Another Summer Wiser
As my freshman year of college abruptly came to a close, I knew it was high time I figured out what the world of business was all about. This was the time to explore my options and focus my goals. This was the time to whittle down the lists of plan As, Bs, and Cs, and to take leaps of faith. And this was the time to observe a company from the inside out through a summer internship, attempting to add value to the organization while increasing my personal depository of practical wisdom.
I remember, due to a flurry of research the night before, being proud of the fact that I was able to rattle off CPI’s tagline to our HR director during my interview: Educate. Empower. Enrich. It’s now with even more pride—and more importantly, humbling gratefulness—that I reflect on each word and realize how my summer with CPI has transformed the meaning for me of each one.
Never before have the words “you don’t know what you don’t know” held more truth in my life. Oh my, the things I learned that I didn’t even know existed prior to this summer.
To begin with, my eyes were opened to this novel space known as the cubicle. Some of you may giggle at reading this, but I actually loved the concept of having my own cube. It provided an opportunity for me to infuse this new workplace environment with little comforts to serve as reminders of who I am and where I want to be going.
I learned long ago from moving schools over seven times that the ability to adapt and pull a new place within your comfort zone is an absolutely vital skill to have. What I didn’t plan for is the familiarity and friendliness of the CPI culture. Everyone fits right in, everyone is their own character, even the bottom-of-the-food-chain interns. And that culture of community, as was confirmed by talks with my other classmates who had internships this summer, is very unique and precious. I got so lucky.
I could go on and on about the interesting, particular lessons that I was taught (documenting classes, doing research, organizing a party bus, looking at legislation, printing certificates, emailing customers, etc.), but I would like to take this time to muse upon my favorite lesson: Go above and beyond, cheerfully. Obviously this one doesn’t need much deciphering: Give things your all, and they will give it right back to you.
The word cheerful is my particular favorite. I’m a strong believer in not taking ourselves too seriously. I’m sure we all have those days where we would rather curl up under our desks and take a nap, or just whine and bang our heads against our desks (did someone mention printing certs?). Undoubtedly, we all have a lot of other things going on in life, but I learned—and Dad, kudos for this one—that the most effective way to deal with this kind of stress is to jump outside, take a walk, and then suck it up.
One of the most empowering things I found about CPI actually took me by surprise, although it shouldn’t have. I had a few jobs prior to the internship (nannying, Starbucks barista, restaurant server, etc.), but never before had I experienced the feeling of not only not dreading work, but actually looking forward to it. Looking forward to waking up at 6 a.m. I was obviously aware that fun and fulfilling work existed, but I was certainly not prepared to find it in the present moment. Rather, the idea of fulfilling work was always a vague ray of promise far down the road. But this was quite a new sensation, and I quickly realized the sheer power in this. How on earth was documenting classes all day exciting me? It was quite simple: I was doing something small but part of a meaningful larger picture. I understood that these classes, this training, was hugely influential in the daily lives of each of the participants, and then the lives of those the participants serve.
Believe it or not, there is a motivation gap between being a part of the process that gets people their Frappuccino each afternoon, and being a part of the process that ensures Care, Welfare, Safety, and Security℠ for people such as my precious cousin Katie, who has Down syndrome.
“Be a sponge.” That tip echoed throughout almost every list providing “helpful advice for interns” that I read in preparation for my time at CPI, and I am so glad that I was aware of it, because simply being at a company and observing, soaking up, and processing all of the workings that were going on around me helped enormously with understanding not only what CPI stands for, but how it fits and compares to the bigger ecosystem of the business world as a whole.
I loved seeing how people react to one another, how people handle something as ordinary as lunch in a corporate setting, and how company outings are actually a thing. Although admittedly I still have to remind myself to use my indoor voice, I think that I have adapted to corporate life quite well, all thanks to my time here.
I want to heartily thank everyone at CPI for this opportunity. This internship has been one of those few experiences in life in which you are aware, during the fact, of the great things you are learning that will come in handy not only for the task at hand, but also down the road. I could go on for pages listing each one of you by name, and citing specific examples of times when you have taught me something, helped me, or simply made my day brighter. But I’m confident that you all know who you are.