Off-Brand May Be The Better Deal
By: Scott Levine, Indiana University
You stroll down the aisle with your shopping cart in the local grocery store. Your list conveys you need ketchup, peanut butter, frozen pizza, water bottles, and yogurt. When you arrive at the aisles of these items, you are presented a choice: do you purchase the Heinz ketchup or the store brand ketchup, the Yoplait or the yogurt from the local farm? Many times, outside of Oreo’s which are irreplaceable, the off-brand product nominates as the better choice because it saves you money while receiving the same satisfaction compared to the brand name product.
Born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, I followed 350 colleagues from my High School graduating class to Indiana University. While making mainstream decisions for the past 20 years of my life, I confronted another difficult choice when deciding where to work for my sophomore summer internship.
This past January, a nationwide retail chain offered me the internship that I diligently networked and interviewed for in their commercial real estate department. As a real estate and finance major, this internship directly correlated with my studies and aspirations for my future career. The internship paid a solid hourly rate and situated only a 20 minute drive from my home. This brand name would have carried well and impressed future recruiters and bosses.
I denied the internship…
…to join the 2018 TAMID Fellowship in Israel for the entire summer.
For months, I questioned my decision. I risked my entire sophomore summer to most likely intern at a small startup with no brand name recognition and without pay in a foreign country when I have not even made it out of Indiana for more than a week at a type.
What was I thinking?
The list for the TAMID fellows that were accepted onto the fellowship were released. There were 10 of us that were accepted, but when we hosted a meeting a month later about what we should expect in Israel, there were only 8 of us in attendance. I discovered that 2 of the kids admitted forfeited their $900 down payment to accept corporate internships, furthering my regret and worry about the summer I would experience in Israel.
*3 months later*
Ask me about my experience in Israel.
My response, “No regrets.” Students, especially at Indiana University, compete with one another pertaining to the prestige of the clubs they associate with, the companies that they intern with, and the professionals they connect with. They utilize the brand names they affiliate with to earn a leg up on others, and sometimes miss the point about enhancing their skills and knowledge in their field of study.
Speaking on my behalf as well as the other fellows that I conversed with this summer, they gained invaluable skills in their 5-person startups unattainable in America. The quick work culture, language barriers, technical marketing and data analytical skills required to survive, and vague projects assigned to interns forced us to explore abilities within ourselves unaware we contained. Some fellows pitched to millionaire investors on behalf of their small VCs during the first week of work. Other fellows embarked on business trips around Israel and even to China to represent their firms. My roommates boss informed him on the first day that if he proved incapable of writing the code tasked to him, then the company will fail. I sell and market million dollar penthouses to North American clients without attaining my Israel real estate license. The reliability and responsibility portrayed from our bosses transforms us from interns to full-time employees, a confidence that corporate America would never entrust their interns with. On top of the internships, fellows attend networking events, listen to guest speakers from WIX, Barclays, Microsoft, the mayor of Jerusalem etc., and explore the entire state of Israel to understand the impacts of culture and foreign turmoil on business.
So, the next time you shop at the grocery store, purchase shoes online, travel to a different country, commit to weekend plans, or choose your summer internship, I advise to ignore the crowd but decide what will serve you best. Sometimes following the crowd suffices as your best option because your interests align, but many times, deep inside, you desire something unique, something that will bring you comfort or pride, something that will advance yourself. Do not discourage yourself to take the path less traveled by because sometimes buying off-brand proves the better deal.