Jamison Pence – A more meaningful fun

Jamison Pence – University of Maryland

Jamison Pence - Southwestern Advantage

Of the many events and clubs I had participated in college there is nothing that I can remember more clearly than every aspect of my joining the Southwestern Advantage Program. From when I filled out a survey in my astronomy class and my friend said, “are you really gonna fill one of those out?” and just then this guy (slightly less attractive than myself) came to collect it, to when I got a phone call from some guy named Adam in my apartment Sunday night. The next day I went to an informational session to hear more about it. When I was in my informational session I was explained the advantages: money, experience, resume; and the challenges were hours, rejection and travel. What hit home with me was hearing about the possibility of getting paid what I was worth; if I saw 30 families a day I would come out with at least $8,000. My previous summer I saved $2,000 from working at a grocery store for two years. I always worked harder than the next person, but got paid exactly the same.

Even though I was excited about the opportunity I wasn’t ready to give up my first summer in college. Especially because every summer a group of about fifteen of my closest high school friends and I had the tradition of camping at Asseateque Island and playing with ponies. Aside from that, I also had numerous beach trips set up with my girlfriend at the time.

After serious thought about how this was going to benefit me long term compared to the short term gain of going to the beach with my friends; I decided I was doing it. It was a little harder to explain to my friends that I was going to be missing out on our traditional beach trip to sell books door to door for 85 hours a week all summer. It wasn’t any easier telling my girlfriend. Needless to say, they weren’t nearly as enthused as I was.

I thought the idea of a fun summer was going to the beach or playing with ponies. I’d never thought that the idea of working 85 hours a week talking to 35 families a day would be the most fun and memorable experience of my life. I was told a lot about how challenging and hard this summer was going to be and I remember a student manager telling me, “You’re going to cry at some point this summer.” My student manager, Adam, had prepared me for just about every aspect of how hard the summer was going to be, which is why it was so much fun.

I remember the morning I left and said goodbye to my friends to leave for the summer was the first time I cried that summer.

At sales school my student manager told me that how you treat sales school will be how you treat the summer, and I wanted to do as well as possible if I was giving up my beach trips. I learned more in that week of sales school than I did my entire freshman year in college.

Everyday selling books was a rush. I was consistently meeting new people, going further outside of my comfort zone, and had a new story from every obstacle that I overcame. I knew that I wanted to be a top first year so I was working the schedule that all the top people worked. Through working the schedule I could see myself growing and getting better. Although I was exceptionally horrific at selling books, I made up for it by finding all the “Snuggie moms” that I possibly could. By being able to choose the hours I work it allowed me to put in more effort than many of the other students. I learned that nobody or nothing was in charge of how well I did except for myself.

I remember another student manager explaining that every Sunday felt like Christmas morning and every Sunday was like Christmas morning. I remember the fun things we did on Sunday from playing football in a field to playing on water trampolines at an alumni’s house to starting the wave at baseball games.

Although I have my group of extremely close friends back at home, I formed relationships with students that are going to be around for a lifetime. The relationships that I formed in that summer greatly outweigh the money I made. The people that I made friends with in this program are the most reliable people I know. If we set up plans to go to Las Vegas or Europe I’m confident that it will go through (and it did). I’ve gone to more countries and done more traveling with these people that I otherwise would have waited until I was 35 or 40 years old to have done if I hadn’t sold books.

It was fun being able to apply the skills that I learned over the summer to college. Instead of being nervous giving speeches in my Communication classes, I knew that I had already been rejected 2,649 times and bounced back, what’s a few more. It was fun realizing that there’s a lot more time during the day and I was able to utilize it more effectively if I worked half the schedule I did during the summer. More importantly, I gained the confidence to join new clubs and start doing triathlons because I knew if I worked hard enough at anything I would eventually succeed.

It was always the most challenging moments on the book field that I’m most thankful for because that’s not only where I learned the most but also where I got the best stories. It wasn’t easy when a skunk sprayed my car on a country road and stunk up my car for the week but in retrospect it was hilarious. It wasn’t easy when I hadn’t sold anything all day until the last two appointments after 10pm ended up buying but it made for a good story when interviewers asked about a time when I persisted through something challenging. It wasn’t easy working 84 hours a week and getting rejected about 2,649 times but it was fun making $10,386.33 and being ranked as a top first year.


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