The Intern Chronicles: A Fond Farewell to Learning and Free Food

I’ve kept busy this week, which has made the days seem to really fly by. During a summer job, this is a good thing 99% of the time — the remaining 1% being when you have multiple projects to complete and a deadline fast approaching.

My deadline exists because it also happens to be the last day of my internship here at the Chamber. I’ll pause for a few minutes to allow for adequate weeping time, as you’re surely one of the millions of readers who have relied on the Intern Chronicles for your strength and comfort every week.

But have no fear, the circle of life will prevail and another intern will take my place. Staff members; please welcome my predecessor with open arms and maybe an updated phone list with their name on it instead of mine. My gift to them is an Indiana Chamber Intern Survival Guide, which is comprised of lessons I learned the hard way. It’s several hundred pages long. Here is an excerpt from the “Lunch Break” section.

Don’t bother bringing your lunch for the first half of summer. Tons of conferences mean tons of leftover catering for you. Bolt for the food as soon as the e-mail goes out (this is important) and you’ll be sitting pretty.

Do bother bringing your lunch for the second half of summer. Conference season tragically ends in early July, and although the occasional seminar will bring you happiness and seasoned chicken, it happens much less often and is difficult to predict. You still have to eat, and you can’t afford to get Subway and Qdoba regularly until you have interns of your own.

Although I didn’t have a survival guide to live by during my time here at the Chamber, the entire staff made it easy to feel immediately comfortable and welcome. My supervisors sacrificed time and effort to provide countless learning opportunities and I even had a hefty amount of fun. When I leave today it will mark the end of an invaluable experience that I am truly grateful for. Although I’ll probably miss the free lunches the most.

The Intern Chronicles: Keeping Cool on the Job

It looks (and feels) like summer has finally decided to kick into high gear, with temperatures consistently hovering around 90 degrees. Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of echoing your relatives who’ve retired to Arizona: “But it’s a dry heat!” 

No, the heat is not dry here. In fact, during lunchtime this week the humidity index was 62%.   I don’t know what that means except that combined with the heat, it’s the point at which I want to collapse on the sidewalk and lie in the fetal position.
And apparently, it’s the point at which three friends and I decided to walk the 330 steps up to the top of the Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Monument.
After eating lunch on the circle (I had a toasted Subway sandwich that was not toasted before I left the store), we made our way up. The top is anti-climactic to say the least, with no information plaques or quarter-operated telescopes or room to walk around or air that is not your friends’ recycled breath. Additionally, the sun beams in through large windows to create an environment much like an oven, wherein the only thing baking is the collective sweat of those unfortunate enough to have made the climb. Our stay was brief. 
I had a good sweat going as I returned to the offices, and I became very appreciative of the AC that welcomed me.
I know there are plenty of businesses that aren’t so lucky, and I feel for those who have to deal with this heat on the job. But according to a research project in the UK, personal comfort isn’t all that declines when temperatures rise. The study revealed that heat makes 63% of workers sleepy and lethargic and that 59% admitted to being less productive.
So the next time you think you’re saving money by keeping the AC off, remember the findings from our friends across the pond and reconsider. Besides, you don’t want all your chums smelling like rubbish.

The Intern Chronicles: College Campus Road Trip; Am I Working?

Coming fresh off an extended Fourth of July weekend at Valparaiso University, it was perhaps fitting that I trekked around to some of Indiana’s other higher education destinations the following week.

First up was a trip to West Lafayette with Chamber President Kevin Brinegar. I guess he stays a little busier around here than I do, so to allow for some extra work to be done, I drove.
I don’t know what the Chamber was thinking not having seen me operate a vehicle, especially considering that I’m a young male who has disheveled hair and an extensive criminal record (just kidding, my hair is straight). But come Monday morning I was in the driver’s seat next to Kevin, who had declined my offer to take my rusted ’94 Accord in lieu of his own car, which he described as “fun.”  It was.
In Boilermaker land, Kevin had a business lunch with Purdue President France Cordova, who I had the opportunity to meet. After meetings with Caterpillar and Wabash National, Chamber Membership Director Tim Brewer and I kept the college theme going by being roomies for a night at the local Holiday Inn. A Breakfast with Brinegar event for area Chamber members was held in the hotel the next morning. Then it was back to Indianapolis with yours truly at the wheel.
Within five minutes of returning to the office, I left with Senior VP Mark Lawrance for Terre Haute, where he was doing a press conference as part of the now ongoing “Letters to Our Leaders” campaign. We had an outstanding Lebanese lunch by Indiana State’s campus and then met with the Terre Haute Chamber staff and Gary Morris, president of Clabber Girl and a Chamber board member who was taking part in the press conference with Mark.
After I had passed out media packets to the newspaper and TV crews that had assembled for the conference, Mark suggested we take the more scenic route back to Indy via U.S. 40. The historic road took us all the way back to Washington Street and ended my whirlwind of a tour. I’m pleased to report I fulfilled my chauffer duties without incident.
Now to decide between Muncie and Bloomington for my Frequent Driver Miles trip.


