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In your 20s, you will most likely have the experience of being “The Intern” at a company. I have been lucky enough to be called that three times at three separate companies: Favorite Healthcare Staffing, Dynamic Logistix, and Seaboard Corporation. All of these companies gave me invaluable experience, and they prepared me to go from just “The Intern,” to a Director at the McMillon Innovation Studio at The University of Arkansas. Within this position, I lead an organization of 40 people through a process called Human-Centered Design.
How I went from Intern to Director
How did I go from Intern to Director? I built a network of strong relationships with people who recommended me to be promoted faster than I ever could have been promoted on my own. It only took me one year to progress from intern to project leader and now the Director of an innovative team who still teaches me new things every day. It did not come easy.
I have to admit that although I am going through a traditional college experience at the U of A, I am not a traditional student by any means. Although I am a full-time student, I have to be available to work seven days a week. I have a great social life that I am happy with, but I often have to miss being at several events per week. My point is the relationships alone were not the reason I was recognized.
The work I put in to impress those key co-workers was where the beginning of my success stemmed from.
Going the extra mile
That determination to go the extra mile for my boss or peer was what determined whether or not a person decided to recommend me for my next advancement. These advancements allowed me to then learn how to become a better leader.
I don’t believe success is determined by how high or fast you can climb an employment ladder, but I do believe it has to do with what others think about you as a servant leader. At the end of each project lifecycle at the McMillon Innovation Studio, we have a demo day. This is where the project teams present their prototypes/findings to the company who hired them to find an innovative solution to their problem. Along the way, it’s my job to mentor and coach them to the best of my abilities.
Here is what one of my co-workers said about my leadership:
“Thank you for your mentorship during the process. A true beacon of light during times of insecurity. Also thank you for your constructive feedback throughout the course of the semester. I’ve learned a lot regarding leading a team from you.”
For me, this defines my success more than anything else I did during this project’s lifecycle at the Studio.
Develop strong and long-lasting relationships with key people in your organizations.
Ask what else you can do rather than waiting for what comes next. If no one has anything else for you to do, make something up to do yourself.
Always be a servant leader
This means put others in the organization above yourself (even if you are technically above them in rank).
Work harder when others won’t or can’t. See where the weaknesses in your organization are and plug-in.
About the Author
Undergraduate Director, McMillon Innovation Studio
Kyle Berger is the Undergraduate Director at the McMillon Innovation Studio at The University of Arkansas. He grew up in Overland Park, Kansas. He is a senior at The University of Arkansas studying Finance and Management at the Walton College of Business. Kyle has held several jobs over the years and is extremely entrepreneurial. He started his own mobile car detailing company in 2017 and was able to hire 8 employees over the course of two years. Kyle is also recognized by the Kauffman Foundation as a certified business plan writer through the Kauffman FastTrac program.