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Shadowing a Professional

Reed Tack

Winona State University

CMST 366

Dr. Swenson Lepper
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Shadowing a Professional
When searching for the best possible career after graduation, there is only so much a

job description will tell you. It seems to me that general job descriptions give you just the basic

information and overall expectations of the job. The day-to-day aspect of the job is left as a

rather unknown. Research and industry interviews can help you get a better idea of the job in

its entirety, but nothing comes close to a job shadow. Job shadowing a professional gives you

an inside look of the daily tasks and responsibilities of someone in your desired field. I believe

this is the best way to truly understand what your “dream job” is. My dream job is in the

insurance industry, specifically commercial insurance sales. My father is a commercial

insurance salesman, and I already have an adequate amount of knowledge of that specific field.

In order to expand my knowledge, and learn more about other specific careers in the insurance

industry, I decided to job shadow in health insurance. I shadowed Mike Yurizck who is a

Regional Sales Coordinator for Aflac Insurance. I arrived at his Edina office for the shadow on

October 11th and stayed for a full work day 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. In this paper I will discuss what I

observed during the job shadow and the interview I had with Yurizch. Next I will compare

organizational communication terms and theories to my overall experience. Lastly I will express

my reactions and what I learned from the job shadow as a whole.
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What I Learned from the Job Shadow
When I arrived at Mike Yurizch’s office on October the 11th I wasn’t exactly sure what to

expect. The only thing I knew going in was that Yurizch had a history in sales, and that Aflac

was a health insurance company with a duck as their mascot. I wasn’t the only person job

shadowing Yurizch, Logan Frost, (who is also in organizational communication class) who had

worked for Yurizch as an intern this past summer and introduced him to me, was also there.

When I arrived, Yurizch (2016) told me that his day was wide open, and he told me he had

never done this before. He asked me what it was exactly that I wanted to accomplish. I

suggested that I start by asking him some questions to learn more about Aflac and his job

specifically.

Interview
I asked Yurizch (2016) to describe Aflac and the Aflac sales process. He started by

explaining that Aflac is a voluntary health insurance option that Aflac insurance agents pitch to

employers and employees. Aflac offers different packages that would pay an employee if they

were to get injured and not be able to work. The general sales process goes as follows: An Aflac

agent approaches a company and asks to speak to the owner or a manager. During the initial

sales pitch, the agent explains to the owner or manager the basic packages that Aflac offers,

and that it doesn’t cost the company any money. If management were to agree to offer

packages to employees, monthly payments would be set up through payroll to take the

premiums directly out of the employees’ pay. If the owner or manager were to agree, then the
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agent would come back for a second pitch, and explain the specific packages to all of the

employees, and then they make the decision from there.

Next, I asked Yurizch to explain to me his current role with the company. He explain

that he currently works as a recruiter. He is responsible for hiring new agents that he believes

can be successful. He went on to explain that there are many challenges to finding good

agents. Most experienced salespeople aren’t interested in working for Aflac because the pay is

based 100% on commission. His job is finding people with a strong work ethic, who might not

necessarily have sales experience. Then I asked Yurizch what he looks for when he is trying to

recruit agents. He started by stating that it is challenging to find good agents, because during

the interview process, people can tell you everything you want to hear, but then never

produce. He said when he is looking at a resume, two things jump out, and that is college

athletics and military experience. He said that he likes to hire former athletes, because the

industry is competitive, and he hopes that past athletic competitiveness can translate to sales.

He also said that he has seen success from people who have military backgrounds, because

they generally show discipline, and people respect military members. If a military member

were to incorporate his or her service record into their sales pitch, a business owner might be

more inclined to give them 15 minutes to explain what Aflac is (Yurzick, 2016).

Before Yurizch was an Aflac recruiter, he worked as an entry level salesperson for over

ten years. Yurizch started with the company right after he graduated from college, and his first

full year on the job, he won the rookie of the year award for the most sales in his region. He

had a many very successful years as a salesperson, and I wanted to learn more about some of

the things that he did that made him successful.
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The most important thing Yurizch (2016) said is important to be successful, is

relationship building. If you know many different business owners, the relationships alone will

allow you to get your foot in the door. Being able to make connections, and then cultivating

those connections into a friendly relationship simplifies the sales process. If there is already a

relationship, the awkward introduction process can be skipped. The second thing Yurizch

(2016) talked about being important in insurance sales is honesty. When selling Aflac products,

there isn’t a tangible good; you are selling people on a promise. It is vital to follow through on

that promise, or else you will run into a multitude of problems. If you tell someone you are

going to do something, it needs to get done.

