The first time I heard about the Southwestern Advantage Internship, I nearly laughed out loud. My best friend, Nate Wolverton, of more than ten years had just finished his first summer in St. Louis and suggested that I come and give it a try the following summer. Well, at this time, I was a senior at Western Michigan University, was about to graduate and frankly had no interest in selling educational products, but wished him the best of luck anyhow. The next summer, I was teaching preschool in Chicago and once again laughed at the idea of moving away to sell books door-to-door. Then finally in the spring of 2010, me being 23 years old, I decided to go out and give it a try. I had at that time, moved back to Michigan to work on my post bachelors in Speech Pathology and was nannying for a nice family in Birmingham. Nonetheless, things in my life didn’t seem completely right and I kept hearing a little voice inside my head telling me that I was meant to do something different, something greater than what I was currently involved with. So, ironically when Nate brought up Southwestern to me again ( this being the 3rd year in a row), I declined at first, but the next day that intuition popped into my head again and I brought it back up to him. Two weeks, yes TWO weeks later, there I was in Nashville, TN with about 2,000 students from across America that I didn’t know, getting trained on how to embark on an incredible sales journey.
Well, what an incredible LIFE journey it ended up being! My very first day in the book field was one I will never forget. I was in Manassas, Virginia, a place I had never heard of, let alone been to and ironically on my first day I drove down Inspiration Drive, corny but true. A whirl of emotions came over me and natural feelings of self doubt and nervousness arose. What if these people don’t like me? What if I forget my sales talk completely? What if, what if, what if? Then I got an incredible rush and decided to ACT my way into better THINKING, rather than THINK my way into better ACTING. Well, my very first family ended up buying, then their neighbors bought and before you know it the end of my first day was complete and I had 35 contacts, 15 presentations and 9 customers! Being that this was my first day, I set that as my example and decided to use that day as my foundation, to only then build from.
About my second week into the book field, I had an epiphany and realized that every single encounter I have from the moment I woke up, to the minute I went to bed was going to have great meaning. Like the first time I was yelled at by a Dad, when I knocked on a door past 9pm, taught me to make late night appointments. Or the first time I sat with a family for over 30 minutes and they didn’t buy, taught me that my time was valuable and to GET OUT after 20! But it wasn’t until I followed Morgan Franke that I hit my biggest learning curve yet! She smiled, she laughed, she truly connected with families and most of all she had FUN!! There we were in the 90 degree, blistering heat of hot and humid Virginia, running through sprinklers, drinking water from faucets outside and singing songs at doorsteps. Subsequently, she had a great day. Did every family buy? No. But did we learn something, connect and have fun with every family we sat down with? Abso-freaking-lutely!
From that day forward, I always made it important to laugh at myself and with others. Especially on those days when I was emotional, and trust me there were PLENTY. I would simply look at myself in my rear view mirror and say, “JULIE LAVENDER!” see my lime green shirt and bag of books slinged over my shoulder, laugh and think- I really should not be taking myself so seriously!
There was one family in particular that I will never forget. Paula, the mom was extremely energetic, friendly and cared about her boys (both in high school) so much. Well towards the end of the summer, when I was scheduled to start my deliveries, she had informed that her finances were not optimal for “extra” expenses. I empathized with her and reminded her once again of the original reason that she decided to purchase the study system. She then told me that she would “find a way” and on the day of her scheduled delivery, she called me and I met her in the grocery store parking lot. Paula and her son, Jared showed up in their green mini van with a basket full of chocolate chip cookies, in the parking lot of the local grocery store, smiles and all. We laughed, hugged, took pictures and I reminded her of how great of a mother she was and how lucky Jared was to have her.
People will truly amaze you in this internship. My first summer was truly life changing in the sense that I learned more about myself and dealing with other people than in my 4 year degree, studying Psychology. I learned that emotions are only as deep and honest as you let them be, people want and yearn to interact with positive, enthusiastic people, and last but most importantly, your summer and your life can be bad ass if you want it to be!