Things I’ve learned in my first year at an office job/with an insurance company/ working in marketing:

Exactly one year ago today, I started a job as a marketing director for a wholesale insurance company (We sell insurance to insurance agents who then sell to the public. I learned that since starting, too.) These are some of the things I have learned since starting this job.

  • I’ve learned a LOT about insurance. Which partly makes me want never want to own a home because it’s made me aware of how detailed those policies are and how much work it really takes to understand your policy. Also, I know what terms like “inland marine” mean (which has nothing to do with boats) — essentially it’s this: In a restaurant for example, the building would be covered by a policy, but if you have inland marine, inland marine would basically be everything in the kitchen that would fall if you turned the kitchen upside down.
  • I also learned that the concept of insurance was started by the company that is now known of as Lloyd’s of London. At the time, there was Lloyd’s coffeeshop in London, and a bunch of business men and merchants decided to form a sort of insurance co-op so that they’d all cover each others’ shipments, so that if a ship went down, one merchant wouldn’t be totally out of business. And thus started insurance. My company now does a lot of business with Lloyd’s to this day.
  • Also, the Titanic was insured by Lloyd’s of London. Which, of course, was a huge claim loss for them. But interesting still.
  • I also have learned how it can be nearly impossible to get home owners insurance on a house in southern California because there is so much “brush” down there and risk of fire. So all those Hollywood homes of stars — yeah, they’re not super covered, or if they are, they have outrageous premiums because the risk is so high.


  • I’ve learned that I can drink Folgers coffee on a regular basis as long as it’s piping hot. When it starts to cool down I start to audible gag and shutter. It’s distracting to my co-workers.
  • I apparently use sticky notes much more than the average office worker. And then I figured out how to use the “desktop stickies” on my computer too. Notes for everything.
  • All copy machines are the bane of my existence anytime I have to print a big job. We need them, but they work perfectly about 40% of the time. And when we think “oh that went so smoothly… I only had to hand-feed the paper and then it didn’t stop printing and start beeping” we don’t even realize how much we’re coping.
  • I love designing ads. And I’ve gotten the opportunity to have print ads I’ve designed in national magazines more than a dozen times.
  • Some Starbucks baristas will hate you if you come in every week to buy 100 gift cards that they then have to individually scan and load for an incentive program. Also, some Starbucks employees are really impressed with how generous of a person I am, because no matter how many times I tell them it’s for my company, and the company pays for it, they still seem to think it’s my money and I’m buying 100 gift cards for my friends. They’re the ones that say, every time, “Man! I want to be friends with you! Your friends must love you.” Every. Time.
  • Customer service means dealing with people who ask stupid questions. “How many zeros are in one-thousand?”
  • DID YOU KNOW YOU CAN EDIT THE SUBJECT OF AN EMAIL IN YOUR INBOX WITH OUTLOOK??? This took me about 9 months to learn. Life-changing.
  • Some people don’t know how to use computers. As in, they don’t know how to double-click to open something. Yep.
  • People have really short memories. Myself included. So I try to write everything down now. Thus the sticky notes.
  • Hot Pockets can light on fire in the microwave and fill the office with smoke.
  • Bagels brighten everyone’s day.
  • If you become known as the dessert girl who regularly buys/makes/brings/consumes sweet things, then people will start to look out for you and will come by your desk to discretely say “I have cookies at my desk… come by later.” It’s really a strong bond, the bond between sweet-teethed ladies.
  • Working with almost all women means some days are more tense than others. But there’s also a sort of camaraderie and candidness that wouldn’t come with many men in the mix too, I think.
  • People will read email blasts more if there’s a video in it.
  • I update my voicemail every morning with the new date and whether I’m in the office all day or in and out of meetings, etc. And every morning I think to myself “I would rock at reading out loud.” It must’ve been all of that reading Shakespeare aloud in high school English classes.
  • Chipotle caters now. But they don’t deliver it. Valuable info.

And lastly, after a year of working in marketing, I’m aware of the “brand” that we individuals are all producing with the things we put out there for others to see. It’s made me want to be intentional about not just including the good stuff, but also hard or embarrassing stuff too in what I share. I want my “brand” to be a representation of what’s real. Not just the smiles. Not just the funny. But to show the honest, day-to-day life of rebuilding, re-discovering, grieving, finding joy — the little things that make up a life.

I think this is why I have loved watching the show, The Office, since I started to work here. Because it shows that same thing — the everyday doldrums, joys, pet peeves, shenanigans, and routines that make up the mortar that insulates the bigger brick pieces of life. These are the things that make up our stories. And that’s more than OK.

Joanna O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

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photo credit: San Diego Shooter via photopin cc