For the first time in my life, I have joined the traditional workforce. In the past, I have done remote work, put in much sweat and tears into working at an overnight camp, and have worked part time jobs, but never have been exposed to this type of consistency in an office environment. I am now amongst the throng of suburbanites who, every day, flood the Metra and commute into the city- I am a member of the 9-5 commuting community. I always assumed I wouldn’t enjoy this type of stationary work, but so far I feel quite comfortable and happy with my job and work environment.
The people who work at ICAAP, 13 staff in all, are quite open and friendly. Every morning at 8:59, after pushing open the warehouse door, I can expect several “hello’s”, or relaxed smiles from the early risers. My work experience has been largely different from my academic life. The largest adjustment for me cognitively was having to train my brain to focus for longer periods at a time. In school, I would have a smattering of classes throughout the day, and my schedule would necessitate multiple walking breaks as I navigated the campus. Additionally, the learning process here is much more informal than at school. My “teachers” have never been trained to teach, so they explain concepts to me through their passion and experiences. They tend to have more of an experiential approach to my learning, especially because their job is not to teach me, but to use me as an aid to their work.
This style of learning has been simultaneously exciting and frustrating for me. At the beginning of a new task, when I don’t quite understand the framework of the work I am supposed to be doing, I exist in a state of constant searching; one that both invigorates me and leaves me at the end of each day feeling unsure. However, when I break through into understanding, which I have been able to do thus far in each task, the feeling is beyond enticing, and beyond anything I have felt at school being ‘spoon fed’ my learning (if you will). This internship is teaching me tangible skills, such as grant writing, research, utilizing community tools, improved communication skills, how to exist and present myself in different work cultures, and how to best focus myself for the duration of a work day. However, beyond that, it is teaching me how to adapt, and self-teach in efficient and tangible ways in a workforce. I am constantly striving to find the balance between asking for help from my very busy supervisors, and using immersive experience (just plowing through my confusion in combination with very intimate google counseling), to get the work done.
Currently, I am in the middle of writing and researching a grant, and was just given responsibility of our social media accounts. (Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!) Curious as to how to use social media as a business? This has been my guide. This being the first grant I have worked on, I am still trying to put myself in the framework of how to write a grant, from the targeted language they use to the type of data that works best. I don’t think I could have honed these skills in a classroom, but they are skills that I will use the rest of my academic and career life, and hopefully will be able to utilize in my personal life as well.
Elizabeth Villano, ’16
Elizabeth Villano, ’16