A 360 degree look at the “Southwestern Advantage”

Aaron Schafer – Michigan State University

Aaron Schafer - Southwestern Advantage

When I first heard about the Southwestern Advantage summer sales program in college I saw it as nothing more than something I was going to try for a summer. My girlfriend at the time (now wife) had sold books for two summers and done quite well.  I was paying for half of my own under graduate degree and would be on my own for graduate school. Naomi had made $15,000 and $20,000 her first two summers with Southwestern Advantage, so I decided to give it a shot. I had no idea that a simple decision to try out a crazy summer internship would have such a profound impact on my life moving forward.

When people hear “Southwestern Advantage” it is easy to ask the question, “What is that?” I began to think about this the other day and the answers seemed endless. Having sold in the Southwestern Advantage internship for 5 summers, having a wife who sold for 6, having managed several hundred students who have gone through the program as well, having taught at Michigan State University for 3 semesters, and now raising a 3 year old and 1 year old; “What is the Southwestern Advantage?” seems like a question with a lot of answers. I hope that the rest of the blog does not come off as bragging or boasting, because that is not my intention. I feel incredibly blessed to have stumbled upon the Southwestern Advantage while in college and if I did not share all of the fruits of the labor I had put into those summers in this post, it might not convey how truly appreciative I am that I tried out that crazy summer internship my girlfriend was doing.

There is no doubt that graduating debt free with the ability to buy a house when we got married certainly was nice considering my wife paid for 100% of her degree and I paid for a good chunk of mine. We are now 29 and will have two fully paid of rental properties and a house that is completely paid off by 35.  Financially I think that we had the “Southwestern Advantage”.

After graduate school I had a lot of companies actively recruiting me instead of having to go submit 30 resumes and hope for a call back. When a company sees that a student built a client base of 240 clients in 12 weeks their first summer, 350 clients their second summer, and in their final summer they ran an $840,000 sales organization that amassed a client base of 4,000 clients; it is not hard to find employment. The amount of responsibility that Southwestern Advantage gives to college students is unmatched anywhere.  In regards to my career I feel like I had the “Southwestern Advantage”.

In future summers I had the privilege of managing others, running an organization, and taking on incredible responsibilities. The lessons I learned for that leadership role I continue to use today. I worked with a lot of women that taught me that sometimes men simply need to shut up and listen.  They taught me that I do not need to solve every problem (in fact that is often exactly what they don’t want).  They taught me to be more considerate. The women I worked with taught me that deep down the most important thing to the vast majority of women is to feel valued.  They need to feel appreciated. They taught me that when you hear the phrase “Just to be totally honest with you . . .” something is coming that you are not going to be excited to hear!  : )

I am still benefitting in my marriage from lessons I may have never learned had I never chosen this crazy summer internship.  In my marriage I feel fortunate that I have the “Southwestern Advantage”.

As a parent of a 3 year old and 1 year old I am constantly having my patience stretched.  For those of you who do not have kids but have witnessed a kid throw a fit in a super market and thought to yourself, “There is no way I would ever raise a kid who would do that!” get ready! You will eventually be that parent on a plane, in a restaurant, in the store, etc. It is coming!  You are going to be “That Parent”. I promise. Those are the moments when I am glad that my experience as a Student Manager and Organizational Leader taught me patience and understanding.  It doesn’t work to tell a 3 year old that they “shouldn’t be upset because there is nothing to be upset about” any better than it works to tell a college student who just came off of a rough day “listen, you just need to be positive. It wasn’t that bad!” People need to be cared for.  They need to know that you love them even when they are being irrational.  I also am able to look at incredibly annoying and frustrating situations with the kids and remember that “It is never as good as it seems and never as bad as it seems,” and I ask myself, “Can I be loving, patient, but firm for the next two hours?”  After those two hours are up, I ask the same question again! In this way, I think as a parent I have the “Southwestern Advantage”.

Having children I also feel like I am able to finally appreciate what a great thing Southwestern Advantage does in the lives of the kids we impact daily through our products.  My 3 year old daughter Elizabeth has gone through the entire 100 lesson series of phonics lessons features on swkids.com.  She is currently reading at a second grade level phonetically. It is not through memorization or site words.  She can read and I am so thankful for the incredible product line that we offer!  She loves reading, learning, and exploring new things because of the awesome books and videos.  I am thrilled that educationally our kids are going to have the “Southwestern Advantage”.

In my own personal life I am constantly seeing the success principles I was taught in the Southwestern Advantage summer program played out in my daily life. When I really don’t feel like starting a project, but know it will be better once I do I remind myself that “Action cures fear.”  When I feel frustrated by my workload in a busy season I remind myself that “Average people are resentful of their responsibilities and successful people are appreciative of their opportunities.”  When I start to feel like I have “arrived” somehow in my career I remind myself that “Success is not owned, it is rented, and the rent is due every day.”  When I am getting uptight about a circumstance that really is not nearly as big of a deal as it seems at the time I remind myself, “This too shall pass.” In my own personal mindset I feel like I have the “Southwestern Advantage”.

However I think the biggest thing I appreciate about working for Southwestern Advantage is that it is a company that constantly pushes me to grow.  Despite all of the growth that I have seen in myself the last few years as a result of working here, I feel like even more flaws have been uncovered.  As soon as I feel like I have mastered one thing something else pops up in its place that I now feel I need to work on.  This might seem stressful to some, but for me it is invigorating!  I think life without growth leads to stagnation. I never want to stagnate!

I feel so lucky to have been exposed to the “Southwestern Advantage”. It is hard to imagine how different life might be if I had not!

Southwestern AdvantageA 360 degree look at the “Southwestern Advantage”

5 Comments on “A 360 degree look at the “Southwestern Advantage””

  1. Aaron Schafer

    Trying to figure out if you are being sarcastic or serious . . . : )

    I am going to hope for serious and say thank you!

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