NextGen MilSpouse is going beyond traditional career tips and tricks for military spouses! We are sharing the real stories of working military spouses (just like you!) and their professional success stories on Wednesdays.
Name: Melissa Schreur
Years as a military spouse:
Tell us your job title/profession:
An independent life insurance agent and Certified Insurance Counselor
Is this full-time, part-time, hourly, contract or freelance work?
Full time, entrepreneurial, commission only, business owner
How long have you been working in this career field?
Do you work in an office, telecommute from home (or Starbucks), or a little bit of both?
Mostly telecommute but I have just opened a local agency with an office location
Tell us one thing you love about your job.
Helping people protect their families from financial catastrophe and sorting through their life insurance plan options
How did you get this position? Was it a resume, referral, job fair? Spill your magic.
Tons of trial and error through agency positions. My career started out of high school as a receptionist. Quickly I promoted to data entry, customer service and then sales as a licensed agent.
A career in insurance is very tough! Most people think you’re loaded or can’t be trusted like a used car salesman. I’ve continually fought for a position that provided true advancement and opportunity. I never stayed in a stagnant role where I wasn’t learning and able to grow my income. In many ways this cost me but in the long run it has made me the entrepreneur I am today.
There is no way I would have the insight and skills I do today if it wasn’t for me pushing through all the politics and boring, underpaid positions.
When I became a military spouse I feared losing my hard-earned career skills. Thankfully, I found a work-at-home position with Gerber Life Insurance Company after my first PCS.
One year later I was on PCS #2. Thankfully I found an immediate position at a local insurance office. However, I was overqualified for the positions and there were no sales positions available.
As a natural born sales person and opportunist I took a plunge to go commission only as a national, independent life insurance agent working online and over the phone. I only sell term life insurance as I believe it’s the best value.
I have been on an uphill battle learning all the skills necessary to launch a website and national brand. I got sidetracked working under a different agency on a 1099 position. I put my business goals on the back burner.
There was a bit of drama as I left the agency to pursue my own business. It has taught me how vulnerable we are as military spouses looking for employment. Sometimes we get so caught up in a frenzy to get to work and make an income that we lose sight of what is actually the BEST employment option to suit our skill level and dreams.
What is your No. 1 tip for a military spouse on the hunt for a job?
My recommendation to all military spouses is to stay grounded and be true to what is best for you and your family. An opportunity that demands too much time away from family without serving a specific purpose like paying what you’re worth, developing your career skills or paying for a certain need or want is counterproductive.
I’ve learned that we need to be there for our service members as much as possible and create margin for the things that matter.
My personal opinion is that self employment is the best means to do this; however, it’s not for everyone and takes a LOT of effort in the start-up phase.
There are many side hustles as well as telecommute, flexible jobs out there for the people willing to find them.
Ultimately – guard your time and family with extreme attention and don’t get sucked into anyone else’s agenda. We can’t afford that as military families.
How do you feel about failure?
I LOVE failure! Answering this question makes me excited. It’s something I think about often.
I’ve made a lot of personal and professional failures but I have grown so much because of them. My failures give me depth that I cherish very much. In my faith failure isn’t the end. We ALL fail every day. Nobody is perfect!
It’s the people who refuse to acknowledge their failures internally and publicly that I pity. Being able to share your failures with your spouse, children, co-workers, employees, etc…is what inspires true change and motivation.
I’ve had several bosses that wouldn’t stop hammering down their expectations on staff and never shared their shortcomings in company projects. It takes the entire team to make progress. People are more willing to follow leaders who are honest about their failures.
Failure has become something I now look forward to. I used to deeply fear it and wonder if I’d ever amount to anything because I’d failed so many times.
As I grow as a business owner I’m on a mission to fail because that means I tried hard and stepped out of my comfort zone.
If there was a sure fire method to succeed without failing everyone would be doing it. So I look at it like because I am willing to fail I am onto something great!
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced while trying to maintain a career while living the military lifestyle?
