Forge Your Path and Create Your Legacy

Here are 4 tips for transitioning to the real world.

Graduation season is finally here, which means students around the world are tossing their mortarboards in the air, ready to tackle life’s most exciting and challenging chapter: the transition to the real world.

Graduating into today’s business environment can be exciting — the opportunities available today are richer than ever before. But with those opportunities come many challenges, ones that will undoubtedly force you outside your comfort zone.

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Never let the unknown hold you back. Have faith in yourself and the journey.

For those of you graduating this spring, here’s my advice:

  Embrace new opportunities.

Always look for new opportunities to learn and grow — even if they push you outside your comfort zone.

Throughout my career, my family and I moved seven times — including an international move to Europe. These life changes taught me to never let the unknown hold you back. Have faith in yourself and the journey.

This article was adapted from a speech given by Kate Gutmann at the Siena College 2019 Spring Commencement.

  Learn from your failures.

At some point in your career, you will fail. We all do, but treat every failure as a learning opportunity. This requires you to remain positive even when you’re discouraged.

Just four years after college, I was having a string of successes at UPS and was promoted to handle one of our strategic global customers. My job was to sell them on giving UPS their Japan-to-North America business.

It was a pretty high-profile job — and helping land the account could be rocket fuel for my career.

I knew that to succeed, I needed to be prepared.

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Companies want to make sure they’re investing in those who can comprehend a world beyond our shores.

I read three books on Japanese culture and learned that it mattered what color suit I wore, where I sat versus the decision maker to show respect, how low to bow, how important the handling of his business card was. I needed to demonstrate that I knew all of this — and develop the business solution we would present.

I was nervous. But I was prepared. I could literally taste success. Despite this, the decision maker reacted badly to an aspect of our proposed solution.

The meeting I had flown 12 hours to attend and spent weeks preparing for — the one that was going to send my career to new heights — was over in less than 15 minutes.

I had failed, and I was crushed.

On the long flight home, I resisted the urge to drown my sorrows in sake. Instead, I focused on solving the problem and came up with a new solution.

I convinced my boss to spend the money again to send me back. Two weeks later, I’m sitting in the same room, at the same table, in front of the same decision maker. This time we got the business.

Fail fast, learn and never give up.

  Participate in globalization.

Our world is more connected — and complicated — than ever before. I can’t underscore how important it is for today’s generation to understand and embrace this.

We live in a world where 95 percent of consumers are located outside the U.S. The businesses that hope to survive — and thrive — need to find a way to participate in global trade.

To compete, companies want to make sure they’re investing not only in the best and brightest but also in those who can comprehend a world beyond our shores.

  Be true to your values.

We all juggle a lot of balls in life, but integrity is the one that you can never drop. Once it cracks or shatters, it is difficult to repair. Your name and your word are two things that will be defined by your actions throughout life.

Consider this each day, especially when times are tough.

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Embrace opportunity, learn when you fail, think global and be true to your values.

Acting with integrity includes showing respect for all people and perspectives. Not only is embracing diversity the right thing to do, diverse perspectives have proven to deliver more creative solutions and increased opportunities for businesses growth.

So embrace opportunity, learn when you fail, think global and be true to your values. These are just a few pieces of advice to start your career off on the right foot.

The world has endless opportunities for you — forge your path and create your legacy.

Editor’s Note: It’s Graduation Week on Longitudes. With many college students set to take the plunge into the “real world,” we’ve put together a series of commentaries from senior UPS leaders aimed at making the transition a little easier. Even if you’re not a new graduate, these words of wisdom can help shape your professional journey — or maybe even change how you look at this fast-moving world.

Read UPS CEO David Abney’s advice to graduates here and CMO Kevin Warren’s insights for young workers here. UPS COO Jim Barber also offers these six lessons for college graduates

Visit Kate Gutmann's Linkedin profile page.
Kate Gutmann is Chief Sales and Solutions Officer at UPS. In this role, she is responsible for global sales, solutions and customer-engagement strategies. She also has management responsibility for UPS Capital, a subsidiary that provides supply chain financial, insurance and payment solutions, as well as The UPS Store, the nation’s largest franchise system of retail shipping, postal, print and business service centers.

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