Sara Hoxhaj, 19
International Sales Executive at SHIFT Business Festival
3rd year participating
S-word: Sexy-Singular because it’s attractive, it stands out from anything I have ever attended, participated or organized – SHIFT in 2018 is not just singular compared to the event market, but also compared with the ones we had before. It’s unique and for me that is what makes it sexy in itself too.
“It goes back to the way you’re heard, faced and supported with an open mind. It makes you truly feel that you’re a part of something bigger. It’s really amazing how two days, three days, a year, two years, three years just fly by – and you just feel happy that you can go to the office everyday and work for SHIFT. It’s very powerful to find that place in your life.” Sara says.
She’s 19, the youngest International Sales Executive in the SHIFT team. But don’t let her young age to fool you, she has one of the brightest and forward-driven minds there are and has the hunger for continuous growth. According to Sara, SHIFT can give you a lot more than just a fancy title to prove the point.
Switching Netflix for Something Fun
When asked how Sara got to where she is as the youngest International Sales Executive, she laughs modestly. It’s the third year for her and rewinding to the days that made the snowball roll for her, awakens memories, like she phrased it, from beautiful coincidences. “I had a gap year from school and during that time I was establishing my own organization that deals with teaching international business to young children. I was talking to some classmates and they told me that there’s this event called SHIFT and if I had any aspiration for business, I should go there. At the time, the event was organized at Turku Castle, and for me, that was a huge part of the attraction. So, it was quite a random no-brainer, and I thought the worst case scenario would be that I would waste a couple of days of my life. I could waste those days by watching Netflix, so, why not to waste them by doing something fun?”
After the first year as an event volunteer, she fell in love with the welcoming atmosphere and decided to apply for a position in the HR team. “It was a casual conversation about the position and then, in the end, I was told that they’re going to take me into sales – and I was laughing like ‘hahaha, that’s a good one!’, amused. I had never done sales, and I had no idea what sales were all about. I honestly thought they were joking, but no, they were serious. They saw the salesperson in me I never knew existed.”
Growing Up in the SHIFTer Roller Coaster
“A little while passed, we had a sit-down together and they said they wanted to make me the head of international sales…” says Sara, letting the enthusiasm shine, rising from the discoveries when given the possibility to test what she’s really made of. “ …I was like, the Head of International Sales, solid. Still, I didn’t really know what sales meant – let alone the International sales since that was a new focus group for SHIFT. So, I had to figure that out while learning how to do sales and on top of that I had nine boys in my team, so I had to figure out how to lead them.”
However, for Sara, the roller coaster ride started well before she got the biggest challenge of her life with the new position. “I remember one of the first pitches I ever made was in a bus to a guy who was just intentionally harsh and negative about the whole thing” Sara recalls. She describes these kinds of disappointments as a good life lesson for anyone. She has learned a lot about how to deal with different personalities and to interact better with different kinds of people. But foremost she has grown to love the fragments of moments she can share with people over the phone: “It’s amazing how a ten-minute phone conversation can change your whole day. I remember this one phone call last year where we were just laughing for ten minutes and with giggles one ticket was sold to Germany. The power it gives and the impact it has for the rest of your day is amazing and mind-blowing.”
It’s amazing how a ten-minute phone conversation can change your whole day.
Her roller coaster ride peaked just before the event when there was still one demo booth to sell. She made it her cause, raised the bar and wouldn’t give up. “I was still trying to sell that demo booth one day before the event. It was the most stressful I have ever been in my life because I said I would do it, and I wasn’t doing it. But just the fact that I pushed myself and saw that I could work so hard for one small purpose, to do that for so long and with such an intensity – I remember the working process and even though I didn’t get it, in the end – it’s still incredible to see that you could push through that.” Looking at the peak of her ride she feels that it taught her not only how to push through, but also how to handle pressure and deadline. “For sure, people were asking me, why do you do that – and honestly the pressure you can put yourself through is one of the worst pressures, but still I wanted to that for myself.”
SHIFT Can Break Your Heart
For Sara school was getting boring compared to the possibilities of rapid growth, motivation and the sense of being a part of something, that SHIFT provided. She feels like one of the biggest advantages, especially for her since she’s so young, is the chance to find out what makes her tick, by actually doing it. “If you’re young, I mean something like under 30, and you want to explore what you’re passionate about, this is a really great way to figure yourself out. Since you’re young, you still have time to make the changes, like choose a different course, change the place you work at, or get an opinion.”
Sara feels strongly that besides welcoming atmosphere, SHIFT also has a big heart. “SHIFT is extraordinary in that sense that there’s a place for everyone. It gives you the comfort to either get out of your comfort zone or then be the individual that you are but as a part of the team. The workshop activities include everybody, so if you’re an extrovert or an introvert or you don’t know yet what you’re, it’s a great way to explore that.” She describes and feels thankful not only the challenges that provided a place to grow but also the community and the people. “Honestly little over a year now SHIFT has been the motivation to get out of bed.”
SHIFT gives you the comfort to either get out of your comfort zone or then be the individual that you are but as a part of the team.
When trying to catch the thing that lies behind the motivation and the pure happiness she portrays when saying that just the possibility to go to the SHIFT office makes her day, she concludes: “It goes back to the way you’re heard, you’re supported and faced with an open mind. It makes you truly feel that you’re a part of something bigger. It’s really amazing how two days, three days, a year, two years, three years just fly by – and you just feel happy that you can go to the office every day and work for SHIFT. It’s very powerful to find that place in your life.”
However lovely it may be and however happy it might make her, there’s a downside to SHIFT too. “It’s heartbreaking when it ends. The worst heartbreak I have ever experienced in my life was when SHIFT ended last year – and in a way that is ridiculous because it’s not a relationship, it’s not even a job, it’s just a volunteering position. But it was something I had decided to do. Nothing compares the feeling of having dozens and hundreds of people around you for so long and experiencing the festival in itself. Then suddenly, you’ll have to somehow get on with your life.”
Luckily for Sara, she figured it out like a true SHIFTer and found a way to come back to her new position. In her mind, a true SHIFTer is someone with positive energy and an open mind, but also hard working in the sense that they’re prepared to be unprepared. “It’s like when you sign up, you think ‘I got this!’ and then suddenly you realize there’s so much more you have to know and to figure out and to raise your expectations, work harder and figure it out – especially if you’re in it for the long run. But if you’re volunteering for the event days, you just have to be fun and energetic to be a true SHIFTer”.
Do you want to be the next Sara? The application period for SHIFT 2018 volunteers in now open – fill in your application here.