Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Not your typical summer

As I sit here with a large cup of coffee (slurp), listen to my 90s music playlist (coveted by many), and ponder life in the most cliché way possible (we all do it…), the most prominent thought on my mind is one week. One week stands before me and the beginning of my senior year. My last year of college in addition to my final year of skating at Miami. Everyone tells you that the real world sneaks up on you but you definitely don’t believe it until it’s staring you straight in the eye. (Wait, there’s a world beyond skating?!) I know, I didn’t think it was true, but, yes there’s a whole world out there beyond our lives in the rink and I got a BIG taste of it this summer.

The daily grind... literally
Blood, sweat, and tears. Ok maybe not blood, we can swap nouns and replace that with espresso. Espresso, sweat, and tears. That almost sums up my summer. Sounds rough, huh? It was… but let me tell you why my first step into the “real world” was so worth it.

 I did an internship with a national marketing and advertising firm, but my job as an account executive was in sales, working directly with business owners of both small businesses and large corporations with the goal of getting them to buy advertising with our company. If you can picture yourself going into 30+ businesses per day and talking with owners while essentially living out of a car with a 15 min interval day planner as your lifeline and taking calls from your boss once an hour at minimum, then you can get a pretty good glimpse of my typical day. It was excruciatingly difficult. I got rejected. A LOT. No matter how much I thought I was going to get up and just kill it, sales is RUTHLESS. In the first couple weeks of the internship, I was laser focused on making profits and was extremely hard on myself when I didn’t have a good day of sales. (I would later learn that generally you would get rejected 20 times before you hear one “yes”.) But the feeling I had when I did hear that “yes” was like no other. 

The rink I skated at while working in Louisville, KY... such great people!
This was easily comparable to skating for me… you may have to go through multiple competitions, maybe even multiple seasons with your team before you are on top. But, when you finally get there, success tastes so much sweeter because of the fact you stuck with it and persevered even during those hard times when you may have wanted to quit.

It wasn’t until a few weeks in that I realized the real reason I was there and what I was really learning in this internship. I wasn’t learning how to be a good salesperson or how to cut deals and rack in profits. In retrospect, this summer was actually not about sales AT ALL. I was actually learning and building upon some of the most simplest yet most important life lessons that are the ones vital to success.

Fun side trip to Nashville, TN with Miami friends
Empathy: The ability to put your self in someone else’s shoes and genuinely understand where they are coming from and why they think and feel the way they do. This is something most of us have heard since we were young but I was able to see this summer more than ever how important it actually is, especially in the business world. As one would imagine, in talking to roughly 30 business owners a day, I saw and heard it all. The minute I stopped my sales pitch and started expressing an interest in the business owners and listening to their stories, the minute my sales went through the roof. This was no coincidence. They began to trust me and could see that I wasn’t there to just push a product on them; it wasn’t about me making a sale. I was there to help them and their business and I could only do so by taking an interest in them as people, not as potential revenue generators for myself. I built relationships with these business owners and grew to understand their stories… and they were all unique.

Beyonce concert with Sarah and Lauren in Chicago
Empathy is something that will not only make you successful in the workforce, but in all facets of life, and definitely in skating. When considering leadership, only when you can have empathy and truly make an effort to listen and understand why someone is the way they are and think the way they do can you expect to be an effective leader and make a positive difference. As members of a team, this is something that can benefit everyone whether you’re in a leadership position or not. By genuinely trying to understand each one of our teammates (and coaches) regardless of if we agree with their points of view or style of learning/coaching, we would all be more successful in working together to achieve a goal because of this common bond that is created through empathy.

My roommate Vanessa and I across the Ohio River overlooking Cincinnati

So, in the end, this summer didn’t make me dread the real world, as grueling as my internship was. It made me excited for what is to come because I saw firsthand how much I could accomplish with dedication and work and also how much there is to LEARN. I know now that I can be successful in whatever path I choose after graduation. There is so much opportunity out there for those who are willing to work for it. So yes, life may get more difficult after college, but it certainly doesn’t END. 

For right now though, I have never been more excited to return to a place in my life. Red brick buildings and streets, wonderful friends, my favorite bagel shop… Oxford is a dreamland. Here’s to the final hoorah at the most beautiful campus there ever was. I’ll see you all in the rink as Miami gets back to the grind for the upcoming season. Love and Honor.

Over and out,

(Now playing: Miami by Will Smith) 

Celebrating the end of a successful summer with a joy ride on the Zamboni :) 

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