Reflections of a chamber intern

by Lili Erlich

As I look back at my time as an intern at the Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce, I realize how much I’ve learned, how many connections I’ve made and how much perspective I’ve gained over the summer.  I spent early mornings networking over breakfast and many afternoons typing away in my cubicle. It was a valuable experience that I’ll look back upon fondly for years to come.

The chamber staff is made of up some of the most welcoming people I’ve met. This is probably why people stick around. They’re warm, understanding and obviously take great pride in what they do. The network of member-businesses is also extremely welcoming, which is evident at the monthly Networking Breakfast.

Each second Friday of the month, dozens of chamber members gather at 7:15 a.m. for coffee, breakfast and networking. The first time I went, I nervously watched as people poured in through the doors. Networking has never been my strong suit, but I slowly made my way to my assigned table and awaited further instruction. I was immediately welcomed. My tablemates began asking me about myself and the nervousness washed away. Maybe it was the good coffee, maybe it was the good company, but networking has never been this easy. I met so many amazing business leaders and made connections that I’m so grateful to have.

I was lucky enough to work alongside another intern who’s in the same program as me. We worked together many times. I learned the many benefits of collaboration and connections, which is what the chamber is all about.

In December, the chamber will have its Annual Awards Dinner where they present member businesses with awards like Large Business of the Year and Nonprofit of the Year. One of the best parts of this internship was sitting in on interviews with the nominees. Not only was it great to see behind the scenes of the award process, but learning about local businesses was invaluable. I got to hear about the companies’ cultures and what the businesses do philanthropically. Very seldom do you hear good news. It was refreshing and inspiring to hear what these businesses are doing for their community and employees. Many of these stories are untold, so I was so thankful to be a fly on the wall in these meetings.

I spent a lot of my time posting to social media, writing feature articles and blogs, designing brochures and getting to know member businesses. This internship is perfect for anyone who wants to meet community leaders and learn about working for a nonprofit. It was so rewarding, and I feel like a much more well-rounded person and public relations student. I’ll miss the chamber and all the wonderful people, but it won’t be last time I’m here. I know the chamber will be a great resource no matter where I end up after graduation, and the skills I gained will carry me on to the next stage of my life.