Thursday, August 31, 2006

A Career Announcement

So, I started a new job this month. Yes, I am no longer selling windows. They were really getting to be a pane. HA! A pane! Ya get it? A “pane?” Like, “pain,” but it’s a window pane! When you regain your composure from laughing so hard, please read on.

Anywhich, I spent the last 20 months working for Atrium Windows, and it was a wild, profanity-laden ride. Even though I wasn’t necessarily sick of my job just yet, and I was not hitherto suffering financially…I had seen the preview for this movie before, and for probably the first time in my career, I could see the writing on the wall and actually decided to do something about it before running face-first into said wall. Again.

I started searching for something new.

I didn’t know what my parameters were for a new job, but if my career path had proved anything to me, it was that “parameters” for my career were as about as crucial as “Jar Jar Binks” was to Star Wars Episode I. Throughout my life, each time I have changed jobs I haven’t just changed jobs, I have hurdled into a completely new industry. This is entertaining and romantic in nature when you are in college – the undecided, unresolved young man filled with wanderlust who just refuses to be classified and pigeonholed to a specific vocational direction. However, when you’re 35 and married, with five kids, it’s really not as cute. I hardly get any high-fives from the dudes or attention from the college babes as a result of my career zigzags.

Not sure what I should be looking for, Reality TV obviously seemed like a natural step in the right direction. But I don’t like the way my facial hair looks when I’m unshaven for even a couple of days, much less a month, so Survivor was out. Also, as the only American to have never watched an entire episode of American Idol, I felt a little hypocritical even entertaining that idea. Then, with my specific distaste for cow bladder and general distaste for Fear Factor, I knew that wasn’t my calling. And finally, with the restraining order from Howie Mandel, my impression was that Howie was saying, “Ken Craig, No Deal.” So I kept looking.

And then fate stepped in. All signs pointed down an especially unambiguous path, and in a very short time my next career move became unmistakably clear. That path? Insurance.

Did I just see you wince? Rest assured I was initially nervous about this path as well. Not just because of Groundhog Day’s own Ned Ryerson, but because of all the stereotypes and preconceived ideas that our society (myself included) has about insurance salesmen. The slick, shallow, contemptible man who used to be your friend or acquaintance but now owns a plaid suit and a hidden agenda. But then I discovered what kind of insurance I would be selling. Commercial Insurance. The kind of insurance that businesses are legally required to carry. The Necessary Evil kind of insurance. And I felt fine about that. Partly because selling commercial insurance does not require you to be obnoxious by nature, and partly because they don’t wear plaid.

How I arrived at this job is one of the greatest, most convoluted connect-the-dots experiences in my life. To sum it up in one sentence, my wife and I had dinner and a career-inquiring chat with my insurance-selling friend Dave and his wife one night and then the next week I had lunch with my insurance-selling friend Jason, who worked with Dave – and when I brought up insurance to Jason he suggested I take a serious look at getting into it, and that I should call Dave – who offered me a job when I talked to him about it, but then told me that Tim, Jason’s brother-in-law who also worked at the same agency, saw that I was looking at joining the agency and talked to Wade, the president of the agency, about having me come on as a partner with him, because his book of business was getting cumbersome and he needed help – and this position would allow me to be mentored and trained in the finer points of insurance while not having my family starve to death – a very real occupational hazard – as I tried to drum up business my first couple of years in the insurance business.

I took the job. And I’m really glad I did. There are many benefits to working at an insurance agency. Not the least of which is nobody is trying to form an alliance to kick you out of the company, and Paula Abdul rarely – rarely – shows up to critique your work.