December 12, 2016 BestCompaniesAZ

A Surprising Story of Career Advancement at USAA

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

When asked this question during my childhood, I had my answer – I was going to be a broadcast journalist. I pursued that dream as I grew older, attending Arizona State University and majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication. During that time, I was a news anchor for the campus TV station, worked part-time in radio promotions, and interned for three semesters at a local TV news station.

During my last semester, I landed a job in radio as an on-air personality hosting my own show and also doing some marketing for the station. I loved everything about the job – except the location. I lived in Phoenix and the radio station was located in northern Arizona, so I had an almost four-hour round trip commute. The station had intended to build a studio in Phoenix, but it never came to be.

Moving wasn’t an option at the time. I was newly married and had just purchased my first home, and my husband worked out of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. But my commute was putting a lot of stress on me and my husband (and a lot of miles on my car) and after a year and a half, I knew it wasn’t sustainable.

After a lot of thought, I decided to look for work closer to home. On a whim, I applied for a position as an insurance member relationship specialist at USAA. The office was close to home, and I had been a USAA member my entire life thanks to my grandfather’s military service. Several weeks and a few interviews later, I received word that I got the job.

Giving my notice at the radio station was terrifying. I felt like a bit of a failure, like I was giving up on my dream job. And I was leaving a job in the career in which I had always envisioned myself and venturing into an unfamiliar industry – property and casualty insurance.

Thankfully, USAA’s training program quickly prepared me for my new role. I’ll be honest; I didn’t feel nearly as passionate about servicing insurance policies as I did about communications. It was also a big transition going from a very informal radio job to a more structured environment at USAA. But I enjoyed helping our members and I decided that even if I wasn’t working in my intended field, I would do the job to the best of my ability and see where this new career could take me.

So I came to work every day and gave 110%. While I aspired to advance in the company, I made sure that I wasn’t so focused on getting to the next level that I forgot about what I was hired to do. I truly believe that you need to excel where you are before you get new opportunities. But as time allowed, I looked for additional responsibilities such as volunteering for special projects and requesting leadership roles. I found that if I just looked around, there were plenty of ways to leverage the communication skills I learned in my previous career. During that time also I obtained my MBA, knowing the additional education would only help me along this career path.

I continued to work my way up and then moved around to a few different areas within USAA before landing in property and casualty underwriting. My childhood dream may not have involved insurance underwriting, but I really enjoyed it and even found that my journalism background came in handy. The job required asking questions, digging deeper into situations, and sometimes having difficult conversations – just like journalism. And who knew – there was a team dedicated to internal communication within the underwriting department!

Five years after I was hired at USAA, I applied for and got a position on that team. I am now working on the Property and Casualty Communications team, providing strategic communication advice as well as writing, filming, editing, and producing various forms of communication. I had no idea that a position like this would even be an option when I first came to USAA, but it is a perfect blend of my passion for communication and my love for this company.

My career has really come full circle – from communications to insurance and back again. I am so grateful for all the positions I have held at USAA, because they gave me an appreciation for what our company stands for and who we serve. And although I was initially disappointed at leaving my job in radio, I now feel like I have found my place. I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to come to work every day and do what I love.