Blake McDermott – A hands-on leadership seminar with Southwestern Advantage

Blake McDermott

Southwestern Advantage

Blake McDermott - Southwestern Advantage

During my university years, I took a course on Leadership and General Management. It was a six credit course, held on weekends, and before taking it I was warned by the professor and other students who had taken it before that it would demand a lot of me, challenge me, and occasionally even frustrate me. At the same time, the professor and the student alumni also promised that it would also be the course I remembered with the fondest memories and would attribute to teaching me the most. They were right on both counts.

I feel that the Southwestern Advantage Summer internship works exactly the same way: it is one of the most challenging jobs that a university student can do, but is one of the most valuable learning and growing experiences that a student can experience, or at least it was for me. Even though it was very difficult at times, I am extremely grateful for the experience because, in addition to offering huge earning potential as a university student, I feel it was the most direct route to learning some of the life skills that I feel every person should learn. Each summer, I have learned different things and I’ll be writing about some of the things I have learned so far and some of the reasons why this has been an awesome experience for me.

First of all, by doing this job, I developed the habit of paying the price for what I wanted to get. It seems that the most worthwhile things don’t necessarily come easily: be it a skill that one wants to master, or getting great grades. In this program, one must develop both self discipline and patience in order to get results. There were days when I was unable to sell anything until the very end of the day, or when I just really didn’t feel like knocking on doors. Yet on those difficult days, I gradually began to learn the value of not sacrificing what I wanted the most for what I wanted at the moment. This is a habit that has helped me to be successful in other areas of life too.

Nothing will reveal your weaknesses and help you to overcome them like this summer internship.  To use a simple and personal example: I used to be incredibly disorganized. However, because we are running our own business during the summer time, it quickly became apparent how important it was to be organized. Even though I struggled with disorganization at first, slowly but surely, as a result of continuous effort I am more organized than I have ever been. Another example concerns my attitude. I noticed that I always had a good attitude when I was selling a lot or when it was sunny, but as soon as my results weren’t coming or the weather changed, my attitude would change too. I then started to make a conscious effort to start controlling my attitude regardless of circumstance, and I feel this trait has helped me to successfully overcome challenging situations that I was not able to overcome before. It seems that before I did this job I naturally wanted to avoid working on my weaknesses and only focus on my strengths. However, avoiding my weaknesses never helped me to deal with them, so I have been grateful to use this summer job as an opportunity to work on myself and develop greater confidence and self insight

One of my biggest concerns I had before doing this job was that I wouldn’t be able to have fun over the summertime. However, when I reflect all that I have done and experienced, I look upon each summer with no regrets. Not only have I  travelled to great locations and done awesome things, I have also experienced it all with some pretty awesome people. I have accumulated many good stories whilst working too. I still remember a man who I met my first summer called Bruce. Bruce was RCMP and trained police dogs. I remember that just before I met him, my bike tire had blown up. He let me in, and while I was showing the products to his wife and the rest of the family, he went to the back and got me his bike. He insisted that I use his bike for the rest of the day and that I come back later that evening once he had fixed mine.  When I came back that evening, he refused payment for the time and cost of fixing it. I asked him why and he said, “Blake, when you came to my door, I could see you needed a hand, so simply put, I decided to give it to you. Just make sure you pay it forward the next time you have the chance to.”

I feel very lucky to have met some awesome people and got some great stories I would have missed out on had I not decided to do this job.

I have now finished five summers with the Southwestern Advantage Summer Program. Each summer has grown me in different ways, and it has been awesome to see how the principles I have learned each summer have positively impacted other areas of my life too. This is a very rewarding summer job, but not because it is easy, and for those willing to put a lot into it, they will get even more out of it at the end.


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