WRK101 Success in the Workplace: An Introduction for A Students.

I stumbled upon a discussion in #Insurancenerds on whether the advice of “Work hard in silence, let success be your noise.” is good advice for the insurance industry. So, let’s see where you stand.

Select your answer…

  1. Yes, this is good advice
  2. No, this is not good advice
  3. Just going to pick “C” because I don’t know
  4. All the above

The argument is this: A student v. C student conundrum. “A students” are used to working in silence and if they do well and let their work speak for itself, they will rise to the next level of success. They go into academic fields as researchers, professors and don’t make a lot of money. While the C students learn to negotiate and market themselves to compensate, which tends to pay out in the business world.

Let’s rewind 30 years to where you must manually reverse film strips in VHS tapes.

In a time of strong economic growth, this generation grew up with the notion that working hard could automatically produce a rewarding future. If you put in X amount of time, you will secure a pension plan through the company you worked for along with social security benefits. These two factors along with a healthy housing market could sustain a safe and happy retirement.

In this situation, A. Yes is a perfectly acceptable answer. Letting your work speak for itself and working hard in silence could be great advice. This could also be true in heavily task-oriented positions, academia or where tenue and loyalty are highly valued. This approach could still promise a secure future.

Now fast forward 30 years where playback is easy as tapping your finger to an exact location destination on a digital screen.

In my entire working life, I have NEVER seen an opportunity for a job with a pension plan. This might be my Millennialism showing, but I had to Google “modern pension plan” to solidify that it wasn’t an imaginary folklore of generations past. This is simply not the reality I grew up with.

What I did experience was a complete economic downturn. Thinking about buying a home? Not just yet. First, you must pay down that crippling student loan debt that was a manufactured illusion you must obtain to be successful. Oh yeah, and it’s nearly 400% higher tuition and fees than the days of “Be Kind, Rewind”. I live with the expectation that nothing is promised. Social security will run out before I am old enough to receive benefits, the market could crash again at any moment, and I need to work a full-time job with at least a few side hustles to make ends meet. I could pull myself up by my bootstraps just to get kicked right back over.

I am scared for my future.

Not that every generation doesn’t have their own set of issues, but that fear keeps me pressing play and taking responsibility for my success.

I agree that you need to put the work in as the foundation of success but as an A student type, if I would have taken this advice, I wouldn’t be in the position I am today as a Manager at the 55th largest Insurance Agency in the country. In the era of social media, startup companies and the gig economy, it is important to translate that grind factor into career capital. Otherwise, you get lost in the shuffle waiting for someone to notice. You must advocate for yourself. I didn’t learn to advocate for myself from college. I learned how to advocate for myself trying to make a living, so I didn’t have to sleep on a couch or eat Top Ramen for every meal. Showcase your skills, apply for the job, and ask for the promotion. Your livelihood depends on it. In this situation B. No, working hard in silence is not good advice, it would be a perfectly reasonable answer. 

I am very much an A student type. I am diligent, articulate, well organized and take a lot of pride in my work. I savored the satisfaction of getting an “A”. It was an instant kind of gratification and each one represented a mile marker in a calculated path to success. For years I expected my work to speak for itself because I was doing everything right according to my alphabetical hierarchy. I wanted to be appreciated for my strong work ethic and bright mind and not because of boastfulness or bravado.

In college, you can be successful simply by philosophically understanding the content. In the workplace, your knowledge is useless unless you turn it into action. That is where high academic achievers and A students are missing the mark when they enter the workforce. Meanwhile, C students have been selecting answer C. Just going to pick “C” because I don’t know. Even if they are wrong, they are still going to take a risk, put it into action and move on. Plus, there is still a 25% chance it’s the right answer. For all my fellow A students who have been sitting there contemplating the nature of the question so intensely you didn’t notice that test time is up, figure out how to pluck out what you know in that big old brain and translate that into something actionable and profitable. Remember, you are paying College. College isn’t paying you. Sure, you can argue it is paying you with a better job opportunity. But times are changing, and that kind of career capital doesn’t mean what it did 30 years ago.

