Summer is finally here, which means we are seeing some fresh new faces around the office: interns. This season is an exciting time for everyone — students learn new skills and make connections, and businesses enjoy fresh perspectives from an eager workforce.
I still remember how excited I was when I started as a marketing intern at UPS. I immediately fell in love with solving problems for customers and learned lessons every day. Today, as Chief Sales and Solutions Officer at UPS, I still have that same love for problem-solving, and the lessons I learned early in my career that helped lead me to where I am today.
Starting a career in today’s business environment can be exciting — and occasionally overwhelming. Disruptive technologies and changing customer demands have forced businesses, and their employees, to adapt quickly.
For those of you just starting out this summer, here’s my advice for making the most out of your internship and potentially turning it into a career:
1. Embrace New Opportunities
In today’s business environment, young professionals must demonstrate that they’re capable of continuously learning and growing. Never be afraid of asking for opportunities that will help broaden your skillset, but be sure to demonstrate that you have handled your assigned workload before doing so.
A few weeks into my internship with UPS, I saw an opportunity to manage people, so I asked my boss if I could help manage the next group of interns. It may have been a bold move, but I had demonstrated that I was capable of handling my workload and was ready. I encourage all of you to think about what would make you a better professional, whether it’s managing people, learning a new tool or helping with a new project — and be proactive by asking for those opportunities while also achieving the goals of your current responsibilities.
2. Be Adaptable
In addition to developing your skills, show that you are adaptable. That means saying yes to new opportunities, especially when they push you out of your comfort zone. That’s key, because when comes to developing in your career it’s always better to say “yes, and how” than “no, and why.”
Embracing challenges is the best way to expand your skillset. For example, just three years after graduation, a customer asked me to travel to Japan to sell UPS’s services to his management team. I was nervous but determined to succeed. I read everything I could about Japanese business culture, flew over and confidently led the meeting. But despite all that, I didn’t get the sale, which leads me to my next point…
3. Learn From Your Failures
At some point in your career, you will fail (we all do). But you don't have to despair — just treat every failure as a learning opportunity. This requires you to remain positive even when you’re discouraged.
Dwelling on the failures in your career will surely cause self-destruction. Instead, I encourage you to channel that frustration into determination. I was dejected after my experience in Japan. But instead of dwelling on it, I analyzed the customer’s feedback, modified my proposal, flew back — and gained the business. Robert Kennedy once said: “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” I couldn’t agree more with this statement. Fail. Adapt. Win. Just don’t give up.
4. Know Your Priorities
When you start your first job, you may find that balancing all the priorities in your life is a little tricky. Our devices can keep us connected to work on a 24/7 basis. Work-life balance is still possible, but be realistic about it. At the end of the day, achieving the proper balance is all about managing your time and being present in each moment. So, remember to put your phone down every so often and focus on the present when it matters most.
Careers are ultimately about knowing and living by your priorities. Whether you are single, married or somewhere in between, staying prepared for life-changing career opportunities will keep you flexible — and, frankly, less stressed. Throughout my career, my family and I have moved seven times, including an international move to Europe. These life changes taught me to always anticipate the complex decisions and know the answer before the opportunity arises. This comes from good communication and evaluation ahead of being asked.
So seek out opportunity, be adaptable, learn when you fail and know your priorities. These are just a few ways to gain success in your new job. Internships are a great springboard for starting a career you love — so good luck to everyone starting out this summer!
Kate Gutmann is Chief Sales and Solutions Officer; SVP The UPS Store; UPS Capital – UPS. In this role, she is responsible for global sales, solutions and customer-engagement strategies. Under her direction, UPS sales and solutions professionals are focused on deepening customer relationships by providing high-impact and value-rich solutions, enabling customers to better compete in the global marketplace.