After discussing important practices to be successful in insurance sales, Yurizch (2016)

switched gears and discussed personality attributes that are essential. He said you must be

honest and you can’t be pretentious. In one day, you could be discussing Aflac with a business

owner who works out of the back of his truck, and then an hour later, you could be conducting

a meeting in a skyscraper. You can’t act like you are better than anyone, and you can’t act like

you are above being told no. In this business, you will encounter people from all walks of life,

and you have to be able to communicate with them in an honest and respectful manner. He

went on to say that to be successful you also have to be a chameleon. He used a sports analogy

to explain. He told me that he is a Vikings fan, but he can’t walk into the office of a diehard

Packers fan and start bashing the Packers. He said, that he has to adapt to the situation and

talk about the Packers quarterback, and how he played well last week, even though he doesn’t

care for him. He went on to say that in this business you will meet many people that you don’t

like or get along with, but it is important that you at least pretend to like them. He used
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another example, saying that if you like Donald Trump, and you are getting the idea that the

person you are meeting with is a Clinton supporter, it probably isn’t the best time to say, “Make

America great again.” It is important to try and remain neutral to whatever issues might come

up during a business meeting (Yurzick 2016).

During the last part of the interview process, Yurizch (2016) talked about important

qualifications for this type of career. He had touched upon it earlier, but at this point in time he

went into it with more detail. He said first and foremost, in order to be an insurance

salesperson, you need to be licensed. The licensing process involves taking a 20 hour course,

and then passing a test. Yurizch (2016) said that if someone were to be successful at this

career, the first things is being disciplined enough to complete the coursework and test. After

that, he said there are no other specific qualifications people need. As he said earlier, the

people hired for this type of profession aren’t exactly typical sales people. They don’t need a

certain level of education, and they don’t need a sales background. The person’s personality is

the most important. They need to be able to talk, and they can’t be afraid of rejection. Yurizch

(2016) said, if a person gets discouraged every time someone tells them no, they won’t last long

in this profession.

Observation
After interviewing and conversing with Yurizch for a few hours, the rest of the day

consisted of observing. Yurizch purposely left his schedule open to see what Logan and I

wanted to do. He told us that, unfortunately, most of the time on the job is rather boring to

observe. Yurizch has a rather large group of salespeople who work for him, and a large chunk
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of his day is spent sending emails and communicating with them. Yurizch also spent a

considerable amount of time making phone calls to people he believes could potentially

become Aflac agents.

Two conversations in particular stood out to me. The first was a man who Yurizch has

talked to a few times prior to the job shadow, and the second conversation was with a woman

who he had never spoken to before. In the first conversation, Yurizch talked with a gentleman

who had recently completed his military service, and was now looking for a career to support

his family. Yurizch had the phone on speaker so that Logan and I could hear the whole

conversation. The man told Yurizch that he had just finished the certification course to become

an agent, and he was planning on taking the test soon. In the other conversation, Yurizch was

given the number and information of a woman in her early twenties by a different Aflac

employee. He gave her a call and asked her a few questions. He wanted to know what kind of

employment she had at the moment, and if she had any sales experience, or if she knew

anything about sales. She responded by saying she was currently working three different jobs,

and was currently looking to quit one of them, and that she knew nothing about sales or

insurance. Yurizch briefly explained to her what Aflac was and then coordinated a time when

the two of them could sit down and discuss her potential career at Aflac.

Applying Terms and Theories
The next part of this paper is going to analyze organization communication terms and

theories. The goal is that applying these terms and theories to the insurance industry and Aflac

as an organization will help create a better understanding.
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 Uncertainty Reduction Theory: Yifeng Hu (2015), of the College of New Jersey,

describes the theory, “When strangers meet, their primary focus is to reduce

uncertainty because uncertainty is uncomfortable.” The article by Hu (2015) explains a

college classroom experiment where students are randomly paired with another

student and observed. The goal of the experiment is to see if the students will

communicate in order to reduce uncertainty, or awkwardness. Next the teacher tells

the students to talk to their partners and find two things that they have in common. By

finding things that each student has in common with his or her partner, the more likely

that uncertainty is reduced (Yifeng Hu, 2015). This type of experiment helps students

better understand how the theory works, and I think it directly relates to how

Yurizchdescribed being a chameleon. When an Aflac insurance agent walks into a

business office to talk with the owner, there is a distinct level of uncertainty. One thing

that Hu (2015) discussed was that the more two strangers converse, the more likely

uncertainty is reduced. Yurizch discussed how it is important for the people he hires to

be able to talk. A business owner is not going to be very receptive of an Aflac sales pitch

if the salesperson is awkward and can’t make small talk.

