell of coffee in the stale air, clouding up the dim lighting from bars of fluorescent light. People in suits, curtly nodding at their coworkers as they go from meeting to meeting.
I couldn’t stop picturing a musty old office building.
“I’ll just be running back and forth to get coffee for the employees,” I had jokingly told my dad.
But despite my parents’ best reassurances that no, I was not going to be fetching endless cups of coffee or spending hours organizing filing cabinets, I couldn’t shake off the nerves that plagued me as I prepared myself for my first internship.
Some might say that 15 is an odd age to be doing an internship. After all, I’ve barely dipped my toes into high school. How can I possibly be ready to be tossed into the deep end of the workforce?
However, this lack of real-life experience is exactly why it was essential for me to get a taste of what it’s like outside of the cocoon that was spun by a mundane cycle of school and homework.
It’s all too easy to get blinded by the onslaught of assignments and tests. It’s even easier to be swept away by a whirlwind of numbers – homework grades and exam percentages that I was beginning to feel would define me for the rest of my life. Before I dove too far into high school, I needed to get the bigger picture.
Looking back now, there would have been no greater place to do that than at Greater Lafayette Commerce.
Ten long days of dark cubicles and coffee -- that is what I expected of my time as an intern.
Instead, what I got was two weeks that flew by in a rainbow of wonderful people and places.
Rather than stuffy silk suits, I got to see people in bright summer outfits, and even one particularly interesting shark shirt.
In place of identical cubicles and flickering bars of light in the ceiling, I got a beautiful, open workplace, akin to a makerspace. I got a place of flourishing creativity and of friendly people who could have fun with each other while getting work done. And yes, of course, coffee, as well.
I spent most of my internship under the wing of the marketing and communications team, which is presided over by the wonderful Michelle Brantley. During my time, I attended the annual golf outing and Purdue Farmers’ Market, then wrote a blog article about the latter with the help of GLC’s amazing Content Marketing Specialist, Shelby White.
Additionally, I helped create a logo idea for Up In Your Biz alongside Andrew Edmonds, whose work in graphic design is everything I hope to achieve.
I also assisted in planning activities for the exciting and upcoming OTA City Student Exchange Program with Collin Huffines, the Economic Development Manager.
In experiencing these events, I got to see what a vast reach and impact that GLC has in the community. A few words the team used to describe it were “cooperative”, “all-inclusive”, “evolving”, “connected” and “down-to-earth”. As the days passed and I observed more, I came to recognize that these are not only words that describe GLC, but ones that describe each employee within it.
The employees care about the wellbeing of small businesses, solve problems in the community and help attract and keep talent in the area. While it’s hard to capture such a successful chamber of commerce and economic development organization in a few words, those words truly represent, not only what GLC is, but the incredible team members that make it up. I have witnessed the absolute authenticity, the drive, the passion and the unapologetic rawness that people in the workforce have.
When I first walked into Greater Lafayette Commerce, I was unsure of myself and my future.
Since then, I have talked to these strong, compassionate individuals who strive for happiness and have told me their stories – stories that made me realize how there is no plan for life. Nothing is set in stone, no problem is without a solution, and your world, no matter how small it seems, can always be made a little bigger and a little brighter.
There is no stopping the progression of time. I will be thrust into new worlds and experiences, but with these things in mind, I hope that I will remember to always be my authentic self.
Novia Chiang is a sophomore at West Lafayette Jr./Sr. High School. She completed a spring marketing intensive with Greater Lafayette Commerce.