Letter to My Younger Self


By: Jacqueline Tirpak, Vice President, Corporate Claims Officer, Erie Insurance Group

All my career I have been driven to do more – to be more – and learn as much as I can about many things – the technical knowledge  needed for the job I was in, or universal skills needed everywhere – time management, organization, communication.  I was once told by a certified coach that I am the most driven person they’ve ever met. I’ve also been told on more than one occasion that others at times have trouble keeping up with me. Don’t ever forget your strengths can also be your weaknesses if you don’t manage them.

Looking back, I wish that earlier on in my career I would have known better how to manage these double-edged swords. I’ve been in the industry about 30 years. Here’s what I might have told myself 25 years ago.

August 1, 2020

Dear Younger-Me, the “Insurance Professional,”

You are about to take quite the career ride. Buckle up, buttercup. You were skeptical about getting into insurance – not something you dreamed about in school, is it? Stick with it, it’s going to be really rewarding – personally and professionally. Keep a few things in mind and it might make your journey a little less rocky in spots.

  1. It’s always about the people. No matter where you are or what you are doing, you won’t get there alone. Always look for ways to bring others along, and someday, maybe even up – with you. Build and maintain relationships. Deposit more into the trust accounts you have with everyone, so that when you mess up and need to withdraw, it will come easier. Get things done and be the one that doesn’t leave dead bodies in your wake. Take actions you can be proud of – actions that will build trust. Be the person people want to work for, with, and just be around.
  2. Take care of you. The road is long, with twists and turns. Others will come to rely on you for any number of things. The journey is a marathon – maybe even an ultramarathon! Find ways to disconnect and make time for you – whether it’s reading, walking outside, spending time with others – anything that makes you happy. It’s not selfish at all – it’s what you will need to do to keep yourself in good shape mentally and emotionally for the times ahead. Rebooting your computer seems to make it run more efficiently, get rid of things it no longer needs, and reconnect it to networks. You need that too.
  3. Ask for and listen to feedback – often. We all have blind spots – welcome to being human. The way that we perceive ourselves is not always the same as how others do. Perception is reality. You need to know how others perceive your actions and words. Feedback from regularly asking others what you can do more of, less of, what they would have done differently, or how you did in a particular setting is pure gold. Make sure that no matter what you hear, you don’t get defensive. It’s their opinion! Always thank them for their input. At best, you hear something you didn’t realize and choose to change it. At worst, you strengthen the relationship with the person you asked. (Who doesn’t like being asked their opinion on something?) When necessary, file the feedback away as something you don’t feel needs your attention or focus.

Work hard, treat everyone well, be learning always – and you’ll be on the path to a long, exciting career ahead of you.

Trust me on this one,

Your “Seasoned” Insurance Professional Me

2 replies
  1. Caryn Siebert
    Caryn Siebert says:

    Wonderful advice. I was recently interviewed for a piece and #1 on my list was taking care of myself better and having a better work/life balance. Seeing a lot of people burn out lately and I think your point about “it’s always about the people” and “take care of your” are spot on, especially as we work from home!


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