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Corporate America is scary. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced.

It’s such a different environment here. I’ve been at State Farm now for almost two weeks and sometimes I’m still awed by different aspects of it.

During finals week while a couple of friends and I were having dinner, I was saying how I didn’t really know much about State Farm Corporate since I’d never actually been there. I said something along the lines of, “I just know I’m working at Corporate instead of Corporate South.” One of my friends laughed, saying how adult-like and serious “corporate” sounded. Boy is this more grown-up than either of us ever imagined.

I’ve really not had much exposure to Corporate America before this. Almost all of the places my parents have worked at have been either universities or non-profits. And while I’ve had work experience in professional settings, I’ve never worked for a corporation. It’s rather ironic actually. City girl goes to the middle of nowhere. But this city girl loves the beach and outdoors and is now in the middle of suits and heels.

First of all, it’s huge. I work at Corporate, which consists of one giant building that has four floors, an atrium and an executive tower. Corporate South, which is about 15 minutes away by car, has a cluster of another seven or eight smaller buildings. Did I also mention State Farm Park? Oh right, not related to work. That’ll come later.

My first and biggest shock was just how secure State Farm is. All of us have name badges with security chips that need to be scanned in order to enter, and leave!, the buildings. Like woah. But I guess secured is good since State Farm is also a bank.

And it’s also rather self-sufficient. I mean, it’s got its own shuttles between its buildings (transportation taken care of), a park that has pools, mini-golf, trails, fishing ponds, softball fields, volleyball courts and more (fun: ✓), cafeterias and incorporated quick-service restaurants like Chick-fil-A and Salsaritas (oh nom nom, fulfilled), a company store that sells everything from shirts to toys to cough drops to measuring cups (and all at lower-than-outside prices!) and much more.

Onto the work. First of all, it was really nice to see that my cubicle already had a name plate with my name engraved on it. It was the first indicator that State Farm is a company that is willing to treat its interns as employees and not temporary slaves. And I know the word “cubicle” often make people think of tight, uncomfortable working areas, but our cubicles are nice and spacy. I mean, for anyone who visited me in my single this past year, it’s kind of sad, but this cubicle is more than half the size of that room.

Speaking of that cubicle, let’s talk ergonomics. Ergonomics is the science of designing the workspace to fit the employee and prevent strain injuries (primarily musculoskeletal injuries). I’m in love with the fact that State Farm has ergonomics training and personnel who do ergonomic reviews to make sure its employees are comfortable and stay healthy. All of the office equipment is adjustable and there are five different types of chairs to choose from. (I have three in my cubicle.) In this age of constant computer usage, it’s so important! And as someone with lots of musculoskeletal injuries, I jumped at the opportunity to have someone come make my workspace fit me. Of course, my posture and how strictly I follow their suggestions depend on my own discipline and will.

And Public Affairs, the department I’m working in, is much bigger than I’d ever expected! I guess because of my lack of knowledge about corporations, it had never occurred to me just how big a single department could be. After all, State Farm is a Fortune 500 company that has more than 15,000 employees in McLean County alone! That’s one in seven employed residents!      

But State Farm is not that typical cold, impersonal corporate world we often hear about. Like its slogan says, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there,” and as a mutual company, it is very much like a community, a family. Some employees have been with the company for decades, even in fields like public relations where turnover rate is high. This is that time-tested company you can count on, the one that is in your grandparents’ stories.

And the corporate culture here is professional but relaxed. I think it helps a lot that State Farm has an Open Door Policy, where any employee, even a summer intern like myself, can go straight to any higher ups, including our CEO Ed Rust Jr., if we have an issue. People here are just comfortable with each other. Just like during my phone interview when I noted just how comfortable my four interviewers were with joking with each other, now that I’m here I am reaffirming my conviction that State Farm is great place to work. One word: happy.

And this program is very intern-oriented, versus many companies where they want you to do this, this, and that, and don’t really care about you. One of the first people I met with here told me directly that this summer was about helping me learn not only about my area but also the other possibilities for my future career. I get to go to so many meetings of various topics. It’s great. I love learning about the different areas of the company and how they can relate to what I do as well as other potential career fields. I’m definitely looking forward to these coming weeks (and only wish I had more time! If only I could stay longer – this would probably be much more productive than the month-and-half I’ll spend sitting at home later this summer.)

Oh, I almost forgot the most important thing. Turns out, being a grown-up really just means returning to middle school bed times.

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