Career Transition Question

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FRefugee
Posts: 13
Joined: Wed Jul 31, 2013 11:23 am
Location: Austin

Career Transition Question

Post by FRefugee » Fri Aug 02, 2013 1:17 pm

I realize that the question I am about to pose can only be answered in a honest manner by none other than me, but sometimes it is healthy and useful to hear the thoughts of other people in order to arrive at a more advanced and nuanced level of objectivity. So here it is.

I just turned 30, and have been working in the public sector as a legislative aide and policy analyst since I graduated from college at age 25 (I was in the military prior to matriculating). My salary is around $65K and I supplement my income as a fly fishing guide. I have no debt, live well below my means, and place a lot of emphasis on saving and investing. I have been dating my girlfriend for almost three years and by this time next year we will be engaged. I would like to buy a home in 2016.

In the past 12 months, I have become very restless at my job. I want to do something where my work earnings are tied directly to my effort and productivity. As some of you are most likely aware, this is not always the case in government work. The next echelon of earnings for me would be to go out and lobby, but pounding the halls of the state capitol handing out checks and persuading hungover staffers that my client's bill is good for business/Texas/free market principles does not resonate on a deep level with me. In fact, I am fairly certain that I would hate it, even though I would be making upwards of $100K.

This line of thinking naturally led me to begin exploring other options. I began going through my network, discretely and strategically communicating my desire to find a way into the for-profit world that would also afford me some level of stability given some of my inevitable life changes (marriage, kids, house, etc.). I met with a gentleman whom I greatly respect, and who had enjoyed a high level of success as the owner of an independent insurance agency. He told me I would make a great producer for an agency. Next thing I know, I am in contact with people in the industry, and now there's a job offer on the table to start as an independent, non-captive agent selling employee benefit, commercial liability, and surety bond policies.

I know what you're probably thinking: This guy's thinking about giving up a stable position with eventual and undeniable upside to go sell insurance? Yes, I am. And here's my rationale.

1. I live in an area of the country that is growing remarkably fast. Businesses and people are coming here. I am bilingual in a region that values that. All of the people and businesses moving here will need insurance.
2. I am confident that I will eventually make more money selling insurance than I am right now. Not right away, I know; the first two years will be a serious grind. But after I become established, I will be in a better financial position. There is room to grow financially in the insurance business, and I and I alone am responsible for that growth. This dynamic appeals to my competitive nature.
3. This is an opportunity to become involved in the business community on a level that would never be possible from my current position, nor from lobbying. My insurance network will most likely lead to other opportunities in the business/development arena.
4. I will be able to set my own schedule, and not be expected to be at my desk all day, as I am now. This freedom and autonomy is valuable to me.
5. I think doing well with this agency will make my evening MBA application more well-rounded in a couple of years, and make me a more attractive candidate.

The only thing harder than getting pushed out of the nest is jumping out. I feel it is my time to jump, and while this opportunity may not be the one I always envisioned, I feel it holds more long-term promise for me in the sense of my financial goals. I also feel that being an insurance professional--or whatever else it may lead to--is more respected than being a lobbyist/political aide, and this respect is important to me. It is an opportunity whose responsibilities and expectations are more closely-aligned with my personality.

Not to mention the obvious bonus of no longer having to listen to politicians enjoying the sound of their own voices.

I know there are people out there who are older, wiser, and more experienced, so any career advice that may seem appropriate and relevant to the scenario I've set forth is tremendously appreciated. And be honest: I'm not the sensitive type. If you think it's an ill-advised move, please provide a reason why.

Thanks in advance.
Geopolitical and demographic forces are so rooted in the unchangeable that political action often generates little but noise. -Zeihan

playtothebeat
Posts: 266
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Location: southern california

Re: Career Transition Question

Post by playtothebeat » Fri Aug 02, 2013 2:09 pm

Do you have enough money saved up to last for a year or more of low income? I'm assuming you'll have a low base salary, with majority of your income dependent on your sales volume. If you do, go for it. If you're not happy at your job, make a move.

Having a well paying job is one thing, but happiness and family, and doing what you enjoy, is more important.

DWD
Posts: 152
Joined: Thu Feb 14, 2008 6:38 pm

Re: Career Transition Question

Post by DWD » Fri Aug 02, 2013 7:40 pm

It seems that you have given this some serious thought. I am not in that business but I would wonder about the impact of online insurance competition. Maybe you are in a more specialized area where it is not an issue.

It seems that your gut instinct is telling you to make a change. My experience is that you should usually follow those instincts. If you have talked with others starting out in this field and have a realistic picture of what is needed to succeed, then a career change seems like a good idea to me
Good luck to you.
Dave

snowman
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Re: Career Transition Question

Post by snowman » Sat Aug 03, 2013 9:49 am

FRefugee,

I left the corporate world for many of the same reasons you are talking about.

I know nothing about insurance industry, so I cannot comment on that. But your reasons for leaving your current job are valid. Money is not everything. You are still very young with no kids, this is exactly the time to do it. If you fail, you learn from it, and you move on. You may eventually end up in different industry with an even better opportunity. You will never know unless you try.

When I left, I was older than you, with not much savings, 2 little kids at home, wife that was taking care of them before (hopefully) going back to workforce. I asked my friends and relatives for their opinion, and it was uniformly negative - what about benefits? what about guaranteed paycheck? what about health insurance? and on and on. The one person that offered consistently positive encouragement was actually my wife - "I want you to be happy", she said. "That's worth more to me than a stable paycheck with benefits that causes you stress and overall unhappiness". Or something like that.

