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Marketing grad credits work-hard mantra to early post-college success

Taylor Tolbert, Class of 2017

Work harder, make a ton of mistakes at the beginning, but trust that it is going to work.

Taylor Tolbert made this his mantra shortly after graduating from York College of Pennsylvania in May 2017.

Armed with his new bachelor’s degree in Marketing, Taylor landed a job with Federated Mutual Insurance Company. Typically, new employees start at the company’s home office in Minnesota for a nine-month training program, but Taylor had other thoughts.

“It’s almost another year of college focused on learning insurance and sales technique,” he says.

So, he asked to take a shorter path, and the company allowed him to complete a two-week training program designed for professionals who are experienced in sales.

It was a quicker route, but a tougher one.

“I did the two-weeker and got thrown into the fire because that’s what I asked for,” he says. “It was hard. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, all while learning sales for the first time. It was nerve-racking.”

Hard work pays off

In a little more than a year on the job selling commercial property and casualty insurance as well as life and disability insurance and estate planning, Taylor has excelled.

His performance earned him a glowing letter of praise from his district marketing manager to Dr. James Norrie, dean of the Graham School of Business at York College.

“Simply put, Taylor has been everything you said he would be and more,” Joe Merritt wrote. “His work ethic is second to none, he’s very intelligent, and over the past six months in particular his confidence in all aspects of the role has taken off.”

His superior work also earned him a first-year bonus from Federated.

Taylor, who is now based in Woodbridge, Virginia, lists his biggest first-year achievements as jumping into outside sales without a long training program and closing his first major sale by himself.

“That was a great feeling,” he says.

Driven to succeed

Striving to succeed was nothing new to Taylor. In his first year at York College, he was honored with the Outstanding Freshman Award for leading his class academically, service to the college and community, and his performance on the lacrosse field.

He got involved in the campus group Enactus, which helps students collaborate with business and academic leaders to develop entrepreneurial projects.

“The time I spent with Enactus got me to open up a little and work with others,” he explains. The group also helped him hone his skills in making business presentations.

Playing lacrosse at the college level provided another arena in which to succeed. He says his coach stressed a strong work ethic, telling him that “getting through tough times will get you where you want to go.”

Taylor, who was an all-American lacrosse player during his senior year at Chambersburg Area Senior High School, says that as a high school sophomore, he decided he wanted to play lacrosse in college. He visited the schools that recruited him.

“When I visited York College, it was everything I was looking for,” he says. “It was close to home, strong academically, and (lacrosse) Coach Brandon Childs was the kind of guy I wanted to play for. He does everything right.”

A long-term plan

With a year of sales experience under his belt, Taylor says he continues to persevere.

“It doesn’t always feel like success. Every single day I have to work hard, fight for it. I can’t get lazy,” he says.

But he knows the formula for success.

“It has to be relentless hard work and trusting the process,” he says. “I had no sales experience to lean on. I had to keep my head down and keep working and trust that it was going to work. Being observant and learning from your mistakes were both really big for me.”

He expects to follow that game plan to lead to even greater success.

“It’s still a daily thing,” he says. “It takes years and years and years to master any craft. So, I’m not even close.”