Naomi Schafer – My first independent decision

Naomi Schafer – Michigan State University

Naomi Schafer and daughter Elizabeth - Southwestern Internship Experience

My first summer in the Southwestern Advantage internship was basically my introduction into the world as a person who makes her own decisions in life! Literally! It would not an exaggeration to say that I had never made a decision by myself…ever up to that point. My sisters used to worry–actually worry about me, because I would not or could not make my own decisions about anything. When I was younger my sister was trying to sell me a spiral notebook for $0.10 (she is still very good with her money!). I had to go ask my mom to tell me what to do!  My level of dependence would concern just about anyone—except my parents, of course—because I never made a bad decision in my life with their help! : )

Most of my life was like that, an accumulation of good experiences shaped by decisions which were easy to maintain—they were never difficult and faced very little adversity. Then my friend and roommate, Joni, took this seemingly ridiculous summer job selling books our freshmen year, and that eventually changed my life.

If you are offered a position with Southwestern for the summer, you may face many people who will think you’re not making a good decision—not based on anything really other than their own misconception of what it is you are actually going out there to do, and how you will be doing it. Selling Southwestern Advantage is unlike any other door-to-door sales job in the country, with the exception of the young Edward Jones Financial representatives that build their client base the same way. So getting back to my story, I was a very opinionated version of that type of person! I couldn’t understand at all why she would want to do something like that. How could that sound like a fun and worthwhile way to spend the summer? Fast forward to the end of that summer, and she did well. I’m not talking well like she made the average and learned a lot—she paid for school, room and board, and had a LOT left over! She also learned a lot and was setting herself apart from the rest of us who were doing the normal college routine.

All of a sudden I was very interested. I wanted all of those things! I needed to pay for school. My parents had no ability to help out with any of it; I had been paying tuition, room and board (I lived on campus), books, and earning meager spending money with the combination of student loans and waiting tables at Applebee’s.  So I did what anyone would do—I asked her if I could interview. When I was offered the chance after the interviews were over, I took it. How sure I was that everyone would be excited for me! I forgot so easily that a few months earlier, even I didn’t understand why someone would want to work that hard and go away for the summer. Now knowing a whole lot more about the Southwestern summer program (I wasn’t only after the money) I seemed to think that everyone else now thought as I did. Surely they would get it—how marketable I would become, how my resume would rock. My parents would understand all of that, right?

My parents were less than excited to say the least! They were more like actively against it. This actually surprised me.  Didn’t they want me to grow? Didn’t they want me to get experience and learn new things? Didn’t they want me to be independent? So now I had a decision to make. I was just starting to realize, that in my life, some of the habits I was forming (or had already formed) were not exactly going to help me be as successful in my career as I would like.  I also decided that my goals and my future were worthwhile, and it would be a good thing to develop myself to achieve my goals. Most people just do opposite—give up on their goals to fit their current preferences. The hard thing is, preferences change as you get older. So if my goals were worthwhile, and who I wanted to be was on the line, I should change my habits. It sounds easy enough.

Back to the summer with Southwestern; I weighed my decision. Was this where I would learn what I needed? Could I grow in the areas I needed to, to achieve my goals? Would I make connections to help me along the way? Would it be worthwhile? My answer to these was yes. So, to the first BIG step for me—it was time to grow up. I stuck to my decision. My mom was so mortified. My Dad was concerned. They didn’t actually think I was that serious the first time, when they were actively against it!

They had some of the normal parental concerns. I cute and young–would I be safe?  I didn’t have a car…. The list goes on and on…. I stuck to my decision. My dad eventually came around sort-of. He could see how I would grow, and that it would be good for me to be independent. He was still concerned, so he did all he could do as a dad– he said a lot of prayers. My mom was still mortified and opted to not talk about it. Then you have my grandparents –they thought I was going to die.  If you’re reading this I’m sure you will think I’m exaggerating, but I assure you, they felt that way VERY strongly. In fact during the summer my dad got so tired of it (someone had to defend me a little after all) he would highlight my name in the weekly “Pacesetters” (like a pamphlet of who was doing well) and mail it to them! Even my sisters (who were so concerned I had never made an independent decision) thought I would come home after the second week!

I did not. I did learn A LOT my first summer, and I made $15,000, which was a lot to me. I even bought a used car half-way through my summer (I started out with no car). The key for me?  I busted my tail, and I really worked at having a good attitude. If you are considering a Southwestern Advantage internship for a summer, you have to embrace early that your results will be in direct proportion to your attitude and your work– both, and neither one comes without consistent, intentional effort. I had to make it work—this was my decision and my job for the summer.  No one else was going to pay for school. Failing was not really an option.  So I didn’t.  Everyone else’s support came after the fact. I sold throughout the rest of college, graduated debt free, and am very grateful for the opportunity I had to work in the Southwestern Advantage internship during my summers.

Southwestern AdvantageNaomi Schafer – My first independent decision

7 Comments on “Naomi Schafer – My first independent decision”

  1. Maurice Howell

    Truly Naomi, I am extremely proud that you could make this kind of decision, but I’m mostly excited that without you I would not have been introduced to you and Aaron and we wouldn’t have an organization called “The Foundation.” It’s hard to make a decision that you feel goes against “the grain”, but the impact that was made for you, your life, and the rest of those around you is unbelievable. “Mr. Mo” wants to simply say, “Thanks Mrs. Naomi.”

    1. Maurice Howell

      Sentence structure is sometimes difficult! I meant, the impact that it made on you, your life, and on the rest of those around you is unbelievable.

  2. Haley Price

    What a spectacular point! It is not rare to be a 18-20 year old kid and NOT know how to make decisions. What is rare, is those who force themselves to learn how to (effectively) do so. Congrats for sticking to it!

    I really enjoyed reading your story – particularly because I’m not able to work so closely with you and see all of the great things Southwestern has done in your life!

  3. Chris Samuels

    Expressed very well! I think those thoughts are shared by many, though rarely spoken. The fear of making the wrong decision is often paralyzing. Naomi, you not only made a good decision, you made it right! it is cool to see you continue to make great/tough decisions in life and with your family.

  4. Kevin johnson

    Your story is great but the picture is even better. I’m so glad you stuck to your decision, without it there would be no you in our company or Aaron. You were so fun to work with when you were selling. I still remember following you that day in nc and thinking how intuitive and relatable you are , even more so than the other Schafer. Ha ha. You have such a great attitude and that’s what makes you a great Mom. Thanks for sharing with us.

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