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Lax In The City – 8.2.12: Part Two

Aug 2, 2012, 3:11 PM EDT

Notre Dame rising senior women’s lacrosse player Emily Conner has a dream internship for a sports fan this summer, as she is interning with ESPN in New York City in its Marketing & Sales department. Within the department, the Alexandria, Va., native works on the asset management team in the consumer marketing solutions department. The 10-week internship will offer Conner a chance to explore the fourth biggest city in the world, while working for The Worldwide Leader In Sports. Conner graciously volunteered to keep a weekly blog for Irish UNDerground, which will offer a small glimpse into her busy life this summer. Here is the sixth entry in the summer series: Lax In The City.

I am my mother’s daughter. This realization hit me on the cab ride home from Happy Hour the other night. I do not know what exactly was said during that cab ride that sparked my awareness, but I think the fact that I knew the names and aspirations of my cab driver’s children, how he met his wife, where he was from, how long he’d been in New York, his home address (yes, really), his favorite sports team, etc. had something to do with it. All I could think was… Dru Conner. For better or worse, I am my mother’s daughter. It defines me in so many ways, and I am very comfortable with that. Honestly, there is no one I’d rather be like. Still, I cannot let one simple fact about me determine who I am. I have to establish that for myself.

A large part of the reason I came to New York City was to develop as a person – obviously the social aspects of living in NYC don’t hurt either. Still, this is my first time really on my own without a safety net provided by my family and friends. Being at Notre Dame, I am in close proximity to my relatives, and I’ve had an established group of friends from Day 1 on my lacrosse team. Before that, I went to the same school for 13 years. I’ve never really had to think about who I am or what my “brand” is, because I always felt like it was established for me. For the past eight weeks though, I’ve been in the Big Apple, where no one knew me prior to my arrival. Here, there is no expectation, which can be quite liberating.

Still, I do not always know how to deal with that, because I’ve become so used to being the “Emily Conner” that everyone expects me to be. While I am proud of the person I’ve become, I still can find myself crippled by reputation/expectation even when people do not know me. John Wooden once said, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” I think that quote can resonate with many people, including myself.

When Tim Tebow was drafted in 2009, Mel Kiper Jr. (God, as far as the NFL Draft is concerned) said he didn’t have the intangibles to be an NFL quarterback. In 2011, Tebow was ranked in the top 100 players in the NFL. He didn’t let his reputation determine his fate. Everyone may have said he couldn’t throw the ball accurately, but I’ve never seen a sicker throw than his overtime TD pass to Damaryius Thomas in the 2011 AFC Wild Card game. I think the whole country stood on their feet and cheered for him that night – except for Western Pennsylvania (including my boss who blamed it on broken coverage). What makes Tebow so incredible is that he hasn’t let his reputation cripple his confidence. He has let his hard work and attitude do the talking for him and change people’s perceptions of him.

Throughout my internship, I have enjoyed getting to establish the “Emily Conner” that I want to be in the workplace, and I’m trying to not let my concern for what others think, dictate my fate. It doesn’t hurt that people have no prior opinion of me. This makes it easier for me to let my hard work and attitude do my talking. It is like I’ve been given a completely clean slate and the only expectation I have to live up to is my own. I think that is where the character part comes in. My character sets my expectation for myself, and it’s what makes me who I am. As similar as I am to my mother, she doesn’t determine my character. She doesn’t determine who I am or what I do. I determine that, and by getting a fresh start this summer, I’ve realized that I have the ability to create the “brand” or reputation that I want to have in the workplace. This is because people’s perceptions are influenced by my actions, which are determined by my character.

This is why I’ve spent the past eight weeks making sure the reputation I am building at ESPN is an accurate representation of my character. I see myself as a hard worker, so my actions better reflect this – and I think (or at least hope!) they have. I’ve enjoyed being given more responsibility every week and realizing that my hard work actually does pay off. Next week, I’m giving a presentation on the revenue history and potential of both Monday Night Football and College Football Live to ESPN’s Revenue Analytics team. I’m going to be putting in a lot of extra time into this project, because I have high expectations for myself. I know I will not be satisfied unless I put in my best effort. Hopefully this is the impression of “Emily Conner” that I will leave ESPN with at the end of the summer. And let’s be honest, it definitely wouldn’t be the worst reputation to stick, now would it?

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