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New York City Is Not The Happiest City for Young Professionals But Still There Is A Hope

Gizem Kocak,licensed insurance agent representing AFLAC
According to the career site CareerBliss.com, is based on analysis from more than 45,000 employee generated reviews between 2012 and 2013, New York City is not the among the top 10 happiest cities for young professionals. But every year thousands of young people try to find a way in their career in New York City. Some of them have made their way to the top of the corporate ladder quicker than most. Some of them are just giving up. As a young Turkish-Americans in finance industry, Gizem A. Kocak grew up in Rochester, then moved to a very small town with one stop light and a population of probably just shy of 1000 people. Now she is working hard to be successful in New York City. “I’ve always wanted to live in NYC and I knew that I wanted to be surrounded by people and enjoy a fast paced life. I learned a lot from being in a small town, and most of what I learned was about myself,” she says. His grandfather came to the U.S. in 1988 as a tailor and his entire family worked for Hickey Freeman, a manufacturer of suits for men and boys, based in Rochester, New York, and founded in 1899. Gizem is the third generation of the family and now she works for American Family Life Assurance Company, Aflac, largest provider of supplemental insurance in the United States. Her goal is making a difference in her community, making a difference in other people’s lives, and making a difference in her life. Young professional talked to TurkofAmerica.
Why do you choose to work in finance industry?
Growing up, my dream was to follow in my dad into the medical field and become a doctor. An exemplary academic record in high school led to numerous scholarships allowing me to enroll as a pre-med student at The Rochester Institute of Technology.  The experience in pre-med @ RIT opened my eyes to other careers that would give me the freedom to be entrepreneurial, successful and still be in a position to help people; all without having to be in school for 12 years and without the heavy burden of student debt. . I was not very familiar with the business world, but I thought my personality and skill set would be a good fit, so I changed my major to Business Administration. This quickly proved to be the right decision, as my passion for finance was ignited. I became very involved with my studies and joined multiple organizations on campus. Early in my academic career I was recruited into a sales position in NYC.  In September of 2013 I began to plan my move from Rochester to NYC.

During the fall semester of 2013, I had to take a course and pass a state exam to become licensed to sell life, accident, and health insurance; all while carrying a full course load at school, participating in an off-campus internship, and playing on the soccer team. It was difficult, but well worth it. In January 2014 I moved to NYC and began my career while still pursuing my degree.  I love being my own boss, growing a business and being in the sales and finance industry in NYC. Being a young adult and interacting with my peers in the industry has given me much more insight into the world of business.  The real-world experiences offer opportunities for growth, knowledge and enhancement of my skill set that the confines of a classroom setting simply cannot match.

What are the pros and cons of your job?
Like any career there are pros and cons to my job. For me, I would much rather look at all of the positive things than pay attention to the negatives. However, in all honesty, growing a business as a young woman in NYC is not easy. It has taken me a lot of work and extra hours inside and outside of the office to get to where I am, and I still have much more work to do to become extremely successful in my industry. I really enjoy being my own boss, creating my own schedule, and creating the systems that will help me reach goals that I define. I love working and engaging with people every single day, and what I really enjoy the most about my job is that I really get to help people. However, this is not a 9-5. There is a lot of effort that must be put into building a book of business before any real return on investment is seen. Patience and persistence is the only thing that will allow me to persevere and keep moving forward with my career.

How do you define your service when you compare with your competitors? Why would people choose your service?
I am extremely proud to be a licensed insurance agent representing AFLAC (American Family Life Assurance Company) the industry leader in providing voluntary benefits to individuals for more than 60 years. Voluntary benefits have been AFLAC’s focus since corporate inception. Accordingly, we are the benchmark in an industry that only now is scrambling to adjust with new healthcare regulations. One need only to look at Japan’s healthcare system instituted 40 years ago and very similar to the model we are moving towards here in the US, and the tremendous success of AFLAC products there (3 out of every 4 people in Japan own AFLAC policies, and close to 98% of companies on the Japanese stock exchange offer AFLAC as a benefit to their employees.)

What I am most fiercely proud of is the opportunity the AFLAC products give me to help people.  For instance, we are the #1 cancer insurance company in the United States; featuring one of the most comprehensive cancer policies I’ve ever seen. AFLAC puts a lot of effort into marketing, into research, and into providing tools for their agents and for their clients. They are able to provide extremely affordable policies with a 70% loss ratio. That means that every $1 in premium that AFLAC receives, they pay out $.70 in claims.

