By Alex Borg
After graduating from the University of Vermont, I was very torn about what my next move would be. Majoring in history and education, my initial intention was to go back home to Long Island to begin my search for a teaching position. However, my college roommates were heading out to Lake Tahoe to be ski-bums for a year before entering the “real world,” so my internal debate on when to begin my professional career lingered. Should I take advantage of the summer and the following year to find a job or should I enjoy my 1st year out of school skiing and working a mindless job tuning skis and boards?
After a long debate, I elected to do both. Well, not exactly. Instead of heading to Tahoe, I backpacked through Europe for three weeks. Granted three weeks isn’t nearly as long as I would have preferred, but it also afforded me the benefit of a good amount of time to prepare my resume and schedule interviews.
After returning from Europe, my decision was an unfortunate one. Upon my return, I found the districts where I was applying were overwhelmed with applicants. Long story short, the difficulty of finding a teaching job proved weary.
With the school year starting and having no luck at landing steady employment as a teacher, I turned to my back-up plan of working at my father’s insurance agency until I was able to secure a full time teaching position.
Working for my family business was far from the corner office and mini fridge for “beer…uh…soda” like in Tommy Boy. While going to school to get my insurance license, my father had me working in the basement of the office, retrieving old paper files (claim and billing information). It must have been climbing the stairs 20-30 times a day which led me to thinking there must be a more efficient way to recall these documents. After a little research and a discussion with the office computer support technician, I proposed taking the office into the digital age to my father. After some convincing how more efficient the office would run, we bought our first scanner and established an electronic filing system. Within a very short while, the whole staff was operating much more efficiently, being able to recall and refer to their documents and policies in a fraction of the time previously. Seeing me as an asset to the company, my father encouraged me to stay in the family business. I was soon promoted from the basement archivist to a junior customer service representative.
Being a service rep was far from glamorous. It was a desk job explaining coverage and assisting clients. I knew I had more to offer than sitting behind a desk for 8 hours. My early 20’s also afforded me the time of very little ‘real responsibility’. Instead of going home after work to watch TV or be unproductive, my evenings were spent trying to drum up new business. Earning commission for new sales on top of my salary was very motivating. I became involved with every association, trade group, and charitable organizations as I could to meet new people and expand my network. If I was invited to a new group, I would say, “Sure, why not!”
Networking soon became my favorite part of the business. I was picking up more new leads than I could handle along with my customer service work. My father recognized this and once again changed my role into sales.
By employing both traditional and new-age marketing techniques, I quickly became one of the top salespeople in the office. Still in my mid 20s, my senior co-workers would come to me for help with their prospects. Being an athlete all of my life, I viewed my fellow salespeople in the office as my teammates. The expression around my family office is, “your success is my success.”
It wasn’t long before my role changed again. I currently serve as the Vice President of Sales & Underwriting for the firm. Working in the basement, to the service desk, to outside salesman provided me the know-how to better assist my colleagues. I also gained respect from my co-workers as they knew I wasn’t the spoiled SOB – son of boss – who was handed a VP title. Moreover, the teacher training I had in college allowed me to change up my communication style to best fit the receiver on the other side of the table. Whether it was a coworker or a client, I employed the communication style necessary to convey the information in a manner the other could understand with ease.
My success didn’t happen over night. However I quickly climbed the ladder because I had foresight, took an initiative, and utilized modern and traditional techniques to gain new clients. Communication styles differ tremendously. Early recognition of how clients and coworkers receive information was a key factor to my success. Lastly, and most importantly, finding my motivation early in my career helped me clear the path I wanted to take to achieve the success I sought.
Motivation isn’t the same for everyone. For me it was earning more money and industry clout. However, earning your vacation time, respect in your community, working hard for your children, parents, etc. The sooner you find your motivation, the sooner you’ll be on your way to achieving success.
Welcome to the Young Professionals of America. The YPOA is a community of successful young professionals who have established themselves in and built careers across many industries. Whether you’re an accountant, a teacher, a financial advisor, or an engineer, the success stories and strategies shared by our professionals will help you land your dream job, get noticed, build a client base, and advance your career. It's not rocket science; it's common sense… but as they say, common sense ain’t so common.×