Justin Mangen – Challenges or Opportunities to Grow?

Justin Mangen – Univ. of Wisconsin –Oshkosh

Justin Mangen on his Southwestern Advantage experience

I was a freshman at Univ. of Wisconsin –Oshkosh when I heard about the Southwestern Advantage summer internship program. I filled out a summer work questionnaire in class one day because I needed a summer job. I went to the informational meeting and all the benefits jumped out at me. Money? I was paying 100% of my tuition; check. Communication Skills? I was not the most outgoing person; check. Travel? Stay in small town Wisconsin or Los Angeles for the summer? Check! Personal growth, I was 18, I knew everything; not a check. Resume & Experience? The only jobs I had were a bus boy and custodial help, not the best resume builder; check. I even liked the product; check.

I signed up for the program and went through the interview process. The campus recruiter, Brad, asked me tough questions and tried to scare me away but I was up for the challenge, so I decided to do it. As the semester progressed I studied my sales talk, learned the product and prepared to be away from my friends and family for the summer. Wait! I had to miss a summer away from home and all my other friends that want to different schools? That’s right…I’ll get back to that later.

I went to Nashville, TN for training. Man! It was hot and humid down there. I practiced my sales talk and products again, thought I was good, but after comparing myself with my other teammates from Wisconsin I was worried. Could I possibly sell more than them? There was always somebody who seemed to do something better than me. I was a three sport athlete in high school. I don’t like to lose. Here was a new challenge that I definitely didn’t want to back down from. So off to California I went.

The very first day on the field, I worked with Jason, the student manager I also lived with. He made the job look so easy, even sold to a family that knew where his small town in Northern Wisconsin was (it only had 60 people). I went to bed so gung-ho ready to own this thing called the “bookfield.” My first day by myself I didn’t know what I was doing, but had the realization that I had to just work hard. And that’s what I did, I had three sales my first day. I was the top first year student after one week, and I made $600! The next week, I was the #2 first year student for the second week, and the third week I was dead last, I worked 83 hours and made $72, and made three sales for the whole week.

Thursday of that week I cried on a curb while was I out in LA. I thought about how all my friends where having ‘fun’ back home. I sat there for three minutes or so wallowing in my own tears and self-pity, then realized that nobody made me do this. I chose to do it. I knew I wasn’t a quitter, and I definitely did not want to be known as a one. I went back to work, but the rest of the week (2 days) didn’t see much improvement in my sales.

I asked myself what happened, #1 to dead last, in three weeks? I got complacent, I thought I knew what I was doing and did this job my own way. I remember lying in bed Saturday night, and Jason saw that I wasn’t myself and asked what was up. I lost it, I cried again. Even though he didn’t recruit me, he took time out of his night to console me. He asked what I was doing. So I told him, it hurt to do it. It hurt to admit the fact that I was wrong, and it hurt to admit my failures. But he didn’t judge me or yell at me, he helped me.

I wasn’t being coachable, I wasn’t using the ‘silly sales presentation’ from the company and I didn’t have a positive attitude. He told me the sales talk was built on 144 years knowledge and experience, not like mine which only had three weeks of experience. He told me to talk out loud to myself and use positive affirmations and use the company sales talk. So I figured I couldn’t do much worse than a $72 week. So I did, I was coachable and listened to Jason’s advice. I used that silly ‘sales talk’ and talked positivity out loud to myself for the first time, and that week I made $1,200. It worked! I stuck with those two work habits for the rest of the summer on top of just working hard.

That week I learned my lesson, to be honest and to be coachable. I wish that week never happened but yet so glad it did. I ended up my first summer finishing in the top 100, and made over $9,500 even with a $72 week. Upon returning from Los Angeles at the end of the summer I learned that I didn’t miss much of anything back home .It was more like winter break where the first two weeks are fun and then after that they were just wishing for school to start again. I had gone to Hollywood, the beach (we only have lakes in WI), swam in the pacific, ate a real Dodger Dog at Dodger Stadium, went skydiving and overall had way more fun than any of my friends back home. I made new friends all across the country who also worked with SW. I was invited back to be a student manager, which I accepted and I am still with Southwestern Advantage six years later.

I gained money for tuition from my first summer, travel and relocation experience, and learned to become a better communicator (which isn’t just talking, but also listening). The products were good, I gave a set to my younger brother and he uses them frequently. I gained valuable experience for my resume and add to that personal growth, the biggest part of all. It’s why I continue to come back each summer; I always learn something new about myself, I gain the pride and continual love of my family. I was ‘the first’ to do something. But when it really hit me that I gained personal growth was when my mom, who lost sleep over this when I first told her about SW, told me that she wished she looked at problems the way I did. She said she grew up seeing a problem as the end of the world, and that I saw a problem as a chance to change the world.

Even though I gained all the things they said I would in the informational meeting and more, what I truly learned was that anything that scared me about the job, before or during, is something that I would have to eventually face, not just in this job, or my later career, but throughout life. Why delay facing that challenge?

So if you’re having a problem deciding on Southwestern Advantage, or if you are facing difficult times while out there, ask yourself this: Will challenges you face this summer be the end of your world or a chance to change it?


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