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Secret to success: Get out of your own way

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It wasn’t necessarily the career Alexa Meyer was looking for, but she went right from college directly into a career as a financial advisor. Meyer, a 26-year-old financial advisor for Pacific Capital Resource Group in Bellevue, Washington, says she left college with no expectation of landing in insurance. “But when I graduated from college, I realized I had two paths, that was to go run my own business or to be more of a financial analyst in the corporate world.”

That realization came after Meyer started her interview process four years ago. A finance major with a French minor, she was looking for a career that would help her use what she’d learned. Her first interview was with Pacific Capital, and it turned out to be a great fit for a few reasons. Because the company’s interview process is lengthy, Meyer had time to consider the position. “I realized it was a very good way to combine my analytical skills and my passion for finance with my people skills. I realized my people skills and interacting with people on a daily basis was actually more important to me.”

Ironically, it was a job she had in college that made her realize how well her new career fit. Meyer worked for a wedding shop, consulting with couples on their programs and paper goods. “I really liked that one-on-one time with that consulting part. It’s funny — we would do what I do now. We’d sit down with them, ask them what they’re looking for, take notes, gather information, and then come back with a solution. I really liked that process. I didn’t know I’d be doing that same thing here, but that’s my favorite part of what I do.”

The match is a good one. Within the first two years, Meyer qualified for the Penn Mutual-sponsored Royal Blue award and was named Pacific Resource’s Bronze Career Builder of the Year in 2014.

Avoiding the head trash

Not that the job hasn’t been without challenges. Meyer says one of the toughest things she had to learn to handle wasn’t any technical aspect of the job, but to handle what she calls the “head trash” of negative self-talk. “The hardest thing is hearing no on a daily basis, and in different forms: ‘I think I don’t want to do as much death benefit’ or ‘It’s not the right time’ or ‘We’ve found another person to work with’ and not take that personally.”

For someone who is used to being successful when she sets her mind to it, Meyer says that internal struggle took a good two years to overcome. “But it’s crazy how much it’s shaped me and made me a more efficient business owner.”

It also made her realize that a client’s inability to move forward in the decision-making process was their issue to resolve. Her role in it? “I need to create urgency for them and show them the right path, then it’s in their hands.”

Four years out of college, Meyer says she’s proud to have come to that point. She’s also proud that in just four short years, she has a successful, growing business. Yet of all her accomplishments, Meyer says she’s most proud of her role in the agency’s recruitment efforts, which have targeted women. “We’ve shifted more toward mentoring the younger generation in general. So instead of just leaving them to cold call, we’ve created a mentorship program.”

In that program, Meyer is currently mentoring three young female agents just out of college. That approach, she says, has been a fundamental shift in the insurance industry — a more team-based approach to the business.

Also, she is thrilled to see more women entering the industry. “Just because women aren’t already predominantly in the industry or actively seeking out positions in this industry doesn’t mean they’re not capable or not going to be successful. They are. It’s just getting them to the point of saying ‘Okay, let’s try it.’”

Focus on women

Meyer herself is proof that women can excel in the business. Currently, she says 30 to 40 percent of her time is spent with clients who come from one area of her business that grew purely by chance. It started with a 30-minute seminar that Meyer was invited to speak at. “A church retreat asked me to speak about faith, finance and fitness (finance being her role).”

What happened after that talk was eye-opening. Meyer said she received a number of emails thanking her for the information and relating how the seminar had helped them. “Then a couple of people reached out to me and wanted to meet with me. So it became a great way for me to meet women, get in front of them and impact them in a short amount of time. It’s a great passive marketing tool for me, and I get to meet people I’d never have met.”

Plus, it’s given her one more avenue for her marketing. Meyer now offers herself as an educational resource to other churches and to her clients. Two years later, Meyer says it’s a move that continues to create more opportunities for her to grow her business while offering much-needed advice. She now serves that audience, focusing her energy on conducting financial seminars, speaking to women’s groups, and creating ready-made presentations that inform and educate women on their financial options.

A few years ago, Meyer and another female agent in the firm started what they call the Women’s Resource Group, something she’s quite proud of. “One, it’s helped me grow my business, and two, I feel we’ve been a really good community resource for women. I realized early on in my practice there was a lack of education for women.

That has expanded into corporate seminars, including those at Starbucks headquarters and other organizations. The day we talked, Meyer was meeting with a representative from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“I’m really passionate about that, and it’s great. The women I end up working with are not always single women — they’re women with families, they’re executives, but they’re all women who wanted that education and didn’t have it before.”

Maintaining focus

That focus has helped Meyer in a business that’s seen its share of instability. In fact, she lists staying relevant in an increasingly technology-driven world as one of the top challenges agents today are facing. She says agents are struggling with “creating systems that are easy and seamless for their clients in a slow-moving industry.” And agents are constantly battling the overabundance of online information, some of which is questionable. “So many times I see people pulling up articles that are bashing life insurance or bashing a certain strategy, but it’s not relevant to them, or it’s focused on something else,” she says.

Still, Meyer is proof that agents can overcome the new challenges and create their own brand. Her advice for new agents: “Don’t take anything personally. Getting out of your own head is one of the best things you can do. Just get out of your own way.”

From there, Meyer says, an agent can do anything.

Know a great young advisor who is making a difference in the industry? Nominate them to be featured in The Succession Initative or LifeHealthPro’s 30 under 30 feature by emailing [email protected].

Related: 30 under 30: Meet the millennials who are transforming the insurance industry