My name is Jaak Roosaare and I am from small (1.3m people) country called Estonia. It might seem almost like an impossible dream but we have about 300 students every summer selling books with Southwestern Advantage (the total full-time undergraduate student population is about 35,000 in the country). I first sold books in 2002, and since then we have had about 1500 students do it. It is amazing – every employer knows about the Southwestern Internship and the training students receive is highly valued. In fact, we have several companies started by our alumni and you can find ex-southwestern students now running management positions in virtually all the biggest employers in the country. So you can say the Southwestern Internship has not only changed my life but we are transforming the country in the process!
When I first heard about summer books selling program, it was 2001 and I was freshman. I filled in the data sheet but did not proceed to apply because it sounded too crazy and hard to believe. We had one student on the stage who had worked with Southwestern before and he had made over $10,000 dollars that summer! Bear in mind that you could buy several houses for that money at the time! We had about 200 students in presentation in Estonian Business School and four students got the place in internship. Next year we had 30 students and I was one of them. I still remember that the closer the summer got the more afraid I was because I had never sold anything, I had never been to US and I never had to speak English outside classroom. Boy, was I in for a wild ride!
On my first day after about four hours of work I was ready to give up and fly back home. Nobody was home, people were rude and I could not find my way in the maze of streets. Actually every single house looked completely alike! I still remember those streets from Crystal Lake, IL.
Next day I worked with my student manager and I learned how to approach and how to not take myself so 100% seriously. I can still say that the night before my 2nd day was the hardest moment in my Southwestern career. I was nervous, scared, and lonely! But man am I happy that I got over it and believed one of the main things they thought us in sales school: answer to every problem is behind the next door! By the end of the summer I was #1 rookie from Estonia, I SAVED over $8,500 dollars and I was more confident than ever when returning to campus. All my friends wanted to hear about it and before Christmas I decided that I would do it again and this time with my friends. I recruited 11 students and as a team they did great – 6 of them won the award trip and six decided to come back as managers. We had ton of fun, traveled together and had wild parties. Stuff that students do…
Fast forward couple of years and I am in Hawaii, just getting married to my wife Maria (who sold books 4 summers, we met in Sizzler in Canary Islands). The minister performing the service had been in Southwestern some 20 years ago. And the trip was a prize-trip from Southwestern! Great, ah? My wife Maria and I have a baby boy Jako and I am so excited that he has already been traveling more than average Estonian – before first birthday he already had traveled to Egypt, Turkey, USA (spend summer in Florida) and Sweden (little bit of skiing). That is one great thing about career in Southwestern – you can involve your family and travel a lot.
Now my former rookies have kids of their own and we still meet quite often. It is always great to remember those hot summer days in rural Indiana or milk farms from Wisconsin. I am so thankful for Southwestern that they decided to expand out of states and allow students from Europe go through all these challenges and just rewards that come with sticking to it. The work is not easy, the hours and rejection sometimes feel insurmountable but it is all so worth it! I would finish with one of favorite phrases of mine that I learned at Southwestern Advantage – the harder it is, the stronger you get – there is no way to learn confidence – you have to earn it!