The Intern Chronicles: Rockin’ Out for Compliance

I got an e-mail Monday afternoon about an event starting the next day that would continue throughout the rest of the week. It was referred to as a “massive poster shipping party.”  These four words didn’t really seem to go together, but I was pleased to be invited nonetheless.

 The e-mail explained that people could help as they were able — purely on a volunteer basis — and that free pizza would be provided to show appreciation. There were also a few more paragraphs, but I didn’t really read much after the "free pizza" part.

 I was in our conference center for most of the next couple days, helping to prepare a shipment of the latest labor law compliance posters (you know, the laminated ones you’ve pretended to be interested in during awkward breakroom encounters). The process involved rolling the posters up and stuffing them into tubes, which were then sealed and slapped with a shipping sticker. Since the work didn’t require a great deal of concentration, the atmosphere was pretty relaxed and we got to watch DVDs on the conference center screens. The women took the helm for media selection, which meant that we rolled and stuffed to the likes of "Footloose" and "Jon Bon Jovi Live."

 Sometimes when you’re blocking out sensory information, you tend to focus on material you’d normally overlook. I became quite familiar with the content of the labor law posters, and if you haven’t updated yours in a while, you may want to do the same. Recent updates to the posters include:

• Military Leave Notice added due to Family Medical Leave Act amendment
• Federal Minimum Wage increase; 2007, 2008 and 2009 wages given
• Child Labor Law phone numbers updated and layout changed
• Indiana Minimum Wage updated on state posters to reflect new federal wage

So as I head into July 4th weekend, I just hope my festivities aren’t interrupted by Bon Jovi tunes running through my brain.

And as for your compliance needs: You might be thinking, “I don’t have to get new posters. It’s My Life.” However, not having updated posters is against the law. You’re Livin’ on a Prayer if you don’t have them displayed, and getting nabbed for it can be a shot through the heart. Bah!

The Intern Chronicles: Sleep Deprivation has its Costs ($150 Billion for U.S. Businesses)

I’m tired.

A good weekend in Chicago (where I got about as much sleep as can be expected from a young man enjoying a good weekend in Chicago) came to an end Sunday night as my car crawled into the driveway at around 2 a.m. I figured it was fine, because a few solid nights of sleep throughout the week would catch me up.

Let’s just say there’s a reason my roommate and I decided against cable during the school year. So, a few more nights of bad television/sleep deprivation brings me to today, where I am cursing bad decisions and longing for my blankie. I mean …

Anyway, as luck would have it, one of the projects I was assigned to this week involves running lines of information through the Chamber’s database. It’s just a few simple clicks for each line, but there are lots of them — LOTS of them. It’s not awful but it’s the type of repetitive work you’d hate to do without a full night’s rest.

Taking a break from the monotony to research what was on my mind, I came across a web site for the Better Sleep Council, which said that half of American employees just don’t get enough sleep. According to the site, the problem has led to some substantial on-the-job consequences, including the following:

• 31 % of survey respondents said that sleep deprivation impaired their quality and accuracy of work.
• Sleep deprivation currently costs U.S. businesses nearly $150 billion annually in absenteeism and lost productivity.
• The National Transportation Safety Board identified fatigue as a prominent factor in the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill.

While I don’t foresee my weariness causing any catastrophic environmental disasters, I do want to steer clear of workplace fatigue. From my extensive research, it looks like this can be achieved by — you guessed it — getting more sleep.  I plan on turning things around by starting to hit the sack early, and I plan on starting tonight.

