This past summer, I interned for one of the world’s leading third-party logistics companies, C.H. Robinson at their Cincinnati office. I had the opportunity to shadow, learn and practice each of the company’s job families: account management, sales, operations and carrier account management.
My goal with this STEP experience was to grow as a professional and I believe this experienced transformed my perspective on what it takes to succeed. In this diverse and always-changing market, no day is the same. I had the misconception that whatever business job I ended up with would be punching away at a computer in my cubicle- this was not the case. C.H. Robinson’s open and flowing culture allows for fluid communication between job families to optimize the success of the office and the company as a whole.
I was also given the opportunity to apply skills and styles from class and other work experiences as well applying life lessons and recognizing the fact that everything is not going to be perfect- taking a step back, a deep breath and begin to handle the situation to the best of your ability. There were will also times when I needed to be quick on my feet and handle a situation I wasn’t necessarily prepared for. I quickly learned that what I thought I was knowledgeable about was only a fraction of what all I needed to know to be full-time employee in the supply chain industry. However, with dedicating myself to being passionate about what is in front of me- I learned a lot about the industry, the company and myself.
When I arrived on my first day, I was informed that on top of learning each of the job families and the day-to-day operations, I would have to take the lead on, organize and run two projects. Both projects had zero direction aside from the title of each: “Fundraising or Community Service Project” and a “Business-related Project.” I wasn’t used to having little direction (or as I later learned- freedom) on a project this big. I was open to do whatever I wanted. With limited knowledge on the company and the industry, it was more logical to start on the Fundraising project. By asking around, I quickly discovered that multiple people in the office were either directly affected or had someone in their lives who was affected by breast cancer, so this cause easily the choice to raise funds for. Next, was deciding how to raise the funds.
When I first got to C.H. Robinson, the collective-environment wasn’t the most welcoming. I wanted to find something that everyone could get excited about and didn’t have to leave the office for. I was inspired by NBC’s, The Office to hold a more realistic version of an “Office Olympics Week.” I drafted five or six of an agenda for the planned week and like anything in the world, none of them made everyone happy. Someone had something negative to say about each different event. So to compromise with those who didn’t want to participate in certain events and raise the most funds, I made each event optional but if an employee decided to go this route each event was more expensive to participate in individually, whereas, an employee could donate $25 at the beginning of the week and that was their buy-in for every event. 95% of the office participated and raised over-$1,000 for Breast Cancer Research through the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Some people did not participate at all and talked poorly about the week as a whole but I refused to let 1-2 people make me feel poorly about a week that was truly a success. There were times I was caught off-guard by these people and the comments they made, but I quickly smiled and made sure they knew I understood they were not interested and that I respected their decision.
After a couple months of learning as much as I could about the ins-and-outs of the each job family and the daily operations, I decided on a “business related project that was built on a common issue/goal the office manager always pressed: growing Truckload volume. In simplest terms, this meant growing business. I had witnessed some holes in our onboarding process, and opportunities to grow within current customers. Before I presented my project to our office manager and other upper-level employees, I wanted feedback from some our more veteran employees and I got mixed signals. Some took things personally and recommended I went a different route, some told me I was completely wrong, while others had positive feedback and even after a long day of conversations and dinner after work, I came to a conclusion on my project I was feeling strongly about. I digested what others had told me; removed some things and kept some things that others suggested I remove. When I presented, again, I got mixed feelings. I welcomed the questions and concerns because I prepared for the devil’s-advocate-questions. After some great back and forth, answering questions and getting my audience to comprehend some underlying explanations and how my plan would be put into action, I had a sales executive ready to implement some of my suggestions and a senior account manager want to take things to corporate. The sales executive added two more customers this week and doubled his TCNR by asking the couple questions I suggested the sales team ask. Within a week of presenting, I had the opportunity to present my ideas to corporate and they plan on implementing things.
This experience has taught me to be patient in all things because at first the summer was slow moving. As much as I reached out to others either asking questions about their positions and the company as a whole or even on a personal level, I couldn’t breakthrough. After the Office Olympics Week, there was a spark of camaraderie between employees that had only ever interacted with each other as coworkers. I learned that it was acceptable to ask as many (reasonable questions) as possible because at the end of the day “you get out what you put in.” This opportunity has led me to a full-time offer at C.H. Robinson’s main Midwestern office in Columbus. Talking about my experience with other recruiters of Fortune-500 companies has also landed me multiple interviews and other job offers.