Lessons Learned From A Summer In Memphis, Tennessee

Before I Left Home

When I left Iowa this summer, I had no idea where I would be for the next several months. I was on my way to my parents house, driving the 2002 Jaguar, with no idea that I would be replacing my car in nearly a month. I had a plan A and B, those being, that I would either get a job at First Tennessee Bank and move to Tennessee for the summer, or I would be leaving with my brother after my sister’s graduation to spend the summer with him in Austin, Texas. You can read more about the job offer I got and the experience first hand here.

I learned a lot from this summer, and I feel like I’ve become almost an entirely new person than I was before this summer started. Within hours of my job offer, I was in a panic, searching for a place I could rent for the summer. I ended up renting a room that was entirely furnished at a couple’s house in East Memphis, which was about 30 minutes away from my office. I nailed down a place to live as quickly as I could, in a safe neighborhood with good landlords. I couldn’t be more grateful to my landlords, Gwen and Alfred, who made my experience at their house as painless as possible.

Car Trouble

Within weeks of moving into the house and starting work, the Jaguar was breaking down. Repairs on the car were going to be $3,000 and I was in no way prepared to put that much money in the car, when it wasn’t even worth that much. It was a crisis, at first glance I thought the issues would be cheap and easy to fix, but I was so very wrong. It was frustrating, and really stressful for me to deal with while also worrying about whether I would be safe enough to drive myself to work every day. So very quickly I had to make the decision to find a new car. I had a budget of $10,000 with less than 50,000 miles on it and was hoping for at least $1,000 for my car as a trade in. I had a long way to go to find the car that was best for me. I spent a lot of time looking for cars online, appraising my car on various websites to see how much people could offer me. I visited 8 different dealerships and test drove every car I could, to nail down every issue there may be with the car and to really get a feel for what a good car would be like.

After two weeks of car searching, I settled on my new car, a 2016 Chevy Sonic LS with 36,000 miles on it. I ended up taking a loan out from my dad, and so the car is already titled in my name and I don’t have to worry about paying a dealership with a high interest rate for the next several years. I’m really proud that I was able to do this by myself, and that I was able to find a car before my trip to San Antonio to visit Noah. There was no way the Jaguar was going to make that 12 hour trip.

Leadership Struggle

At work, my supervisor appointed me to be team lead of the Corporate Communications’ Intern Video Project this summer, and very quickly I discovered how taxing that would be. At first, it seemed like a breeze. I was making everything as easy and straight-forward as possible; I was writing up schedules with deadlines for each person in the project, with clear objectives and jobs for each person in the group. After I returned from San Antonio, I called a meeting to go over the results of tasks that I asked everyone to complete while I was gone. When we met in our meeting, it was apparent to me no one did anything I asked them to do while I was gone and I told them how disappointing that was to me. I singled them out in our meeting and demonstrated to them that I would not tolerate this behavior, and in return, the people I singled out stopped communicating with me and helping me with the project. After this, our supervisor very quickly scheduled an appointment to meet with us in a group to flesh out the issues we were having and really determine how to mend what had been broken.

Although this meeting was helpful to my supervisor in determining the problem, it unfortunately didn’t create a long-term solution in which the team functioned successfully in a manner that delegated work equally. I tried time and time again to ask people for help in the project with small tasks and large tasks, tasks that were both essential to the project’s progression and tasks that took some of the workload off of myself so that I didn’t feel so overwhelmed. But there was no real way that I could motivate my team to do the work. Sometimes they would completely ignore me, other times they would flat out tell me no and make excuses for why they couldn’t do the work.

Unfortunately, because of this behavior I learned a very hard lesson. First of all, I didn’t get to choose the people who worked under me, which is a really bad disadvantage. At the same time, the people who worked under me didn’t choose me either, so they lacked the respect and dedication to me that would have been present if they had either been hired by me or if they had hired me to be their leader. I also learned that you can’t apply the same leadership techniques to every person, because everyone is motivated for different reasons. Some people may be motivated by the work they do, while others are just motivated by getting a paycheck.

It was really difficult for me, mainly because I spent too much time worrying about why the interns were acting the way they were. I compared their situations to mine almost every day, because they were graduates, and weren’t presenting themselves as people who desperately were searching for full time jobs. Meanwhile, I am not graduating until December, and I gave the company my best effort regardless of the fact that I wasn’t looking for a full time job yet. In the end, I got a job offer and they didn’t.

The biggest thing I learned from working in this situation is that I should never bring home stress from work. If I come home and complain and worry about how I had a bad day at work, or how I was worrying about a deadline that was very quickly approaching, or whatever it may be, I will not ever be in a good mood. The best thing I can do for my mental health is come home and relax, and do things to take my mind off of the stressful things that bother me at work. It’s definitely something I really struggled to do while I was working at FTB, but I’m making it a goal of mine to definitely let go of my worries at work and really just relax when I get home.


Final Thoughts

Overall, I’m so grateful for the experiences I had working at First Tennessee this summer. I got to visit so many places, I drove Nashville on three separate occasions, flew to South Carolina and back in one day, and I flew to Miami on the bank’s private jet with the company’s CEO, Bryan Jordan. On top of all of that travel, I got to meet so many really awesome people, like my boss, Bill Stanfield, FTB’s new video editor, Layne McDonald, my supervisor, Candace Steele Flippin, Operation HOPE’s Founder, John Hope Bryant, and so many other people that I am incredibly grateful for.

Without this experience, I would have never learned how to edit video using Avid, I would have never really gained any fast-paced experience in video production or broadcast media, I would have never flown on a private jet with the CEO First Horizon, and so much more. I couldn’t imagine what this summer would have been like had I not gotten the job offer from First Tennessee.

I want everyone to know how grateful I am to have had this opportunity, and specifically I would like to thank Candace for the experience that I had. Without her expertise in leadership and guidance throughout my project, I don’t know if I ever could have made it through the struggles I had with my team, nor would I have been as proud of myself or my work as I am today. I continue to watch myself improve exponentially each year as I grow my network and expand my skill set, and it’s amazing to see how willing people are to help me do these things. I wouldn’t be where I am today without this internship, and I’m so happy I had the opportunity to grow the way I have.


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