Oh boy! The biggest would be that I was at the peak of transitioning into life insurance commission only just as my husband was coming back from TDY. This was a very tough season for us.
Transitioning into this stage of my career was crucial. I didn’t have much room for error. I guess it was a make-or-break season for me to figure out if there was really an opportunity.
My husband and I had never lived together every day and night since knowing each other. When we met and got married he was deployed frequently. Then he went to school in a different state. You know how that goes!
We had several fights and I thought I was going to lose it! I was mad because the pressure was on for me to be more available as a wife and I just wasn’t. I was in career mode doing the best I could. I resented my husband for being at the time what I thought was “demanding” because we as military spouses often end up sacrificing our careers for theirs. It was just terrible timing for mine to start shifting the way it was.
Ultimately, we came through the experience closer together. I appreciate my husband fighting for our time together. It’s always a fine line when you are trying to balance work and home life.
I’ve learned that opportunities come and go but family is forever.
To make this season uber challenging we got our first puppy! It was like 3 really hard things at once.
Are you looking to connect with career-minded military spouses? Join one of In Gear Career’s 40 local chapters around the world. In Gear Career is a part of Hiring Our Heroes and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
What is the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received? Tell us the worst too, while you’re at it.
The best would be from my father-in-law. In recent conversations he recommended paying close attention to the gut feelings you have about people as you do business with them and their character flaws.
I’ve always been able to pick up on these things but never allowed them to rule my decisions. I guess I was giving people a chance. It has backfired on me several times. I am now using these tiny signs as big red flags that will influence my decisions on how much or how long I will work with someone.
The worst I will say is to get a job! I feel this is a dead model for up and coming generations. While there are many fields we need to have traditional roles for the economy to survive I feel that there are SO many opportunities for entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurship has a lot of benefits for you as a person and your family over traditional jobs.
Who is in your support squad and what role do they play in supporting your career?
My support squad is definitely my family, friends and local chapel members. While they may never grasp the intricacies of the insurance industry they are my biggest cheerleaders and know I have what it takes to succeed.
Furthermore, I am a part of a few online communities for insurance agents, entrepreneurship both as military spouses and civilians. These people are who I consider high level, thought leaders. I don’t think I could function very well without them in my life.
Do you and your spouse or partner split household tasks?
Uh yes! Let’s go back to that biggest challenge question above shall we? My husband, bless his heart, has struggled with this. He was raised in an environment where household tasks or inside chores like cleaning and cooking were not split. There is nothing wrong with either arrangement! It just doesn’t work for every family.
My husband didn’t set out with the intention for me to be responsible for all the household tasks but struggled. I didn’t have a stable family life growing up. For the most part I have been on my own since I was 18 balancing a full time job and my own household tasks. We just had different habits!
As much as I wanted to be able to do more things for him like prep meals for his duty shifts I simply can’t juggle it all effectively. Every time attempt I make, there’s one area that gets left behind. We’ve worked out our routines and are in agreement that it’s more valuable for me to keep focused on my business at this stage.
My industry is one that requires an immense amount of focus and effort to stay afloat. I don’t get to clock in and out and focus on something else.
Share your best life-hack for saving time or sanity during the work week.
Going to church! Getting involved in things that I enjoy where possible. I don’t have many friends but the ones that I do have here locally are very important to me. The relationships we have are refreshing and rejuvenating! We support each other through the good and bad times of military life.
I feel like when you take a little time disconnecting you are more focused and productive during your work week, weekend or whatever!
Tell us one piece of tech you couldn’t live without that isn’t your phone.
Must-have song on your productivity playlist?
If you had an extra hour in your day, what would you do with it?
If you were a superhero, what would be your super power?
Graphic design! This has been a real hurdle for me as I put together my website and branding. Most people just say outsource or hire someone. For me I just never felt comfortable handing it over to another person. I’ve found a way to bootstrap it all together but sure wish I did it sooner. The process took forever!
Are you a working military spouse? Do you want to share your career tips and tricks? Fill out the MilSpouses Who Work It Q&A today. Click here to complete our form.