This time last year, the thought of stepping foot on an airplane was enough to send me into a mild panic attack. In fact, prior to flying across the country to Portland last spring, I had anactualpanic attack. I was booked for a four-hour flight on–you guessed it–Southwest Airlines, an airline I had never flown before.
A short six months later, I found myself curiously navigating Southwest.com. This time, I wasn’t booking any cross-country trips; I was searching for the “Careers” page to apply for a Campus Reach Internship.
Well-aware of my crippling flight phobia, my close friends had a field day with my application to work at an airline.
“Just tell them you won’t even use the flight privileges,” they’d joke, “so they’ll save money if they hire you.”
I’m still not quite sure why I felt compelled to work in an industry that verifiably terrified me. After all, there are other companies lauded for outstanding workplace culture and topnotch Customer Service. As the interview process progressed, I realized I was inching closer to the in-person interview: a session that took place at Southwest’s headquarters in Dallas, about 500 miles (and an inevitable flight) away from my college town in Alabama.
While most hopeful applicants spent their flights to their interviews reviewing talking points and researching the Company, I spent mine white-knuckling the armrests. I was more nervous for the quick, one-hour flight to Dallas than the interview itself. Now that my internship experience is about over, I look back on that momentous day and can’t help but feel pride at how far I’ve come.
Obviously, the opportunity to learn from some of the most brilliant people in the industry is invaluable, but Southwest has also helped me grow in ways I never imagined a college internship program could.
The fear of flying probably seems silly to my Intern Cohearts (some of whom are studying to fly the very planes I was too nervous to passively sit on), but overcoming my fear of flight has given me the courage to believe that I am capable. After 12 flights in three weeks, I faced other, unrelated tasks in my life with a newfound sense of bravery.
When assignments would seem daunting at work on an early Monday morning, I’d remember my calm demeanor on the flight home Sunday night and face it head-on. When I’d feel like I couldn’t handle all the items on my agenda, I’d remember the time I beat the odds and got on a completely full flight using a standby ticket while maintaining a positive attitude.
One of my brilliant Teammates gave me some career advice in one of our first one-on-one meetings: “Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone and do things you really don’t want to do. That’s the only way you’re going to grow.” If only he knew how prophetic this advice would prove, both in the office and in the air.