In 2010 AFLAC paid $2.1 billion in claims. That is an extremely high loss ratio for an insurance company, but that is because they stand behind their promise of being there when you need them most. A suite of voluntary products designed to fit the dynamic healthcare market compliments the flagship Cancer product.  As previously mentioned, a good gauge of what direction our company is headed in the U.S. is the Japanese healthcare environment. In 1961 Japan introduced a universal healthcare system, comparable to Obamacare, and since that system has been in place AFLAC has been the number one insurance company in terms of individual insurance policies in force in Japan. With the healthcare marketplace changing so drastically in the U.S., many companies are beginning to see how AFLAC is able to complement their current benefits packages at no cost to them, create some goodwill with their employees, all while improving their bottom line via tax savings.

You are the third generation of an immigrant family, could you write a little bit about your family background? Where they were from, what were doing when they came to the US?
My family, on my dads side, are Turkish natives. My grandparents were born in Corum. My grandfather Ibrahim Kocak, finished high school at 16 and then moved to Ankara with his older brother to begin his career in the tailoring industry. Shortly thereafter, my grandmother, Fadime Kocak, moved to Ankara with him, carrying with her only a middle school education. They had 3 kids; my father, Ugur, my uncle, Yucel, and my aunt, Sultan. In 1988 they moved to the U.S. where my grandfather began working for a tailor that altered army suits. A few years later my entire family started working at Hickey Freeman in Rochester, NY. They worked there for a few years and, I remember, while my dad was still in college and I was in kindergarten, we would have to go to Hickey Freeman and pick them up everyday after work, so we had the entire family packed into one car. My grandfather soon decided to open up his own tailoring company in midtown Rochester and is currently operating his own business. My dad was the first in the family to go to college. He went to school to be a physician’s assistant at Rochester Institute of Technology and has always debated going back to medical school.
However, pursuing higher education in the medical field was, and is, hard to do while balancing a family. My dad now works at Rochester General Hospital as a Physician’s Assistant that specializes in Neurosurgery. I would still like to become a doctor at some point in the future. It’s something I’m truly passionate about, and in a way, I know it would be helping him realize a dream if I became a doctor.  I’m very proud of my family and how far they’ve come. I know that they’re journey was not an easy one, and a lot of hard work was involved to not only survive, but to thrive as an immigrant family in the U.S. I remember as a young child, my family had only been in the U.S. for about 5 years, and we all lived together in 1 house with about 10 people. Now my dad, my uncle, and my aunt are all very successful and have managed to move forward on their own paths and live comfortably with their families. It’s amazing to see. I’m happy to be part of such a rich culture and family history, and I hope to bring more success to the Kocak family.

What is your goal?
My goal is to make a difference. Make a difference in my community, make a difference in other people’s lives, and make a difference in my life. I hope that by being of service to others and working hard, I will be able to, eventually, make a difference in the world. I need to become successful and be diligent in building the foundation of my career in order to move forward and create a positive footprint later on in life. I really want to help people who may need a little more guidance or who may need someone to help them on their journey to becoming successful. At some point in the future, I would like to be a mentor, someone for people to look up to as a leader. Who knows where life could take me from this point forward, but I will do my best to do the right thing and make a difference regardless of what situation I am in. Hopefully that will be enough to keep me moving forward in the right direction.

You have grown up in a small town, what are your current experiences with a big city. What do you like most?
I grew up in Rochester, a much smaller city than NYC, but as a teen moved to a very small town with one stop light and a population of probably just shy of 1000 people. Moving from a city to an extremely small town was very frustrating. I’ve always wanted to live in NYC and I knew that I wanted to be surrounded by people and enjoy a fast paced life. I learned a lot from being in a small town, and most of what I learned was about myself. For example, I realized that I wanted to do so much more than what I was told I could do. I never wanted to be told that I have limitations on what I was capable of, where I could go, or experiences I could have. I knew that I had to come to a large city and leave that small town in order to grow as an individual, have more opportunity to self-actualize in ways that I couldn’t have imagined previously. I feel that I am on my way to doing just that.

What are your hobbies and activities?
Playing soccer is a true passion of mine, and I am very into fitness. I believe taking care of the body, feeds the spirit.  It also creates self-discipline and structure that will carry over into other aspects of life, such as your career or your studies. I also enjoy alone time, like going for walks by the water, reading, going to museums/parks, and going to the movies or even to lunch by myself. I like taking time to think, reflect, and to just enjoy where I am in life at that exact moment.
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07

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