Though I was not much academically inclined, I was one among the few students during my graduation who was recruited on campus as an intern in two companies that year. Amongst the two, I decided to opt for the one which demanded me to travel more frequently and simultaneously get acquainted with new people. Traveling has always been the most satisfying of my pursuits. It allows me to be in touch with the great outdoors and helps me connect with nature and people for both, physical and mental well-being. I was really looking forward to my first day. The day finally arrived.
It was the 1st of July, 2008. I was asked to report a day earlier in Hyderabad city (A.P., India) where the company is headquartered. Being the first day of my internship, I was ecstatic and a bit nervous as well. Consequently, I couldn’t get enough sleep and woke up early in the morning. Not sure of what to do with the available time, I decided to go for a jog. I thought a jog would help me take my mind off things and I’ll feel relaxed, fresh and energized. With such noble cause in my mind, I stepped out of the hotel. On my way back, I stumbled over a stone lying by the roadside. The stone was big enough to cause an imbalance and I ended up with a sprained ankle. Somehow I managed to be back at the hotel in time and suited for the first day.
Since ITW was a relatively small company with an employee size of around 200 – 250 personnel, one of the senior HR managers picked me up from the hotel and drove me to the company. We had a rather candid discussion on the way. After reaching office, he introduced me to the staff and senior managers and took me through my orientation program. The day was great but by the end of it I started experiencing severe pain in my ankle and was barely able to walk. Once back at the hotel, I decided to pay a visit to a doctor. To my regret, I found that my ankle was fractured. The doctor plastered my ankle and advised me complete bed rest for three weeks. I felt terrible and didn’t understand what to do then. Later in the evening, I decided to call the HR manager and narrated my story to him. He sympathized with me and asked me to take the necessary rest at home and rejoin the company after all was fine. I rejoined the company after three weeks.
The enthusiasm remained the same but there was more nervousness this time around. The thought of seeing all my fellow colleagues made me feel uncomfortable. As I met them, I came to know of all the fictitious stories they had made up on how I might have got my ankle fractured. All the different stories were cooked up extremely well. They provided us with good laughs throughout the day. This helped me break the ice with my colleagues and bridged the communication gap which every new joiner usually has. This is how my first day was in the corporate world. ITW was always known to prefer experienced professionals. In fact, it was the first time that the HR had made an offer to a student who was yet to pass out of college. Being the first such intern of the organization, the management wanted to test how a fresher would perform once he was out of college compared to the experienced professionals. Based on my performance, they had big plans of recruiting from colleges from the next financial year.
After a week’s orientation at the headquarters, I learnt more about the company, its culture, the products which it manufactured and the expectations which the management had from me. Later, I was asked to get stationed in Delhi where I was required to do the actual work for which I was recruited – field sales. The company offered wide array of industry products / brands that were manufactured at the state-of-the-art facility. Day one in Delhi and I met my regional manager, to whom I was supposed to report. He was an MBA from a premium institution. He brought to life the much sought out skills of a good salesman such as persuasive effort, charm, an analytical mind and an intuitive understanding of the customer. Despite his demanding work schedule he always seemed to enjoy himself, retaining a great deal of enthusiasm till the end.
While I was getting on-field training, I always had an inquisitiveness to learn about different industries, their processes, their functioning, their work environment etc. I never hesitated to ask things about which I was unsure. In the early days of my training, I made several client visits with my RM but later I started picking up things my own. Keeping my manager aware, I visited clients, did follow up with them from whom the business was expected, supervised MRO jobs, etc. Trust and confidence always precede the sale! And my case was no different. I understood the value of building and maintaining trust and sales rapport very early and focused on them. In a short span I connected very well both professionally and personally with the buyers. My enthusiasm, communication, and rigorous follow-ups with end-users helped me learn and gain the small and big nuances of art of selling. In order to gain respect from my manager and other colleagues, I tried to demonstrate good command over my work and maintained a clear sense of purpose.
My internship helped me learn more about the field. In the field, executives have to be sharp enough to know how different industries require different approaches for making business connections or selling; how important it is to recognize the specific priorities of a given business; how to recognize the “unwritten” guidelines that clients often ultimately use when deciding with whom they will work; how to invest energy, time and resources wisely and effectively, taking chances where the potential is worthwhile and yet recognizing when it is time to “write-off” a bad investment. This was a great way for a fresher like me to learn, to at least some extent, what it’s like to work in the field, real work environment exposure and all that is valuable for those who had very little or no experience. Needless to say, my efforts and skills were appreciated and I was offered a job and in next few years several others graduates would be hired as well.
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