Tag Archives: motivation

8 Steps to Beat All 8 CPCU Exams

Now that we got you excited based on earlier articles such as this one, and you’re ready to start CPCU today, here’s some guidance on how to actually get it done and survive the tests. This article is lovingly dedicated to “those poor souls studying for the CPCU designation,”

Please keep in mind that doing CPCU is very much like trying to eat an elephant; there’s only one way to do it, one bite at a time.

I asked my friend and all-around Wonder Woman, Carly Burnham, to share the strategies she used in completing the designation. I met Carly in 2011 when she was at a turning point in her career. She felt stuck in her position as a call center sales agent and wasn’t sure of the next step. She wasn’t even sure whether insurance was an industry she could make a career in. She had an interest in underwriting but had no idea how to get there. We met through the Gen Y Associate Resource Group at Nationwide Insurance.

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I could clearly see she was bright and hard-working and was looking for a challenge, so I asked her if she had heard about the CPCU. Over coffee, I told her all about why CPCU is awesome and convinced her to go for it. To make things even more interesting, I challenged her to do it in a year, while working full time and finishing a part-time MBA program. To my surprise, she took me up on it. Even more impressively, she met the goal and finished all eight tests in just short of 12 months.

When I talked to Carly about this article, she shared the following thought with me, “The CPCU is usually done as a self-study program, and if you haven’t tackled online courses or some other self study program, it can be challenging to know where to start. I was lucky to have your mentorship, and, looking back, I’d say these eight strategies were really what helped me meet the audacious goal that we set.”

  1. Set Your Own Timetable

Decide up front when you are going to finish your CPCU. If you don’t choose an end date, you could stretch the entire process out for YEARS. On average, people take at least two years to finish, but many insurance professionals have been working on their CPCU for longer than that. Decide when you want to be done and commit to the deadline. If you are trying to finish to advance your career, focus on finishing before you begin to apply for new roles. If you want to finish in time to attend the annual meeting in a certain city, set your end date as the last month that you can qualify for that meeting. Having an end date and an understanding of your motivation will help you push through challenges along the way.

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  1. Find an Accountability Partner

Your accountability partner may be a current CPCU or someone who is also pursuing the designation. He or she should be someone with whom you can share the reason for your pursuit of the CPCU. If he or she understands your motivation, it will be easier to push you to stay the course and finish by your goal date.

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  1. Create a Spreadsheet on Google Drive to Share With Your Accountability Partner

On this spreadsheet, you will want to map out the dates that you will take each exam to achieve your goal date. Once you have mapped out exam dates, you can work backward using the chapter summaries at theinstitutes.org to identify when you will read each chapter of the text for the exam and when you will take your practice exams.

  1. Devote Certain Hours of Your Day to Studying

When studying, consistency is key. If you focus best at the beginning of the day, set aside an hour or two in the morning and commit to showing up the same place each day to read the chapters that you laid out in your spreadsheet for this day. Choose the time that works best for you, but aim to make it a routine, so that you don’t have to decide every day that you are going to stay at the office an extra hour or go to the coffee shop before work starts. If it’s part of your daily rituals, you won’t have to use willpower to get your studying done.

  1. Read the Entire Book

First, read The Institutes’ guide to preparing for their exams. As they mentioned, there is no single way to prepare. But I found that reading the entire book first helped me establish a base level of knowledge. Next, I would take a practice exam, as a sort of pre-test. The practice exam would let me know which chapters I was weak on. With this information, I could pinpoint the best way to spend my time. If I needed to, I could re-read chapters and test on those individual chapters until I felt comfortable moving on to the next chapter.

