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Southwest Airlines Community

Campus Reach: Lessons Shared Between Leaders and Interns

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I recently had the opportunity to attend an event our Campus Reach Team hosts each semester for our College Interns. The Intern Meet & Treat is an event held at Southwest Headquarters, where Senior Leaders all the way up to our CEO and Chairman of the Board, Gary Kelly, visit with our Interns in an informal setting to share their Southwest stories and offer words of wisdom. I love attending the Meet & Treat, and I try to make it every semester. I get as much out of the event as the Interns do. I always walk away re-energized by the enthusiasm and eagerness of college students who are embarking on their career journey. As Vice President of Maintenance Operations, I have the privilege of leading the incredible people that maintain Southwest’s fleet of nearly 700 Boeing 737 aircraft. It wasn’t that long ago (maybe longer than I’d like to admit), however, that I was working on airplanes as a Mechanic myself. I was enamored with the world of aviation and decided to earn a college degree after a few years of working so I could learn more about the management and administration side of the business. It’s that same eagerness to learn and grow that I see in our Interns every semester. It’s something that I hope rubs off on all of our Employees who get the opportunity to work with them. Not to mention, they’re teaching us how to innovate, how to work smarter, and how to embrace diversity of thinking. While these students often teach me a lot each semester, I’ve learned a few lessons of my own during my career that I like to share with young people entering the workforce.
  1. Never neglect the basics. Be on time. Be polite. Be professional. These are the foundation upon which you can build a long, prosperous career.
  2. Be persistent. Nothing is owed to you. Figure out what you want out of a career and do your part to achieve it.
  3. You’ll be surprised at how often the simple act of listening can resolve an issue, earn trust, or build a bridge to a solution for a business’s toughest challenges.
  4. Remember your ethics and don’t bend them for anyone. Your ethics are your compass and should guide your professional decisions daily.
There are probably a million more nuggets of wisdom I could share. Some of them have been lessons learned the hard way. What’s more important, though, is to do better once you know better. Our interns teach us a lot about doing better. I hope that if you’re thinking about gaining some work experience by interning, you’ll consider Southwest Airlines. We’d love to tap into your talent and maybe teach you a few things along the way.