My Experience With Failure and What I Learned From It

This past Thursday I overcame the biggest hurdle of my summer internship experience. I planned a Seminar on Social Security and managed to get enough seats filled to make the whole experience worthwhile. This task was far from easy; I sent out dozens of e-mails and calls around the city looking for interested parties and was told no time and time again. Nonetheless, success is oftentimes a numbers game and I set the lofty expectation for 20-25 attendees. I managed to get 26. Everything went well and I went to bed that night expecting to write my next blog on the intricacies of my successful seminar project. 6 hours later, disaster would strike and I decided to share my story of catastrophe from the next morning instead.

I was given simple instructions by my boss; we’re going fishing with a client the next morning, meet me at my house at 6 A.M. I’ve never been to his house before, but in the world of GPS phones and MapQuest what could go wrong? I woke up with plenty of time to spare the next morning. I was a little disheartened to see my phone trudging along at 5%, but didn’t think too much about it. I printed out MapQuest directions as an alternative and set off for my bosses with plenty of time to spare.

Sometimes, when life is going well, a construction site comes out of nowhere and flips everything on its back. Well, this literally happened to me about 5 miles from my destination. My directions were all but useless after I emerged from the construction area. I used the remaining 5% of my battery to tell my boss I would be 10 minutes late and scrape up what little sense of direction I could from my phone’s GPS. For the next two hours nothing went right; it was a perfect storm. I couldn’t find my bosses house, no gas station I visited could give me good directions, and I couldn’t for the life of me find a place that would let me use their phone to tell my boss I wouldn’t make it.

I felt overwhelmed with panic at the ensuing events. When I finally got ahold of my boss he was annoyed with me, but surprisingly compassionate. I felt furious with myself for letting him down, and decided to do the next best thing and head into the office to get some work done. The next time I saw my boss I could hardly look him in the eye because I felt so terrible. He was a little disappointed, but I had experienced the biggest failure of my internship and had yet to be shown the door.

I’ve decided that shortcomings tend to stem from one of two avenues; a lapse in judgement or a character flaw. I’m still here today because my boss knows I’m a hard-worker and have a positive attitude. However, I experienced an enormous lapse in judgement this past week. I’ll no doubt pay for this lapse and will be expected to earn back my accountability, but my boss realizes my shortcomings were reparable. After taking time to gain some perspective, I’ve realized that this may not even be the biggest failure I experience in my professional career. There may be times when I let others down or lose money because of an error in judgement. What’s most important is that I can look myself in the mirror and promise I’ll learn from this experience and never make the same mistake again.

 

Overcoming Rejection: My First Experience With Sales

Going into my summer internship I did not realize that sales would be a large component of my work. When I discovered this, I immediately feared the worst; that I had signed up to be a glorified telemarketer for the summer. Luckily those fears were put to bed quickly. Nonetheless, I was expected to dedicate about an hour or two a day to forging relationships with prospective clients. Oftentimes we would send cards in the mail to people my boss had worked with inviting them to a dinner or coffee club. We would discuss events happening in the market and help clarify confusing topics. I loved these events. Greece, China, Oil; there were so many stories in the news that people wanted to talk about. My boss would always begin by explaining that news stations oftentimes emphasize whatever angle will get the most views and in return raise money from advertising. At these meetings there was an opportunity to get information about the world economy without it being diluted by ulterior motives.

Unfortunately, seats would not magically fill themselves with people. After an invitation was sent out to a prospect, it was my duty to follow up and persuade them to attend our events. This horrified me from day one. So many thoughts would flood through my head before each call or visit. “I’m not worthy to bother these people.” “No one is going to listen to me.” I started to mentally defeat myself before each contact. Eventually it got to the point where I would dread these sessions. I knew that I could excel at every other part of my internship, but would be enormously dissatisfied if my sales work wound up being a big failure. I began watching videos, reading articles, and talking to people about my uncertainties and fears. The more I did this, the more perspective I got on things.

The best advice I was given was that this feeling of horror I felt before each contact was like working out a muscle. If I kept on talking to people and forced myself to fake a good attitude, one day it would be seamless. I began perfecting my contacts. I would naturally make inflections where they were warranted. I would shrug off failure and embarrassment as if they were nothing. My success level began to rise dramatically. Eventually, it became a game. I would try to figure out how someone ticks and what was the best way to get them intrigued within the first 10 seconds of talking to them. What began as a black mark on my summer internship had become one of the more rewarding aspects.

With things winding down for the summer I’m really proud of myself for overcoming my fear of sales. If I’m being completely honest with myself, I feel certain that a career that heavily involves sales would not be for me. That being said, I think this experience will prove to be priceless wherever I wind up. The tough thing about sales is a person goes into each conversation with a high chance of failure. I didn’t realize it until this summer, but most of my endeavors are relatively certain to turn out the way I want them to. I feel certain I’ll pass my exams, graduate college, and get a job after school. While I’m very lucky to be able to say this, I’ve learned that only pursuing things that I’m relatively certain of severely limits my possibilities in life.

Whether it’s passing up a job I don’t think I’ll get or avoiding a girl I think is out of my league, I could be missing the most crucial moment of my life because I’m afraid of “no.” One thing I will not miss after this summer is the relentless phone calls and door knocks that I’ve grown accustomed to. That being said,  I will hold with me the lesson I learned. The best things in life may come from something uncertain; all you have to do is ask.

