Last week, I travelled to New York for AAF Most Promising Minority 2011. It was a 3-day award ceremony + professional seminars + recruitment fair. While many would say that they received valuable lessons about the advertising industry. I would say that this trip was one of self-discovery.
On the last day of the program, a top executive from Leo Burnett asked us “what is one thing you learned during your time here?” Students who stood up to answer the question mainly referred it back to the industry or the friends they made. As usual, I didn’t have the guts to stand up and answer the question, but I gathered all the courage I had to approach him after the panel discussion.
In my mind, I was wondering whether it was the right thing to do — revealing my weakness to a potential employer, but somehow I knew I had to do it. Besides, he seemed like a really nice person…a genuine person. I told him that my answer to his question was simply how I discovered that I could overcome my fear and talk to people. Being an introvert, I fear presentations and feel rather uncomfortable in social situations with a lot of unfamiliar people.
In fact, I did A LOT of talking during the 3 days, especially during the recruitment fair. Usually I would navigate a career fair, picking up lots of flyers, but not talking much to anyone. However, on this occasion, I told myself I had to do it now or never. I couldn’t possibly keep going on like this forever. Some time in my professional life, I would need to talk to people, face clients, give presentations, etc.
During the award ceremony, each of us had to go up on stage to receive our award and then announce to a room full of people (which included top executives from the industry) our 15-word tagline. While many other students had profound, philosophical taglines, mine was well…the simple truth. I feared going up on stage to say my line. I was shaking inside, but I conquered my fear and delivered my tagline well. So well that many students later recalled that I was the girl who loved research.
How did I do it? How did I find the courage to overcome my fear? I simply put skills I learnt in the Emotional Intelligence class to good use. Instead of engaging in negative thoughts, I told myself that I could do it, that I had rehearsed and prepared myself.
Anyway, back to the executive from Leo Burnett. If I had the choice of employer, he would be someone I would really want to work for. He was really nice, patiently listening to what I had to say then encouraging and sharing with me that his son is also an introvert who overcame his fears too. Later, I learnt from Steve (our advisor) that during their dinner together, he mentioned that he was impressed by my honesty. No, I wasn’t out to be a boot-licker. All I wanted was to let him know how I felt. Really, that was all. Nevertheless, I was glad to know that he thought well of me.
There are many people you meet in your life who make an impact and whom you will never forget. He is one person. There are more from this one week in New York. I cannot thank them enough for giving me a few minutes of their time…giving me the opportunity to show who I really am and for believing that I am good enough and I can make it.
And if you’re curious what my tagline is: “(I’m a) future advertising researcher who loves crunching numbers to build the best campaigns out there.”