 Interviewing: Nancie Hudson (2016) explains in her study that people reframe their

identity during interviews. She explains an interview as, “Communication in the job

interview is interaction in an institutional setting that is characterized by asymmetrical

power.” She goes on to describe job interviews as a test. It is a high pressure situation

that tests people social skills (Hudson, 2016). This organizational communication term

helps to illustrate Yurizch’s day to day responsibilities. His positions as a recruiter is
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centered around interviewing. Hudson (2016) went on to explain that during an

interview, there is a large power differential between interviewer and interviewee, with

the interviewer having the upper hand. Some people, interviewees in particular, might

think this is unfair, but I don’t agree. For someone in Yurizch’s position, there is a lot

riding on the talent being hired. Yurizch explained to me that a majority of his pay is

based on the amount of sales that the people he hires make. Interviewing is a major

challenge for him because there is only so much you can learn from a series of

interviews. The sales position he hires for requires self-motivation and I don’t think

there is any type of interview question that can help gauge that. Another interviewing

challenge Yurizch runs into is that the people he hires usually don’t have sales

experience. This creates another uncertainty when he is looking for talent. I think this

understanding the interview process and the dynamic of it really brings out the

challenges that both the interviewer and interviewee face.

 Leader-Member Exchange Theory: This theory explains the relationship between

superior and subordinate. It’s a rather straight forward definition, but there is so much

variation of this theory in every organization. Michael Sollitto et al. (2016) explain that,

“Leader-member exchange theory offers a way of testing how the supervisor-

subordinate relationship affects organizational outcomes and individual outcomes.”

This article discusses that there are many different factors that shape the relationship

between superior and subordinate. Two factors in particular are time and resources.

Often, a superior, or manager has limited time and resources, therefore, they dedicate

the time and resources to the employees they think are best suited to handle more
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responsibilities (Sollitto, Martin, Dusic, Gibbons, & Wagenhouser, 2016). There is a

unique relationship between Yurizch and the salespeople below him. He discussed that

some of his employees often ask him questions, and try to pick his brain about certain

things, and others he never hears from. Out of the ones he doesn’t hear from, they fall

into two categories. The first is that they are very independent and self-motivated and

they don’t need babysitting to be successful. On the other hand, some that he never

hears from are not producing, and are as he said “probably lazy.” They have discovered

that this career is not for them and they are most likely looking for new employment.

Yurizch briefly shared the struggle he encounters when deciding how much time to

spend with the people he hires. There is no right answer, and every employee is

different. I believe this dynamic is what separates good and bad leaders. The good ones

learn how each subordinate should be managed, and a bad one often uses a blanket

approach.

 Competition: When I think of competition, the first thing that comes to mind is

athletics. People who play sports are generally competitive people. Yurizch had said in

our interview that he had seen success from people who had athletic experience in the

world of sales. Ahearne, Lam, Hayati, and Kraus (2013) describe the use of

competitiveness by salespeople as competitive intelligence. They describe, “Competitive

intelligence plays an important role in strategic marketing decisions and market-

oriented organizations. Although multiple sources for attaining competitive intelligence

exist, the richest source of competitive intelligence comes from salespeople, because

they frequently interact with customers and competitive intelligence is an integral part
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of selling activities” (Ahearne, Lam, Hayati, & Kraus, 2013). This description of

competitive intelligence is relevant to Aflac insurance sales. Yurizch said in our

interview more than once that the market is competitive and he wants his salespeople

to enjoy that competition. But as the article states, there needs to be a certain level of

intelligence associated with it (Ahearne et al., 2013). In sports, people will leave it all

out on the field, and have zero regard for the safety and well-being of their competition.

In the world of sales it’s a little different. Salespeople show a competitive edge by not

taking no for an answer the first time, or the second time, for that matter. They work to

make sure their product is the best possible for the customer. They are aggressive when

looking for new leads. These are all things that Yurizch is actively looking for when he is

recruiting new talent.

