“Are you sure you want to do that?”, my mother asked, a mixture of concerned and supportive.

It was the summer before my Sophomore year in college. Coming fresh off of shoulder surgery, I was unable to follow my traditional summer job of teaching a tennis camp. Maybe it’s time to get more of a “real job” this summer, I thought.

As coincidence would have it, I found a brightly colored flyer in the supermarket parking lot. Gently bending over to not further injure my shoulder, I could see that the flyer boasted about a job opportunity with flexible hours and good pay. I inquired further.

Two weeks later, I was the newest salesperson for Cutco, selling fine cutlery in the homes of strangers. Three months later, I had shipped nearly $30,000 of product and was the #7 salesperson in all of New England. Seven years later, I recognize this as one of the best things to ever happen to me.

Here are 5 ways that my first sales job has changed my life:

No Fear – On day one of the job, I was cold-calling random people’s phone numbers from 8–10 am, asking to step into their homes to review kitchen cutlery. That whole “care what people think” things goes away very quickly.

Be Humble – Picture a 19-year-old kid (that looks younger) with a sling in one arm and a bag of knives and fruit (for cutting) in the other walking into the homes of complete strangers. You learn to not take yourself too seriously.

Goal Setting – Each Monday, you set goals on how many meetings and sales you want to make. Each Sunday, you review and plan for the following week.  Goal setting in different areas of life has completely changed the quality of my life.

Persistence – One night, after a long day full of appointments, I stepped into a man’s house for my final showing before I could finally go to sleep. Hoping for an easy conversation, this meeting proved to be the opposite.  But, as Calvin Coolidge once said, “nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.” After facing dozens of objections, a few passionate arguments and three hours later, he had a new set of the finest knives on the market.

Make It Happen Attitude – There was a competition at the end of the summer: sell $10,000 in two weeks and you get to join the high-achievers retreat filled with fancy dinners and rubbing elbows with company executives.  It’s the “who’s who” of Cutco each summer. After thirteen and a half days, I was still about $200 short of my goal. I decided to bet on myself and begin my drive to the retreat, assuming I would find the extra few hundred dollars.  In the three-hour drive, I was able to secure a few last sales over the phone to get me to my goal and a steak dinner has never tasted so sweet.

As weird as it feels to say, Cutco changed my life.  You certainly don’t have to follow my lead in striving to be the premier knife salesperson, but there is a ton of value in using sales as your first job or internship.  

What did you learn in your first sales job?  Let me know in the below comments.

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