How to succeed in an industry where you have no experience, according to an executive who has risen through the ranks

Having a career in an inexperienced industry can seem daunting – but it’s not impossible. For Citlalli Rojas, Associate Director at New York Life Insurance, entering a business and moving up in rank is about learning and opening up to exploring opportunities. She joined one of the largest life insurance companies in the United States with no experience and believes others can follow a similar path if they know how to find the right employer.

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Born and raised in Mexico, Citlalli Rojas moved to the United States to attend college and came out ready to earn “real money,” she says. But Citlalli Rojas entered the workforce during the 2008 financial crisis and saw her friends go back to school because they couldn’t find jobs. She turned to career counseling at her university because she realized she would be competing with other talented people whose industries were affected by the financial crisis.

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“In my head, I needed to put something on my CV to be able to find a job and a career,” said Citlalli Rojas, adding that she had had interviews at New York Life Insurance and at a bank. At New York Life, Citlalli Rojas liked everything she heard, mostly because she was not familiar with life insurance.

“As soon as I got out, I called my dad to ask if he had life insurance,” Citlalli Rojas said, noting that life insurance was not something his family was talking about. “When I realized he didn’t have one, it really caught my attention.”

Thirteen years later, Citlalli Rojas is still at New York Life, she spent nine years in a management role where she uses her experience to help others enter the industry as she has.

Take an interest in companies that offer training to their employees

Citlalli Rojas said she joined New York Life for two reasons: the financial strength of the company at the time and corporate training. “I needed training and a support system, and New York Life had a top notch training program for that,” Rojas said. “I trusted the systems. I trusted the training, and here I am.”

Citlalli Rojas praised the New York Life training program because it is ongoing, provides certificates that employees can earn to continue their training, and can be taken in different languages. In addition, it offers possibilities for individual supervision; when a person starts, they can meet their recruiter, an associate director and a senior associate, explained Citlalli Rojas.

After working for three years as an agent and then as a financial services professional, Citlalli Rojas had a conversation with an associate director. He told her that there were opportunities to evolve into a managerial position that would make her an associate director of the company.

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“I was skeptical about a leadership position because at the time I thought I needed to have more experience helping others,” said Citlalli Rojas.

She changed her mind after seeing that many people in the company and in her personal life saw her potential as a leader. When Citlalli Rojas realized that there were few female partners in the industry, she felt even more compelled to become an Associate Director.

Today, in her leadership role, Citlalli Rojas helps new agents launch their own careers. When looking for candidates, Citlalli Rojas wants someone who has a genuine desire to grow and who can build relationships that impact the community they are in.

Find mentors at work to support you

When Citlalli Rojas had doubts and fears about starting her insurance career, it was her mentors who gave her a reason to stay and continue to grow, she reported. “Having a mentor to help and walk you through the process is the most powerful thing there is,” said Citlalli Rojas.

Citlalli Rojas, who became a mother during her career, said the insurance industry is a great career for parents or women in general as it provides the flexibility to manage time and the opportunity to significant income.

“The best agents last year were women,” Citlalli Rojas said. “It’s amazing to see. As women we have a lot of characteristics that allow us to connect with people and have a certain level of empathy.”

This article by Britney Nguyen first appeared on Insider Premium.

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