Don't back yourself into a career decision

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Dear Joan:
I am in my late 40's and until 1 year ago had never been laid off, fired or unemployed in my life.  I got laid off in 2008 and must have applied for over 500 jobs in the 6 months I was on unemployment.  I finally got a good paying job with benefits at a factory that is not very pleasant (swing shift, low morale, unmotivated negative co-workers) 
 
After 10 months there, I received an offer from an insurance company I had interviewed with.  They now want me and the package is attractive but risky, because of the base plus commission offer.  I need to make a decision within one week and I am a wreck over what to do.  I have never been so afraid to take a risk in my life.  I know this is a great problem to have (the choice of 2 different jobs) but I am so afraid of making the wrong decision and suffering in the future over it. 
 
I have done my homework, listing all of the pros and cons, calling people in the industry etc.  If I stay at the factory, it is safer, but I am not very fulfilled or happy.  If I go to the insurance company, I may be unable to succeed and risk losing my home etc.  Please help me with any advice you may have.  Thank you in advance.
 
Answer:
You have backed yourself into a mental corner. Because you have had so much difficulty getting a job, you are looking at this commission job as the only other alternative. It isn’t.
 
I suspect that if this job weren’t based on commission, you wouldn’t be in this frozen state. And the fact that you had so much trouble finding a job is creating the feeling that it’s the only other thing out there. It sounds as if you view this commission job as jumping off a gang plank into dangerous waters. It begs a bigger question: is a commission job right for you? If not, walk away from it and keep looking.
 
In the first few years, there is a high degree of turnover in insurance sales, because it is a difficult business. Besides learning the technical aspects of the products, you are expected to make hundreds of calls, and be willing to accept rejection without becoming demotivated. You will be required to establish a vast network of people, to keep expanding your prospects.
 
With that said, it can be one of the most lucrative jobs because of the upside of commission work. Once something is sold, it’s the gift that keeps on giving—every year a renewal commission comes your way in the insurance business. But in order to reach that level, you have to keep up a high degree of activity for a period of years—ideally, your entire career.
 
If you like meeting new people, enjoy creating a network, aren’t afraid to ask for business, are disciplined and organized and work hard, you could be a good fit. On the other hand, if security has a higher value for you, and you lack some of the characteristics I mentioned, it could be a poor choice.
 
If you would still like to consider the insurance job, ask to speak to some new field reps who have been in the business for six months, to a year. Ask them questions about what an average day is like. Ask about the realities of commission life. If it still sounds too risky for you—for either personal or financial reasons—at least you will know that you are the kind of person who is much happier with a paycheck you can count on. In addition, the insurance industry is always looking to fill the pipeline, so saying “no” now, doesn’t mean you can’t reapply later.
 
If you decide to keep your current job, keep that as a base and continue to explore other opportunities. You are fortunate to have a good paying job with benefits in these rocky times. The economy is slowly improving, so waiting a little longer for the job that fits you, may be the smartest way to approach your next step. The fact that you are in such mental turmoil about this choice, tells me no decision may be the right decision for now.


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
 
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