By: Isabel Wilder
As an aspiring journalist joining the workforce following my tenure at Florida State, I feel incredibly lucky to have had the privilege of working with my coworkers here at the Florida Association of School Administrators. I could not have asked for a warmer or more nurturing environment for me to learn about marketing, design, writing, and editing. Existing for almost 50 years, FASA’s team works tirelessly year-round to provide ample support to school administrators and superintendents, ensuring that they have access to resources that can support a higher standard of education. Through conferences, their board, and advocacy, FASA connects districts, national organizations, and leaders in shaping the minds of the future. The Florida Association of School Administrators welcomed me with open arms and hearts, giving me my first field-related job experience.
While I’ve seen professional workplaces on the occasional “Take Your Child to Work Day” and by hanging around my grandparents’ office – where I often used their supplies as the building blocks of my imagination – the idea of becoming a career woman after I graduated college paralyzed me with fear. And I wondered, ‘What if I’m not as smart or as prepared to work in the’ real world’? and ‘What do I do if I agree to a job that I have no knowledge of and end up in way over my head? How could I honor my commitments while maintaining realism about my capabilities?’ Stressing myself out before my interview with Michele to work at FASA, I had to quiet the negative thoughts and approach this milestone with confidence, self-awareness, and a willingness to learn. Once I leaned into those traits, I felt that I could more easily fit in with people who seek the same and accepted that what would be, would be – and luckily, FASA and I became a sure match.
My being a former attendee of Zoom schooling for my final semester of high school and my first year of university made working in a new office feel incredibly daunting. Rather than sitting behind a screen or in a sea of my peers, I would be the sole intern and if I made any mistakes or had any stupid questions, I didn’t have the safety net I had become accustomed to. What exactly is’ water cooler talk,’ and how do people have it? What if I make an awkward joke? What if I mess up so much that I get fired; The night before my first day, my mind was racing and the next morning, I anxiously wrote everything that I was told down. Michele introduced me to my new coworkers and showed me around the office, as I scribbled down names and other important notes. Looking back, my little notes looked like the wiry spirals of a Brillo pad – and even today, I struggle to understand what was going through my mind that day. However, I met my boss Geoff Willoughby, and he went over the basics of what platforms we would rely on for content creation and provided all the necessary logins for my newest arsenal of tools. While my inquiries into the inner workings of websites like Constant Contact and Novi felt trivial, my fear of looking like a “kid slacker” quickly dissipated. My desire to have a work product we could all be proud of having our names attached to showed and I instantly felt accepted.
Over the course of this summer semester, what once seemed daunting now seemed extremely doable. If there was a facet of an assignment I had no experience with, I was shown patience until I learned to accomplish the tasks alone. FASA’s office features a tight-knit family of people who are not only extremely knowledgeable about what they do but are some of the most compassionate people you’ll ever meet. Always beaming, through heavy downpours and oppressive heat, everyone is truly proud of what they do to better the field of education. My coworkers encouraged each other and celebrated their accomplishments, creating such an infectiously positive atmosphere that there were days that I didn’t want to leave, as well as there were other times when I would become so enthralled in a project’s final product being something to feel proud of. From newsletter creation to designing bingo cards as conference icebreakers, I was given a new outlet for creativity, and it was esteem-building to be able to see the things I worked on come to fruition and benefit others.
With the summer before my final year at Florida State coming to a close, I feel much more prepared for the “real world” than I could’ve ever hoped. Thank you, Geoff, for taking me under your wing and teaching me all about creating promotional materials, marketing, and how to navigate my position. Thank you, Bonnie, for always brightening everyone’s day and making me laugh; and a thank you to Amy, Brandi, and David for your upbeat attitudes, kindness, and respect. Most of all, thank you Michele for seeing a bit of yourself in me and choosing me as FASA’s intern; Your “can-do” attitude serves as the backbone of this organization and your way of putting a bit of yourself into everything you accomplish inspires me to hopefully do the same in my future endeavors. And as Michele’s adorable son Joseph put it, “I wish you could work here forever,” I look forward to carrying a bit of FASA with me wherever I go.