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Insurance-ProfessionalsAs summer comes to a close and the leaves begin to take on new colors, the biggest change to my daily routine is that I now order a pumpkin spice latte instead of my usual Americano.  For me, fall no longer brings back the burden of a new school year or the anxiety of trying to finalize a schedule that kept my Fridays open. And—fingers crossed—it’ll be years before I have kids of my own to drop off for their first days of school.  But despite the fact that I don’t have to head back to school this fall, there are some back-to-school basics that I (try to) never forget.

1.  School supplies – When we were younger, our biggest decision was probably deciding between a box of 16 or 64 crayons (though I always envied the kids with the 120-count boxes).  Now, you probably don’t need a new box of crayons, but you should still consider investing in new tools to help you jump out of your summer slump. Whether it’s updated business cards, a current smartphone (so you can access the handy-dandy DIS mobile quote engine app, of course), or even a few new outfits (dress for the job you want, yadda, yadda, yadda), you’ll feel more refreshed and prepared to push through the fall, all the way to the holidays.

2.  Sit where you can see – While I was quick to steal any back row seat in high school, I quickly learned in college that the front row is where I did my best learning. I’m not sure if it was the sudden realization that I was paying to be there, or the fact that I chose a major that genuinely interested me, but regardless, when I went to class, I wanted to learn as much as I could.  When you log in to a seminar or attend a conference, do you sit back and play with your phone, just waiting for the lecture to be over?  Or do you take notes, ask questions and make an effort to use your time wisely and learn?  Even if you’re just trying to get through your CE credits, remember, this is your career.  You WANT to be the best at your job, right?

3.  New textbooks – Remember when you used to shell out hundreds of dollars for textbooks, only for your professors to test you solely of their lectures?  Well, good news—online content is free! Take some time to browse insurance news sites and industry-related blogs for up-to-date information on carriers, products, regulations, etc. Just because you don’t have to take tests or write papers doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continually educate yourself.

4.  Make new friends – Every year when my mother dropped me off for school, she’d smile, wave and say, “Make new friends!”  To me, she was a weirdo, because I already had friends.  Why did I need new ones?  Well, there are several reasons.  For one, meeting new people helps you work on your communication skills.  We live in a digital world where most communication happens through email, texts and social media, making it a rare occasion when we have to converse face-to-face. By stepping out of your comfort zone and engaging with strangers, you’ll open yourself up to new experiences, new contacts and, if you’re lucky, new clients.

5.  Give new subjects a chance – From the moment I entered my freshman year of college, I knew I wanted to be a journalist.  By the beginning of my junior year I had finished all my upper division English courses, and I spent my remaining semesters taking my general educations courses (very backwards, I know). But because I had been so set on studying English, I didn’t give myself the opportunity to explore other majors and professions.  By the time I took economics, I was too close to graduation to consider moving in a new direction, despite my newfound love for business. Most insurance agents tend to specialize in one or two key areas.  Don’t be afraid to learn about other types of coverage and expand your knowledge on new products. You might think your passion lies with life and health, but what if your talent is selling LTCI or critical illness insurance?  We’re fortunate to be in an industry that allows us to be masters of several products, so don’t be quick to pigeonhole yourself too soon.

Back to school season is the perfect time to get back to business. Need a refresher? Start with D.I. Dan’s Crash Course.