Picking answer C. is always better than inaction. Give it a try, make a mistake, learn, grow and move on.

After graduating, I knew I wanted an opportunity with an organization that values its people and cares for their clients and community instead of sacrificing compassion for success. I wanted a company that praised the innovation and didn’t have a grueling hierarchy built upon red tape. I also wanted job security and financial stability. Tall order. Usually, you only get to pick 2.

I came across an entry-level insurance position with a company I didn’t know much about at the time but wanted to see what it was all about. I did my research.

Do your research. There is simply no excuse because, well, the INTERNET. And if you are an A Student type you should already know how to do this one pretty damn well from all those late nights in the library hunched over a computer putting in the time to make sure you get that A. Or if you are a C Student type, I’m sure you researched the top people at the company you applied for so you could make sure and put yourself in front of them and show off that dazzling personality. That along with Googling some industry hot topic trigger words so it at least sounds like you know what you are talking about. 

I found that there was an entire generation of older insurance professionals moving into retirement age and a serious lack of young professionals entering it. Opportunity? Check!

There was an unbelievable variety of opportunities from agents and adjusters to actuaries and HR. There was even a personality quiz to see what kind of Insurance job suited you. (My A student type self was not surprised I got Actuary.) Not to mention this little thing called InsurTech. Insurance was on the cusp of an industry take over and being tech-savvy was a hot commodity. Innovation? Check!

Insurance was focused on helping people rebuild their lives after some of the worst imaginable scenarios’ life can throw at you. It has been around for hundreds of years and every forum I read nearly guaranteed a job if you had a license. Compassion and stability? Double-check!

The company I applied for consults independent insurance agents looking to start their own business on the challenges they face and find solutions to overcome them. I accepted the job, worked my butt off, learned the language of Insurance, and got licensed. Being an A student type was in my favor for this part of my career.

I worked in silence to prove that I have the grind factor. Your grind factor is still the foundation of your success. That is never going to change. Once I put some time in, I told my boss I wanted to grow and what I could bring to the table. This wasn’t just a job for me, it was a career path that coupled an industry I was growing to love with my passion for Education. I could revolutionize how we did business. I had to advocate for myself and I was adaptable enough to know the right approach in different situations. Within a year I was the Lead of the Training department and within the next year the Manager.

So, there you have it ladies and gentlemen, A’s and C’s. My answer to whether the advice of “Work hard in silence, let success be your noise.” is good advice for the insurance industry.

  1. All the above

The most important takeaways if you want to pass the final exam of Success in the Workplace: An Introduction for A Students.

  1. Grind.
  2. Advocate for yourself.
  3. Turn your knowledge into action.
  4. A combination of these 3 will elevate you to success in the workplace

Whether you are an A student type or a C student type, working hard is what it takes to be successful. School prepares you for that and teaches you how to do your research. However, that degree on your wall is not a receipt for a successful future with a money-back guarantee. Don’t forget that you are responsible for letting the world know what you bring to the table. Vocalizing what you want is the only way to get it. Put that big brain to good use and turn your idea into something actionable.

 

About Cassandra Hayne

Insurance professional specializing in education with a track record of developing and delivering successful training programs resulting in profitability and growth for independent insurance agents and business owners.

1 thought on “WRK101 Success in the Workplace: An Introduction for A Students.”

  1. Cassandra,
    In my experience, and certainly times were different, I was always a believer that being the best (A Student) and making sure my voice was heard proved to be a pattern for success. Take every opportunity to improve and prove yourself is also critical to new opportunities. Failure is never an obstacle in my mind, as long as you learn and adapt. I certainly have failed, but I put that behind me once I understood the lesson learned. Opportunities present themselves far to infrequently, so by being the best you can be and making your voice heard even the silent worker progresses. My motto has always been, if you are the best it is hard to be ignored for opportunities. If you don’t tell leadership you have those interests and ask for their support in defining the path it may never happen. Take control of your path to success.

    Reply

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