It’s been about five years since I was truly immersed in a corporate culture and it’s funny what happens to your memories over that period of time. The night before my first day as a Plank Educator Fellow at Cox I stayed in a barely air conditioned Hilton eating a complimentary cheese plate for the dirty sheets they left on my bed – memory trigger #1. I woke up at 6:30 a.m. on my first day feeling strangely refreshed and got to Cox at 8:15 a.m., just in time to watch everyone strut in from a holiday weekend. In my days leading up to this moment, I reminded myself that I was chosen to do this for a reason, that it should be a mutually beneficial relationship (to take the pressure off of my Type-A self), and that I’m not here on an interview, I’m here to learn! But as everyone walked by me with such purpose and their already key-coded badges, I stood there waiting to get a “visitor” badge feeling less confident every time I saw a perfectly put together outfit– memory trigger #2.
Anticipatory socialization explains how newcomers (i.e. me) use social interactions to try and assimilate to the “in” group or culture within an organization, to help ease the shock of entry and become accepted faster. Cox nailed this for me. I was greeted with enthusiastic smiles and warm welcomes throughout my entire day. It seemed as though my visitor badge was less of a branding and more of a badge of honor, until I actually started talking with everyone – memory trigger #3.
Most of my day consisted of meetings with directors and managers who are undoubtedly excelling at their job and enjoying it. It was so refreshing for me to talk with people who are practicing PR daily and have a passion for the field. However, what I quickly learned was that although I understood their roles even prior to our meetings, most of them do not understand mine. For example, I was asked “how did you learn to teach?” and “tell me about your job, I’m not sure I totally get it” and “what are students like these days?” I am always more than happy to indulge these questions and actually receive questions like this frequently in more casual settings, but in this context, it was a blatant reminder of why this fellowship even exists. For the next ten days at Cox, I am a human bridge between education and practice. The corporate world, in many ways, operates within a vacuum – memory trigger #4. My job here is to educate and be educated on trends, expectations, and future goals.
By the end of the day, I was walking in to a new, air-conditioned, freshly cleaned hotel room, with an official badge ordered – memory trigger #5. It’s amazing how even though corporate culture can feel monotonous, you can really go full-circle in one day. I’m happily remembering the joys of corporate life and embracing the small and meaningless hiccups that occur. I already have a list of ideas for my students this fall (insert semi-evil laugh here). At the end of day one, I think I can say I’ve successfully started to infiltrate the “in” group despite being the random professor roaming around admiring the gym, cafeteria, and blooming lily pads I can see out of my floor-to-ceiling office windows.