  1. Use the Mobile App

The Institutes have created a mobile app called Smart QuizMe for Apple and Android phones. Using this in any spare time you have will also help you feel confident with the information and the style of questions on the practice exams. You can set the app to run through certain chapters or the whole book depending on what you want to focus on. Because it’s on your phone, you can use it even if you only have five or 10 free minutes. The questions on the app tend to be clustered, so question 100, 101, 102 and 103 might be the same question with only one word changed. This really teaches you how changing a small part of a question can result in a different answer. The app is particularly helpful for the most detail-oriented tests, especially 520. One word of warning: Don’t depend entirely on the app without doing the online practice exams; you could easily fool yourself into thinking you’re ready when there are significant parts you haven’t yet mastered.

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  1. Pass the Practice Exams a Few Times

Leave at least at least four and preferably a full seven days before the real test to take the online practice exams. Passing the exams will give you the confidence you need to take the exam without feeling rushed or unsure of your answers. The practice exams are very similar and sometimes harder than the actual exams. You will also have the opportunity to research any questions you missed and make sure you understand the concept before test day. Nothing beats going into the real test feeling confident, and nothing gets you more confident that the online practice exams. The practice exams are the key to the kingdom!

  1. Get the Proper Support

Make sure your family, close friends and other support systems fully understand that the CPCU is a BIG DEAL and that you will require lots of support while you get through it. Make sure they know this isn’t just another license or minor designation but a serious commitment that only 4% of people in our industry have gotten through.

To help my family understand, I explained that I was pursuing something akin to a master’s degree in insurance, and I was doing it in a year, while working 40 hours a week — most people outside the industry will need the designation explained in a similar way to fully understand the commitment you’ve made. Also, join the CPCU Candidates Facebook Group; they’ll provide you with tons of encouragement and answer your questions. Most importantly, you won’t feel like you’re the only person in the world putting yourself through the challenge of CPCU.

One Bonus Tip:

Know ahead of time that 540 – Finance and Accounting for Insurance Professionals is a special beast of a test (see artist’s rendering below). To ensure proper preparation for this one, allow yourself 50% more time than usual; so if you have given yourself two months for 500, 520 and 530, give yourself three months for 540. Buy a financial calculator (preferably the Texas Instruments BA-II Plus) and learn how to use it. The book won’t teach you how to use it, so you have to get help from someone who knows how to use it – if you have a hard time finding someone, there are decent tutorials on YouTube or at Atomic Learning. Use the calculator for all the practice tests, and then don’t forget to bring it on exam day!

I am passionate about spreading the word about the CPCU, and I was glad to have met Carly at that turning point in her career. Her commitment has paid off, and she has recently became a commercial lines underwriter at Erie Insurance; she’s loving the new job, and she’s fully committed to the industry. She credits her designation with helping her get the interview but says it goes even further than that: “The knowledge that I gained in earning my CPCU gave me the confidence to pursue a true career in the industry, and I now use the knowledge every day in my role as an underwriter. This designation gives you a broad understanding of the industry, but it also gives you practical, technical information that is essential to being a successful insurance professional.”

If you’ve had similar experiences, share them in the comments. If you have questions about the pursuit of your CPCU, message me. There are really no excuses left. Let’s get going and get your CPCU. You will never regret it.

Good job making it to the end of our longest post yet; as a reward, here is another image for the awesome metaphor of eating an elephant one bite at a time.

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3 Steps Toward Better Meetings

How many meetings did you attend last week that lacked a specific agenda, started late and then ended late? How often did you attend a meeting without knowing why you were even there? How many meetings actually resulted in a new idea or significant decision?

With about 11 million business meetings occurring each day, one thing is clear: Meetings are a mainstay of business culture. When they are conducted effectively, they inspire and ignite innovation and lead to higher-performing teams and a stronger bottom line. When they are ineffective and irrelevant, they plague all of us with the notion that this time together was wasteful, costly and inefficient.

Too many meetings fail to generate any meaningful return on the investment of our time and energy. And they undermine our productivity. Our meeting-intensive culture forces people to complete their work in the margins of their day-early in the morning and late at night-hurting their health, motivation and work-life balance.

Something has to give.

It is time for better meetings. It is time for a meeting revolution.

