Aaron Wolverton – Central Michigan University
My first summer in the Southwestern Advantage program was quite comparable to most first year stories I hear about… challenging, highly rewarding, and hell at times. Funny as hell at times too. My Southwestern experience was a bit different than your average book story, especially the time leading up to my first summer.
When I decided to first sell books I was 24 years old… that’s right… 24. I had a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree from Central Michigan University and had been working at an advertising agency in East Lansing, MI doing graphic and web design for nearly a year. I had a nice little adult corporate lifestyle going. However, since the day I started there I always felt I was worth more. I often questioned why I majored in something so closely related to art. It can be a very rewarding profession, but not exactly something people in Michigan are pouring money into.
Around that same time I was looking at a book that my brother Nate Wolverton, who also worked in the Southwestern program, had lying around his house in E. Lansing. I said, “Hey, so this company you work with… why don’t you ask about a job re-designing the graphics in the books.” Nate, the young salesman that he was simply said, “Why don’t you just come to this info session we have on campus this week?” Now I’m sure most of you already see what’s happening here. I agreed, met my soon to be District Sales Manager, and over the next few months decided to quit my design job and sell books door to door under the coaching of my brother Nate who had 2 summers under his belt already, and was… YOUNGER than me, by 2 years!
I thought, “Well, it’s just books; it can’t be that bad.” I was interested in sales and business long before selling books so I figured, “What the heck, this can be my business schooling that I never got in college.”
Next was sales school.. pretty interesting. A bunch of freshmen 5 years younger than me running around like there was a fire. Regardless, I’d made a commitment, and I was there to stay. It didn’t take me long to dive in, I really loved the whole process – the approach to the close, the whole cycle of the sale that was Southwestern’s training was fascinating. I knew I stumbled upon a goldmine of knowledge that most professionals would never have the chance to learn, and we were learning it.
Me being the assumptive, strong willed 24 year old that I thought I was figured I was going to go out there and wipe the floor with all these young kids that were selling. To my surprise, mothers ended up wiping the floor with me and my ego, and my summer turned out pretty average. I made right around $8,000 for the summer. What was far from average however was the experience and knowledge I gained which apply to all areas of my life today. That is something I would NOT trade for nearly anything. It’s amazing to me today in my current sales job to see grown men that have their own families struggle with what I think of as small challenges now; challenges that I faced and overcame my first few weeks on the bookfield.
I returned as a corporate recruiter and for a second year with SW, which was equally impactful to my growth as a person. Shortly after my second summer it turns out my initial comment to my brother Nate about designing the handbooks held some water. Because of both my design skills and the leadership I demonstrated in the program, I was appointed as a lead project manager on multiple product re-designs for the Southwestern Advantage Learning System. It’s really rewarding to know even though I’m no longer on the bookfield that my work will still be helping students in school, interactively, for years to come. After deciding that I preferred sales over a career in design, I landed a sales job in Chicago; and because of my Southwestern experience I was their first choice. In just 2 years after my original design job, I doubled my income at 26 which was pretty exciting. I know that my experience with Southwestern during those 2 years was my launchpad.