Reactions
There was a vast amount of information to observe during an eight hour job shadow. I

learned more than I thought I would, to be completely honest. One of my biggest take a ways

was how the Aflac sales process works. When most sales people go to a business owner to

make a pitch, there is usually an up-front cost. With Aflac one of the biggest challenges is

explaining to the business owners that Aflac doesn’t cost them anything. Once they get a

better understanding of how the product works, and that it is voluntary health insurance that

employees decided if they want, they are more inclined to let the salesperson talk to their

employees. This challenge makes the initial interaction between the salesperson and the

business owner one of the most important parts of the whole sales process. During the initial

interaction, if a salesperson can’t effectively explain the product, then the sale is likely dead.
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One of the most rewarding aspects of the career that I learned about is that anyone can

be successful. I have always had the assumption that in order to land a job, you need a loaded

resume, with years of experience. With Aflac, this is simply not the case. Yurizch told me he

doesn’t waste his time looking for those types of people, because they aren’t usually going to

want to work in this type of industry. He looks for the people with little to no experience who

have a good work ethic. He has seen tremendous success from some of the most

unconventional people, and I think that is amazing.

I think one of the most disappointing things that I learned goes hand in hand with what I

thought was rewarding. Yurizch shared that many of the people that he hires, never pan out.

He said that the main reason that people fail in this industry is because they don’t have anyone

babysitting them. The management system that Aflac has set up is relaxed. Agents aren’t

required to put in a 40 hours in the office, and they don’t have to routinely check in with

management. The profession is based on self-motivation, and it shocks me that so many have

failed because of that. In my opinion, a career where pay is based 100% on commission would

be a motivator because if you don’t make a sale, you don’t get paid. From what I learned, I

guess not everyone thinks that way.

The experience as a whole was rewarding because I was able to gain even more

knowledge of the massive insurance industry. At the end of the job shadow, Yurizch asked me

what my plans were after graduation. I told him I wasn’t sure, and I was more focused on

graduating before I thought too much about my career. He then gave me is business card and

said if I was looking to stay in the area, to call him for an interview. That was a rewarding

feeling and rather unexpected.
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Conclusion
During my job shadow on October the 11th, I shadowed Mike Yurzick. Yurizch is the

Regional Sales Coordinator in the twin cities for Aflac. I decided to shadow Yurizch because he

has worked in insurance sales, which is my dream job, for over a decade. He has been so

successful, that he was promoted to a recruiting role that allows him to look and hire people he

thinks can be successful. During the eight hours I observed Yurizch I witnessed a vast amount

of communication. He was constantly sending emails to his salespeople, and making phone

calls to people he has an interest in hiring. Throughout the day I asked him a multitude of

questions in an attempt to pick his brain about the sales process, and what it takes to be

successful in this industry. The general knowledge or organization communication that I have

acquired from this course has helped me better understand the specific dynamic of Aflac. Aflac

isn’t like many other industries because there is a high employee turnover rate. This is because

success in this industry is completely self-motivated, and some people just don’t have the

discipline. I had mixed reaction to my overall experience. I was amazed that truly anyone can

be successful at this profession if they are willing to put in the work. It doesn’t matter if you are

8th grade educated, or if you have your doctorate; effort and a competitive drive are more

important. I was also disappointed to learn about all the people that weren’t successful. For

the same reasons that make it possible for anyone to be successful, many fail. The lack of a

structured work environment seems to cause people to slack off and ultimately look for other

employment. After this job shadow, I am definitely more interested in this career path. I have

always told myself that I wasn’t to start my career working at a 100% commission rate. I

believe it will give me added incentive to work hard and added perseverance when I get told
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no, which I understand will happen frequently. As Logan and I were leaving, Yurizch gave us

one more piece of advice, He said, “Boys, whatever you end up doing in life, just work hard; no

one likes a slacker.”
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References

Ahearne, M., Lam, S. K., Hayati, B., & Kraus, F. (2013). Intrafunctional Competitive Intelligence

and Sales Performance: A Social Network Perspective. Journal of Marketing, 77(5), 37–

56.

Hudson, N. (2016). Communication and power in the job interview: Using a ventriloqual

approach to analyze moral accounts. Text & Talk, 36(3), 319–340.

https://doi.org/10.1515/text-2016-0015

Sollitto, M., Martin, M. M., Dusic, S., Gibbons, K. E., & Wagenhouser, A. (2016). Assessing the

Supervisor-Subordinate Relationship Involving Part-Time Employees. International

Journal of Business Communication, 53(1), 74–96.

https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488414525462

Yifeng Hu. (2015). Hands-On Experience With Uncertainty Reduction Theory: An Effective and

Engaging Classroom Activity. Florida Communication Journal, 43(1), 119–123.

Yurzick, M. (2016, October 11). Job Shadow [Personal interview].