Yes, it was very risky, and the first couple of years were really tough on the family, but we got through it. In retrospect, it was the best career move ever.

It seems to me you gave it really serious thought, and your gut is telling you to do it, but you don't have that person you trust and respect to "push you out of the nest". I am not that person, but FWIW, I would do it if I could. You have not much to lose, and a lot to gain. Go for it!

Niko
Posts: 129
Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2007 6:37 pm

Re: Career Transition Question

Post by Niko » Sat Aug 03, 2013 9:59 am

snowman wrote:FRefugee,

It seems to me you gave it really serious thought, and your gut is telling you to do it, but you don't have that person you trust and respect to "push you out of the nest". I am not that person, but FWIW, I would do it if I could. You have not much to lose, and a lot to gain. Go for it!
Agree.

Only you can decide whether this is a good move for you and your (future) family. For me it would not be a good move. Not because there is anything inherently wrong with selling insurance. It just isn't for me.

But after a period of self reflection I made a similar career transition several years ago. I thought about it and prepared for it over the course of about 18 months. When I was ready to make the jump, I asked around for advice. Some said go for it and some cautioned me against the move. However, only I knew what would work for me. I had given it extensive thought and come to a pretty balanced conclusion that it would work.

Nearly 4 years later, I couldn't be happier with the choice. Even if this career doesn't stick for the next 20+ years, I will remain grateful for the experience and the transition, which has rounded me and given me a portfolio of experience and professional contacts I wouldn't otherwise have.

So if you've thought this through carefully -- at it seems you have -- I say go for it.

FRefugee
Posts: 13
Joined: Wed Jul 31, 2013 11:23 am
Location: Austin

Re: Career Transition Question

Post by FRefugee » Sat Aug 03, 2013 1:59 pm

Niko, snowman, DWD and playtothebeat:

I send you my thanks for the sage insight each of you dispensed. My gut is screaming at me to make the change. If this was a poker game, it's that point where you just know you're getting bluffed off of a pot.

I don't intend to fold this hand. Snowman, you are correct, I do not have that person I trust and respect telling me to do it, but at the end of the day, the person I trust most is me, and this is the right move.

Again, thank you.
Geopolitical and demographic forces are so rooted in the unchangeable that political action often generates little but noise. -Zeihan

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tainted-meat
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Location: Kentucky

Re: Career Transition Question

Post by tainted-meat » Sat Aug 03, 2013 9:15 pm

The private sector and especially insurance is very competitive. You'll be working many hours and may or may not be compensated for it.

clacy
Posts: 109
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2011 8:50 pm

Re: Career Transition Question

Post by clacy » Sat Aug 03, 2013 9:28 pm

Is your personality suited to sell to others?
Can you handle daily rejection and not take it personally?
Can you stay persistent when chasing business (some people will inevitably think you're annoying)?

If you feel like more times than not the answer to those questions are yes, then I would tell you to do it.

You're young and able to recover from it if it doesn't work out, IMO.

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ClevrChico
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Re: Career Transition Question

Post by ClevrChico » Sat Aug 03, 2013 9:31 pm

A family member sold insurance for a few years. Lots of big promises were made of potential income, but it was a very tough job. It seemed to be a typical sales gig, where the (few) winners take all. My observation is that some agencies churn and burn though new agents. (Hence, the false promises.) My gut feeling is that it will be an obsolete profession as more and more things go to an online/direct model.

I think growing your fishing guide business would have more potential. Honestly.

I wanted to transition careers in my mid-20's, and I didn't. A job is just a job, I learned to love it, and I found things outside work that I really enjoy. I also focused on my career, switched employers in my same field, and am on track to retire early in my 40's if I want. I do get close to burn out sometimes, and then I take vacation, and I'm fine. Attitude is really everything.

Outer Marker
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Joined: Sun Mar 08, 2009 8:01 am

Re: Career Transition Question

Post by Outer Marker » Sun Aug 04, 2013 7:02 am

It seems like you are giving up a position with uniquely valuable skill set -- legislative, public affairs, communications skills -- and trading it for a position that anyone can do with a high school degree and good personality. I would look for a position that will better leverage your skill set, perhaps in public affairs, corporate communications, journalism, etc.

wingnutty
Posts: 296
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Location: Western Montana

Re: Career Transition Question

Post by wingnutty » Sun Aug 04, 2013 10:19 am

Outer Marker wrote:It seems like you are giving up a position with uniquely valuable skill set -- legislative, public affairs, communications skills -- and trading it for a position that anyone can do with a high school degree and good personality. I would look for a position that will better leverage your skill set, perhaps in public affairs, corporate communications, journalism, etc.

I think Outer Marker's post might be worth some serious consideration. Are you sure the insurance thing is something you really want to do and that it will provide you the 'happiness and fulfillment factor' that you seem to seek? You do have a unique skill set and are probably in a position to meet a lot of people and be exposed to a lot of different opportunities. If the insurance thing is what you want to do, then by all means, do it. But if it is just the easiest way out of your current position, then I think you should really evaluate your options and figure out what you want/need out of a career and then find one that fits those criteria.

You are only 30, making a career change right now isn't a foolish endeavor and you have time on your side. But if you are gonna make a change, choose the right path.

I'll tell you what, take the fly rod out to the river/lake and go think long and hard about it and then, at the end of the day, go with what your gut tells you, it'll likely be the right decision.

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