Just right after I check out what’s happening on Letterman.

The Intern Chronicles: Hoosiers Waste 2.8 Hours at Work Daily; What Time Does Deskchair Basketball Start?

I recently had the opportunity to meet Inside INdiana Business Host Gerry Dick, which highlighted yet another enjoyable and insightful week on the job. I saw him when fellow intern Hannah and I tagged along with VP of Communications Tom Schuman to the recording of a TV interview he conducted at WFYI.

It marked one of the last duties Tom will have for a while, as he took off for sunny California earlier this week to spend some much deserved vacation time with his family.  Before he left, he talked to everyone in our department to go over what we should be doing until he returns.

It’s funny; I don’t remember roller-chair rallies or office twister being on the list.

Seriously though, it looks like I’m more or less in charge of myself now that Tom, who was more or less in charge of me, happens to be 1947.3 miles away (more or less).

Now, my mother will tell you that I do possess a mischievous streak. She’s gotten rather good at deploying the “don’t even think about it” look when she can see my wheels turning (nonverbal communication at its best), but while I might be a handful at home from time to time, I know that the workplace is obviously a place for work.

Apparently, this opinion isn’t very popular among many Hoosiers, who waste more hours per day (2.8) than employees in every other state besides Missouri. This was found in a study by America Online and, which also shows that Indiana loses $25.1 billion in wasted-time salary a year. 

If you’re reading this, Tom, you can be rest assured that your employees are not contributing to Indiana’s abysmal work behavior. Now if you’ll excuse me, I believe I’m next in line for the slip n’ slide.

The Intern Chronicles: Passing Up On a Good Walk Spoiled

“Do you play golf?”  I was enjoying the second week of my internship here at the Chamber when my boss poked his head in and posed the question. An outing was to happen in a few days, and players were being rounded up for the event.

The rest of the week had been a good one, as I was allowed in on some staff meetings, assigned some projects and given some short articles to start working on.  It became increasingly difficult, however, not to notice the perfect summer weather pouring in through the windows. Golf seemed like a very good idea.

Now. Do I play golf? Sure. Do I play golf well? Absolutely not.  As a little guy, I took lessons and eventually developed into a decent player, but for whatever reason I played less and less over the years (college tuition and gasoline might have something to do with it), and my skill seems to have packed up its bags and left at some point.

It’s no secret that golf is a business tool. If you’re in the same boat as me, you might plan on revamping your game, especially considering that 59% of executives say the way a person plays golf is very similar to the way he or she conducts their business affairs, according to a survey by Starwood Hotels.

As for my boss’s pending invitation, I briefly considered hitting the ranges and practicing putts for a few days so I could attend the outing. Then I remembered who the Chamber generally deals with, and my Rocky-esque training montage was quickly replaced by images of state representatives and CEOs getting pelted by my errant drives.

I declined.

The Intern Chronicles: My First Week at the Indiana Chamber

It has been a little more than frustrating to see my private school education (at Valparaiso University) being put to use in hard labor warehouse jobs over the previous two summers. I was especially pleased, then, when I was accepted to a summer internship here at the Indiana Chamber. I’ve been offered to share how it’s going, and I hope to post weekly updates throughout the summer (if I’m allowed, and if I manage not to accidentally burn the place down).

Just a week in, I can already tell this experience will be different than what I expected. Sure, I figured the profuse sweating and heavy box-lifting of summers past would be gone, but I had a suspicion it would be replaced by making color copies and decafs with cream and sugar.

This will not be an office barista internship, however. In my first couple days, I’ve written a press release, attended a tax conference, covered a news story, and shadowed what seems to be most of the staff members here.

I was also shown a lot of what the chamber actually does. You might know as little as I did, in which case I’d like to share that through my crash-course, I learned the Indiana Chamber of Commerce …

• Is the fourth largest chamber in the country
• Has earned 38 national and state awards since 1999
• Publishes more than 30 compliance and reference guides
• Offers services to more than 26,000 members from all 92 counties
• Publishes and distributes BizVoice magazine to over 15,000 subscribers

Needless to say, I am excited to work this summer with so many talented people in an organization that has so much success to take pride in — and no heavy boxes to lift.