Standing in the middle of the busy lobby, the company seemed intimidating. I was nervous about my first day, so I tried to get there at least ten minutes early; I underestimated my abilities to navigate around Shanghai, however, and found myself pacing around in the lobby 30 minutes early. With a stomach full of butterflies, I walked back and forth around the entrance waiting for it to hit 1 o'clock. Eventually I looked around and wondered how long I could continue this for; judging by the the look on the security guards face, it was not much longer. I finally mustered up the courage to call my boss, Emily, to let her know I was in the lobby.
She came down quickly and waved me over. As I made my way across the lobby, I smiled to her, in hopes of making a good impression. As we were waiting in the elevator for it to take us to the sixth floor, I began to wonder what kind of work I'd be doing at a travel agency. Since I'm a marketing major, I didn't know whether or not this job would be a good fit for me. Would they just have me get them coffee all semester? Would I be stuck doing the mindless tedious work that no one wanted? Would I even enjoy doing the marketing work I was given? How did I feel about the idea of sitting in front of a computer screen all day? My questions were interrupted when the elevator came to an abrupt stop– we were finally there.
As I followed her down the aisles, I stared at the rows or cubicles and thought "great, this is going to be one of those jobs." The work culture was much different from what I thought it would be however. People actually interacted with one another; essentially, they seemed to be friends more than work colleagues. As I stood there awkwardly, Emily introduced me to some of the others who all greeted me with smiles. I began to feel more comfortable at the office, but one more question still loomed over me: what kind of work would I be doing all semester?
I came into work the second week ready to continue analyzing the CTR trends that I had begun the previous week. I had to admit that I actually mildly enjoyed the work I was given; this comes as a shock since I can rarely ever describe work as being enjoyable. The work I was given that day, however, was the least bit surprising.
Coley, a senior manager for the English website, had approached Emily that afternoon to ask if he could "borrow" her intern. After Emily said yes, so long as I agreed, both eyes shifted in my direction. I was a bit worried about the task considering he needed an intern to do it. Since I was, after all, just an intern, I agreed to help. He spoke quickly and was completely blunt in describing the task, which I really did appreciate. He began by apologizing because, as he put it, this would be the worst task I would have to complete; over the next day I would find, or rather hope, he was right. I had to price check 50 hotels for 3 different hotel agencies. I was given the work and shown how to do it; it was all simple enough, so what was the issue?
I took the work home with me to do and went to the student lounge early next morning to get a start on things. I arrived to the lounge at 9:00 AM and tried to get as much done as possible before my 10:30 Chinese class. By 10:00 AM I had only gotten through 10 hotels. I began to get frustrated with how slowly I was going through the list and the internet connection in China only exacerbated the situation. I knew I had no choice but to suck it up and finish the work, so thats what I did.
When I went back into the office a few days later, Coley had thanked me for finishing the work. Although I had hated price checking, I was still proud of actually completing the list. Later that day, Emily had told me that Coley asked her if I would be willing to do another price check for him. When she asked if I would be okay with it, I wanted nothing more than to say no. Instead I stayed quiet until she told me it was okay if I didn't want to. She explained that she understood if I didn't like that work and to let her know what kind of tasks I wanted to do while working at Ctrip. After hearing that, I admitted that I didn't want to do another price check and that I'd rather work on the marketing work she gives me. I am extremely proud to say that I have not done another price check since then. Luckily, I've been able to work on things that interest me.
Ctrip focuses a great deal on social media marketing. When I first heard social media, I didn't know how effective it would be as a medium of marketing in China. Then when I heard Facebook, I was completely confused; did they not know Facebook was banned?
One of my first tasks at Ctrip was to create a 3 month schedule for the Ctrip Facebook posts about holidays, trips, Chinese events, etc. I didn't really think this task was too important since Facebook was blocked in China. I found myself actually enjoying researching different cultural events in Shanghai and Beijing. I was especially happy when Emily told me that one of the events I had found turned out to be popular amongst Facebook fans. After this, I began to warm up to the idea of working on Ctrip's Facebook page.
Next I was given the task of putting together a PowerPoint of other travel agencies Facebook pages to find out what they were doing right and/or wrong. Looking through the different pages, I found myself imagining how we could improve Ctrip's Facebook page and increase the number of followers. Before I knew it, I wanted to work solely on the Facebook page and get it to the same level as some of its competitors; I guess my competitive side began to show. It's strange how quickly my attitude about the work had changed since I'm usually as stubborn as a mule. I suppose most times, you just have to come into things with an open mind.