As my days as an intern with Southwest Airlines come to a close, I can’t help but desperately grasp at my wonderful memories here and try to make them last. Crowding in to a photo booth with fellow interns, cracking “Bridesmaids” jokes on the planes, and nervously approaching Gary Kelly for a picture… these are just a few of the little things. Add in the weekend travels and the amazing opportunities to learn and grow professionally, and I am blown away. This position was truly my dream internship, and I could not ask for more.
As a list person, I can’t help but take a minute to list some of the wonderful things I’ve learned over these past few months.
1) AIRPLANES ARE MAGIC. While there are plenty of amazing people at Southwest Airlines (and Boeing) who would disagree with me on this point, the dozens of flights that I’ve taken over the last few months just reaffirm my belief that air travel is a magical, miraculous thing. I still get nervous during takeoff. Now, I know we are extremely safe, I’m just saying… airplanes amaze me.
Don’t worry, I’m not actually going to fly this anywhere…
2) If you want something, get brave and go for it. My position was in Ground Operations, so most of what I did was technical. However, my supervisor was great about encouraging me to take initiative when I felt there was something else I wanted to do. When I wanted to meet the PR team, she helped me schedule a meeting. When I wanted to write an article for Spirit magazine, I asked a fellow intern to introduce me to the woman in charge of the publication. It’s fair to say that you open more doors for yourself when you push the boundaries.
3) Companies have many stakeholders. It’s something they preach in every PR class, but it’s not something I fully appreciated until I saw experienced the inner workings of Southwest Airlines. Forget merely keeping customers and employees happy, there are dozens of different groups we communicate with every day. Every single communications intern worked with a different stakeholder sector. It was endlessly fascinating.
4) People who are passionate about travel are automatically awesome. I admit, I may be (correction: definitely) biased here, but I have a theory. I believe that travel forces you to learn about people and cultures other than your own. Therefore, the people who care about understanding other cultures also care about understanding the different people they meet, making them easy to talk to. In addition, non-rev travel forces you to be patient and flexible, both invaluable traits when dealing with people.
5) If you want to promote a positive company culture, simply believe in it and constantly work at it. Countless people recognize Southwest for amazing culture, but the truth is, it’s not complicated. Identify a goal that brings employees together, and talk about it. Encourage everyone else to talk about it. Then, act on it. Southwest often has “random acts of culture,” where employees take time to do something to show their LUV, and countless other culture events throughout the year. Like any other form of love, a strong company culture doesn’t sustain itself, but a little bit of positive work every day can keep the “magic” alive.
I’m saddened to see this experience come to a close, but the friendships, memories, and lessons I gained during this time are all invaluable. Thanks for everything, Southwest. 🙂
Operational Communications Intern