Start the revolution by questioning the value of each meeting you attend, by preparing for your meetings and by ensuring that the right people, and only the right people, are invited.

1. QUESTION THE VALUE OF EACH AND EVERY MEETING YOU ATTEND

Instead of automatically accepting the next meeting request, pause and consider the meeting’s return on investment for you. Ask yourself:

  • Will this meeting assist me in achieving my goals?
  • How does the purpose of the meeting align with the company’s strategic priorities?
  • What contribution can I make in the meeting?
  • Will anyone even notice if I’m not present?
  • Will this meeting be energizing, or will it suck the life right out of me?
  • Will this meeting be a rehash of the last five meetings I attended?
  • Is attending this meeting the highest and best use of my time right now?
  • Remember, every time you say yes to one thing, you are saying no to something else.

2. SUCCESS AND EFFECTIVENESS DEPEND ON YOUR PLANNING

As you prepare for your next meeting, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why do we need to meet?
  • What is the purpose of the meeting?
  • Is this an informational, decision-making, problem-solving, brainstorming, team-building or instructional/skill-building meeting? Or a combination of a few of these?
  • What is the outcome I want to achieve as a result of this meeting?
  • Is there an alternative format I can use to achieve the outcome?
  • If a meeting is essential, what is the ideal meeting format to achieve the meeting outcomes-an in-person meeting, a virtual meeting or a combination of the two?
  • Who needs to attend the meeting?
  • What information do I need from the attendees?
  • What do the attendees need to know or complete in advance of the meeting to achieve the outcome?
  • What expectations do I have for the meeting attendees regarding preparation and participation? How will I communicate these expectations?
  • What is the ideal length of the meeting to accomplish the stated purpose of the meeting?

Use your answers to guide you in planning and preparing to have better meetings.

3. INVITE THE RIGHT PEOPLE AND ONLY THE RIGHT PEOPLE

To think about who to invite to your meeting, start by recognizing that there are four types of meeting attendees: the decision maker, the influencer, the resource person and the executer.

  • The decision maker is the primary authority.
  • The influencer has the pull and network within the organization to advocate and popularize meeting decisions and initiatives.
  • The resource person has specific knowledge, skills and expertise needed to inform the decisions and create plans for executing those decisions.
  • The executer has the knowledge, skills, resources and authority to successfully complete the work resulting from the meeting.

An ideal meeting has each of these types in attendance. Of course, one person can represent multiple roles, and more than one representative of a specific role may be required. For example, you may need three executers to complete a complex project discussed during the meeting.

To determine who really needs to attend the meeting, ask yourself:

  • What is the meeting outcome?
  • Who in the organization must be present to achieve the outcome?
  • Who is the decision maker?
  • Who is the influencer?
  • Who is the resource person?
  • Who is the executer?
  • If there are people who will not be invited to the meeting but who have been invited to similar meetings in the past, how will I communicate my rationale for excluding them?

Without the right people in the meeting, nothing will be accomplished, and everyone’s time will be wasted. To have better meetings, invite the right people and only the right people.

A decision maker is not necessary to start a meeting revolution. A meeting revolution starts with one person choosing to do something differently and then communicating with colleagues about why she has chosen a different approach.

Thirty-seven percent of employee time is spent in meetings. So, when you choose to lead a meeting revolution, you are not only ensuring that this investment of time and energy generates a significant return on investment, you’re also giving your team time back to do the work they’re good at, the work they’re hired to do and the work that will grow the business.

What can do you right now?

  • Here’s a game-changing question for you: Are you a planner, prioritizer, arranger or visualizer? Find out your productivity style in less than 10 minutes; take my free productivity style assessment.
  • Want to take it to the next level? Share the assessment with your team, then start a conversation about your respective productivity styles and what you each need to work well.

Share your thoughts on how these strategies worked for you! Please leave a comment on this post.

This article originally appeared on fast company.com.