Jennifer Miedema – Grand Valley State University
When I first heard about the Southwestern Advantage summer internship, I remember thinking, “Who would EVER want to do this?” I mean, the results of the summer sounded great ($8,000, Resume building, Sales experience, Personal growth, etc), but… No guarantee of making money? Working 14 hours a day? Approaching people in their homes? Moving to a different state with people that I didn’t know? Little or no free time? I definitely didn’t want to do this with my summer; it seemed too hard and not fun…
There was a problem though. Not wanting to sell books with Southwestern for the summer because it was going to be hard, was not a good enough reason for me to let myself off the hook. And it was only 13 weeks, so even if I absolutely hated it, I could handle it, right? So, I committed myself to selling books for the summer in Minneapolis, MN.
I will never forget my first day. I was more nervous than I have ever been in my entire life. I knocked on what felt like thousands of doors. At the end of the day, I had talked to about 45 people with kids, but had only presented to 3 of them. Looking back, I don’t think I spoke a coherent sentence all day long. I definitely didn’t sell anything. I heard a lot of “No’s”… and I felt like a complete failure. I was not used to this feeling and did not like it. My confidence had seen better days. That night I cried to my manager about how terrible my day had gone. He praised me for my hard work, told me I was going to be fine, and promised it would get better as long as I kept working.
So I worked harder… it didn’t necessarily get easier, but it got better because I was getting better at the job. That summer, I had to deal with angry dads, zero days, torrential rain, countless No’s, and every emotion under the sun, but I also got to laugh with really cool moms, drink juice boxes with 5 year olds, and show families my books so that they wouldn’t have to argue every night when it came to homework time. I got to meet families who thanked me for stopping by, work with motivated college students, and enjoy the satisfaction of helping people. At the end of the summer, my hard work paid off, I finished in the top 100, won some awards, and earned about $13,000. But more importantly, I gained great friends and grew as a person.
The 3 summers I spend working with Southwestern have really shaped me. My weaknesses were brutally revealed to me. I realized that I get stressed out and easily frustrated because I try to control things that I have no control over. I discovered that I hate failing and not being able to do things well. I learned that when things get difficult, I often try to do things on my own, and forget to trust in God. Self-awareness and knowledge of these things, gives me the opportunity to work on them. I also started to learn many important “life lessons.” I learned how to better control my emotions and do things that I didn’t feel like doing. I learned how important my attitude is and that circumstances don’t need to negatively affect me. I learned how to be a problem solver, as opposed to a complainer. I learned that my mind can be my greatest obstacle or my biggest strength, depending on how I choose to use it. Selling books with Southwestern Advantage was difficult and challenging, but I know that it isn’t going to be the hardest thing that I’ll have to do. It is great prep for what I am going to face in the future.