“You are always so happy! Why are you always so happy?” Susan Beddingfield, the Accounting Assistant for the Florida Theatre, said this to me a few days ago and at the time I just smiled in reply. Today, while making an outline for my first internship report for the summer of 2014, I realized that one of the reasons I am so happy is because this Converged Communications internship could not have been more perfect.
When I called Holly Hammond, Director of Development for the Florida Theatre, in the spring of 2014 about an internship through Florida State College of Jacksonville, she reciprocated my enthusiasm to join the team. “This is the best job ever!” I remember her saying, but I had no idea just how fun a work environment the theatre would be.
My very first assignment as an intern was to assist in the 2014 Benefactors Gala. The Gala was a very exclusive event where, as a part of the welcome team, I was able to utilize my natural public relations skills. I learned all about the Florida Theatre’s non-profit position and got to experience how vital it is for companies to show how much they value their constituents. This night was glamorous, fun, and educational.
My first actual day in the office was filled with meeting the entire staff, taking a tour around the theatre, and feeling extremely professional whenever I was assigned my own personal computer work station (AKA: a desk…oooooo). My number one goal was to learn as much as I could about not only Holly’s position, but the other positions around me: Membership Manager, Marketing Director, House Manager, and even the Administration Assistant. My very first task was to work on not only gala Thank You letters (a task that I have discovered I am exceptionally skilled at) but to also write up a Constant Contact e-mail version of the Thank You letter which would include pictures and a creative description of the night. I had never heard of Constant Contact, but I enjoyed investigating its many features and I’m confident that I will use e-mail blast software like this in the future. My work was commended by Holly and my first week was complete.
Over the next few weeks I learned many valuable office skills and accomplished many tasks (including but not limited to): learning how to conduct administration duties like dealing with people on the phone and at the door, checking the mail and responding accordingly, entering checks and invoices into the computer for the finance department, delivering packages and letters to nearby constituents, conducting helpful research about the theatre for constituents, using the SAGE non-profit database system, and the token intern task of ‘taking care of business in the copy room and the coffee room’.
Soaking up everything I possibly could from every angle, I paid special attention to the rituals and routines of each office worker. Office environments can be extremely diverse so I watched the relationship dynamics of my co-workers closely to make sure that I maintained good self-awareness and acted appropriately for the atmosphere. I believe I lacked confidence on the first day, because I didn’t want to offend anyone or cross any workplace boundaries, but after over 70 hours of work, I have befriended most of my co-workers to the point of having inside jokes about funny office events with them. I made sure to heed Dr. Carsten’s advice to “always be enthusiastic, energetic, and flexible” whenever I interacted with anyone. There was one particular circumstance where I was assigned to type up the staff meeting notes and I took a few liberties and put in a little dramatic writing; I was complimented on my humor and writing ability and the entire office showed their appreciation for my ability to balance a fun yet professional attitude.
I have learned that when funds are scarce, grant writing is plentiful-especially for nonprofit organizations. My supervisor Holly allowed me to assist her in copywriting for two separate grants during my time here. I learned all about how grants work and what type of language grant committees usually desire from organizations. Grant writing is usually pretty extensive but sometimes they require fun narratives in order to convey a specific answer to a question. One thing the Jacksonville Cultural Council desired in their grant was an explanation of how the Florida Theatre contributes to helping members of the community and instead of writing a paragraph or two about how the arts inspire people, Holly said we needed to go one step further and write up a heartwarming story (complete with pictures) about a specific experience. The experience we chose to write about was one man who was mentally and physically handicapped; the man got to meet Rob Thomas, have a personal guitar lesson, and watch the concert from premium seating. This adds color and life to the grant which will assist in the committee’s approval.
Since the saying goes “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” I have been keeping an eye and an ear out when in the office for potential networking opportunities. The Florida Theatre is a popular place for many Jacksonville business professionals to attend shows and engage in membership, so I have shaken hands with many different people who-if I’m lucky- may remember me when the time comes.
The Florida Theatre is recently under new management and so the newly hired Director of Marketing will not join the team until the beginning of July-this left me unable to participate in any social media work. I am very excited to continue this internship with the new D.o.M. and hopefully provide some helpful suggestions for how the current social media campaign for the theatre could be even better than it already is.
From leading tours on the theatre’s bottom floor to having morning coffee on the roof, I have enjoyed every minute of my time here. I have always had a passion for the theatre and for the performing arts, and combined with my excellent skills in communications, the Florida Theatre has satisfied my desire to be professionally involved in something I love. As Susan observed, I am so happy to have this internship. I cannot wait to continue to have fun, learn, and grow.