It is not every day that a former merchant marine officer transitions to a career in brand marketing – but that’s what my UNC Kenan-Flagler experience is helping me do.
I completed my MBA internship in the consumer healthcare division of GSK, where I worked on the Sensodyne brand. Towards the end of my experience, I realized that my work was adding great value to the company and that my project will have a significant impact on the Sensodyne business. This was the type of result I had craved for when I left the Merchant Marines to navigate the uncharted territories of the corporate world.
Here are my top five takeaways from my fun but intense internship experience.
Keep calm and absorb as much as you can.
The first few weeks of any job feel like you are drinking from a fire hose. I relate this to the first time I would board a new ship with unfamiliar versions of equipment and take charge of my watch on the bridge. I also relate this to the first week of business school, when you feel like you will drown in the sea of information. It seems impossible to take it all in, but just being open and absorbing as much as you can will go a long way.
Ask many questions.
The path to being able to know the right questions to ask begins with having a curious mind, looking for insights and asking a lot of questions. When in doubt, the first and the most important thing to do is ask. It’s no wonder why many senior leaders in an organization ask the right questions and are great listeners.
Leverage people around you.
In a fast-paced corporate environment, your success is directly linked to the success of those around you – meaning your colleagues want you to succeed. Taking advice, accepting assistance and embracing feedback from those around you will accelerate your learning. You will be able to deliver substantially more through collaboration than as an individual.
Believe in yourself.
There comes a point in your internship when, after putting in a lot of effort, you begin to doubt whether you will be able to deliver in the final weeks. Knowing and believing in yourself is the only way to get through this difficult situation.
When you reach this point, stop and think about a time when you succeeded in doing something you didn’t think you could. For instance, I remember a time when I thought it was impossible for me to manage a ship going into a busy port in Singapore – but I did it.
Have confidence in your capabilities, and in the fact that you can deliver.
Know your audience.
Your final deliverable or presentation should be tailored to your audience – which, in most cases, includes the company’s senior leaders and veteran executives. Your work will not be impactful if it does not resonate with them.
Align your thinking with the company’s values and drive home the points that matter most to your audience.
By Ravi Maniar (MBA ’16)