When in Rome

I’m about as Ohio as it gets. I love to play Cornhole, visit Cedar Point yearly, and have a strong love/hate relationship with our weather patterns. Many people down in Texas have called out my various Midwestern habits within minutes of meeting me. (“you guys” and “pop” will never be taken out of my vocabulary!) Nonetheless, one of the reasons I chose to go down here is to experience a new culture and learn from people who may think and act differently than I do. Within the past few weeks I’ve managed to expand my friend base in the area quite a bit. When a group of Baylor students invited me to go country line dancing one weekend, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

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Ted Nugent, Styx, and B.B. King are among the greats that have performed at this awesome club

 

They told me about a famous country club in Dallas called Billy Bobs. Upon arriving at the club, I realized that I have never and will never step foot in a place quite as “country” as this place was. There was bull riding, cowboy hats, country artists, an indoor rodeo area, and lots of cowboy boots! We made our way to the back and I was promptly given a crash course in “two-stepping.”

For anyone who has ever seen me attempt to dance, it would come as no surprise that I was deplorable. No amount of practice was going to change that. Nonetheless, I kept at it and kicked off the most fun weekend of my entire summer. I never would have gone to a country club back home. I never would have spent an evening two-stepping with complete strangers. The list goes on and on of the things I “never would have done” if I stayed back home.

Truthfully I do not see myself working in Texas after I graduate. It’s too hot down here and everything is too spread out for my taste. That being said I love pretending to be a Texan for the summer. I’ve had the opportunity to go shooting, try homemade beer, attend a catfish cookout, and so much more. Trying something new on a weekly basis produces a unique feeling of exhilaration for me. I’ve begun to realize how entrenched I’ve become in a certain frame of mind from my Columbus upbringing. While I’ve learned a lot about Finance at my internship, I’ve learned just as much about myself and the world around me during my free time. I hope to take two disparate lifestyles and apply the best of both to my future endeavors.

That being said, I’ll probably do the world a favor and hang up the cowboy boots when I come back.

A word of advice for Freshman me

If I had the opportunity to go back in time and meet the freshman version of myself, I would undoubtedly be horrified. (I still have nightmares about the time I wore a polo shirt to our career fair). I dressed differently, I talked differently and I represented myself in social settings differently among other things. While I certainly have a long ways to go, three years in college and several internships have taught me so much about the intangible factors of kick starting a successful business career. During my time at my summer internship, which if you haven’t noticed, I’m forced to speak about in very vague terms due to several privacy regulations, I’ve practically doubled my knowledge of these factors. For this entry in my summer internship blog, I would like to share a few points that would have made an enormous difference in the beginning of my college career and saved me quite a bit of embarrassment as well.

Having a social life is actually very important

While the goal of hiring someone is to increase various measures of productivity such as profits, your boss and co-workers want to form a relationship in the work setting as well. When I first started working, I was under the impression that if I put my head down and worked hard every day, things would work out just fine. I soon found out that this wasn’t the way the world works. Business culture especially is based upon relationships. A simple happy hour or dinner party after work can be crucial for getting to truly know a group of people. It also helps develop trust and creates the perception of well-roundedness to others.

Learn to dress

There are so many rules that can be put here. Make sure your belt and shoes match, never button the bottom of your jacket, and for God’s sake, never wear a bowtie to work unless you’re positive you can pull it off (I see you Gordon Gee and Bill Nye). The list goes on and on. I’m not even going to attempt to address the feminine side of dressing professionally. The point is, keep it simple at first, and observe how people dress around you in various professional settings. There is something about dressing professionally that instills a sense of accountability and discipline at work.

Finally, no one likes a suck up, but find ways to stand out

Urban dictionary defines a suck up as “One who acts affectionately toward another so as to excel, usually because he cannot do so on his own merits.” There is a difference between doing this and impressing your superiors in a proper way. Learn the language of the industry, take initiative on a project, start work an hour early every once in a while. These prove that you have the ability to excel in a much more palatable fashion than an ill-placed compliment about your bosses “perfect family portraits.”

College is a great opportunity to learn about a particular industry and grades are given that accurately assess how well a person is doing. That being said, there is an entire ulterior set of skills necessary in the work world and I am far from fluent in it. At the very least, I don’t plan on wearing a polo shirt when I go looking for a full time job at our next career fair.

Stepping out of my comfort zone

 

“Help will always be given to those who ask for it.”

I am 21 years old, working a challenging internship, and living on my own. Now, more than ever, a beloved Harry Potter characters ambiguous words of wisdom resonates with me. The last three years of college have been wonderful. I’ve made amazing new friends, gone out of my comfort zone, and constructed a somewhat wider comfort zone. Within three days of living on my own in Texas, I experienced my first wave of homesickness. I have put so much effort in preparing for this internship through shoe shining, resume polishing, and so much more; it didn’t occur to me until now how important it is to be social with other people.

Each day I wake up, go on a run, work, and go home. There is about a five hour period of time at the end of the day that simply doesn’t sit right with me. I love talking about my day with others and hearing about their day. Gossip, small-talk, and silly jokes may be taken for granted, but they hold a special importance in our daily lives. Thursday came around and I had enough. My beloved Cavaliers were playing and I refused to sit at home and watch the game with only my snack bowl as company.

My first day here, a college student from Baylor welcomed me to the complex. “Here’s my number, let me know if you ever need anything.” I called him, asked if he was watching the game, and was promptly invited over to a watch party with around 20 other Baylor students. We joked about LeBron’s over-acting and argued over which team was better. Everyone was welcoming and I felt somewhat at home for the first time. Despite a harrowing defeat, I woke up the next morning feeling refreshed for work. Work-life isn’t simply about doing well on the job and calling it a day. Decompressing and being social are necessary for a person’s sanity. I knew that I wasn’t going to make friends sitting in my house every evening with a Sudoku book. I also wasn’t going to be able to perform my best each day if I didn’t have a social outlet to rely on. I can’t say that I found a new best man for my wedding this past week, but I do feel a new sense of belonging in a strange place and a refreshing feeling of vigor for my work.

Help will always be given to those who ask for it, but you need to ask for it first.