The L.A. Report Ė Part 17

01-24-2011

 

Hey Everybody,

 

No good news but so much has been happening lately I thought this would be a good time for an update.

 

My contract at Union Bank was originally scheduled to end November 30th but a few months ago we were told it was being extended through at least February because we would be needed on a very high priority $200 million project when we finished the 6-month project we were hired for.Just before the contract was to end, we even pre-signed our timesheets through December.When they started the first phase of testing on the $200 million project the results were not good so they got nervous and cancelled the project.Which meant they would no longer need us.They gave me one dayís notice that my contract wasnít being extended after all and that the next day (November 30th) would be my last day (the other guys on the team were also let go within a couple weeks).And I was hoping it would transition into a perm job, too.

 

Iíve had so many bouts of unemployment in the last 10 years Ė mainly because of outsourcing (and insourcing) - that Iím fed up with it.I thought, maybe itís time to try something new.

 

Since my resume is on CareerBuilder and Monster, I got an unsolicited e-mail inviting me to an informational interview for insurance sales.I got it the same day I got laid off so I treated it like a ďsignĒ J

 

The interview was a week after I got laid off.The company is called UIG (United Insurance Group) and it specializes in insurance products for seniors (an exploding market) like Medicare supplements, long-term care, final expense, annuities, etc.It didnít sound like the traditional high-pressure, cold-calling, bug-your-friends-and-familyĖtype job so I decided to explore the possibility.

 

First you need a license to sell life and health insurance in California (and most other states as well) so I found a site online that offers the 52-hour training you need to be even eligible to take the state license exam.It was only $80.00 and I could do it entirely at home through the Internet.So for a couple of weeks, I studied my ass off and miraculously passed the state exam two days after I finished.

 

I told UIG that I passed and they told me that their next training session was scheduled for the next week. It was down in Irvine but it was only two days so I stayed down there for two days and nights.But at the end of those two days I didnít feel like I got nearly enough training so I thought about quitting.

 

On a hike that weekend, I told a hiking friend of mine my concerns and he suggested I try another company.That hadnít even occurred to me.I did remember getting a similar e-mail from a similar company in the past month or two so I dug through my deleted e-mailsand found it.They had informational presentations similar to the UIG one I attended and the next one just happened to be the next day.I made a reservation and went there the following morning.

 

This new company was Bankers Life and Casualty and they also specialized in the senior market. The big difference though, was that they do tons of training; they donít even let you out in the field the first couple weeks.

 

Everybody at the presentation had to take a personality test and from that they would decide if youíre a good candidate or not.Apparently I was, so they asked me (and one other guy) to start the next day.It probably helped that I already had my license (but maybe not because the other guy didnít).

 

For the first 5 days I did nothing but review the basics and learned more about their products.There was so much to learn I felt like I was in medical school.Then I started the prospecting process.Aack!They donít call it cold calling but thatís essentially what it is.They do huge mailings to lists of people aged 64 and up. Then they give you part of the list, and whether the senior has responded or not, youíre supposed to call and ask if they received it.No matter what they answer, you try to set up a meeting with them in their home to discuss the changes to Medicare in 2011 and show how Bankersí Medicare Supplement products can fill in the gaps that Medicare doesnít cover.Over a period of two days last week I made about 325 phone calls and only booked 5 appointments.

 

On Friday, the last day of my 2nd week, I went out on my first sales calls with one of their experienced agents.  We visited three homes.  Not only did we not sell anything, it was miserable.Every one of them was dirt poor - including one on Medi-Cal (Californiaís version of Medicaid).One neighborhood was so bad they had bulletproof glass in front of the counter staff at Taco Bell; they passed the food though a little bulletproof door.  I kid you not.  On top of that, one of the appointments was about 30 miles from the other two.To make matters worse, for some reason they waited until the last minute to find an agent to go out with me (about an hour before I wanted to leave).  And the one they picked is a very good salesman but, by my manager's own admission, has horrible time-management skills and is always late.  And I don't just mean 5 or 10 minutes; I mean two or three hours!  So for my very first call we were over three hours late!

 

Granted, that may not have been a typical day, but it really showed me what it could be like, day-in and day-out.The worse part was the prospecting.I personally hate getting those kinds of calls at home so I don't want to "inflict" that on other people (in fact, I'm surprised that more people don't have their numbers on the Do Not Call registry).  I realize I'd have to do less and less of that as time goes on but at least for the first six months or a year, I'd have to do a lot of it.

 

Secondly, I don't love driving to appointments that are scattered all over town, taking a half-hour or an hour between appointments sometimes.  And some areas are not exactly "scenic", as I indicated earlier.

 

Thirdly, I'm just not assertive enough to pull people's financial and medical info out of them, and then persuade them to buy stuff that maybe they can afford but it maybe would not be a high priority.

 

Lastly, to really make good money, you canít work just 40 hours a week, at least in the beginning.I donít mind working 50, 60, even 70 hours a week if the job is something that I love, or even just like.  But not for this one.

 

So I decided this business just isn't for me and resigned Saturday, less than three weeks after getting my license.L

 

Did I quit too soon?I donít think so; at 52, I know myself pretty well.Was it a waste of time?I donít think so; I proved to myself that I still am a good learner and still ambitious and it kept my mind off my worsening financial condition!

 

Iím trying to do more auditioning again but the only thing Iíve done lately is an audition for a program on The History Channel about Custer called ďCusterís Last ManĒ.I didnít get the part, though.I also did a one-night workshop with a casting director who casts Pushing Daisies, King of Queens and The Practice.

 

About the only good news is that my health is still good.One day a couple months ago, I hiked four miles in the morning, ran six miles in the afternoon, hiked seven more miles in the evening, then danced for two hours at night!My M.S. is still very mild (knock on wood) and this joblessness stress doesnít seem to have made it any worse.

 

Speaking of hiking, that was my main pastime this past year.There are at least ten hiking groups in Meetup.com so I hike pretty much every weekend, often both days, sometimes even three hikes in one weekend!There are so many scenic areas in and around L.A. County and the people in the Meetup groups are really nice.And of course, except for a few recent rainy weeks, the weather is usually beautiful.I even ran without a shirt on the day it got down to 46 below zero in Minnesota!I donít mean to gloat, though; if I donít find a job soon, I may have to move back to the Midwest! L

 

Jay