Attracting New Talent to Grow Careers in the Insurance Industry
By: Olivia Wood, CPCU, Underwriting Analyst Team Lead
I’m in the insurance business, but I’m also in the business of showing other young talent like me what’s possible in this industry. Within the next few years, nearly a quarter of the insurance workforce is expected to retire, and if we don’t start working to recruit new talent now, it will become an even bigger challenge in the future.
In the process, we’ll have a few modest hurdles to get through – debunking industry myths, sharing recruiting information more widely and offering plenty of advice to the next generation. These challenges aren’t insurmountable, but we do need to be aware of them so that we can shift our message. In working together start chipping away at the perceived barriers to the insurance industry, we can show other people like me what is possible and create amazing opportunities for them along the way.
Ending the Stigma
Over time, unfortunately, misconceptions about working in insurance have created a stigma against our industry. The most common myth is “insurance is boring.” From my seat, nothing is further from the truth. We must debunk these myths and recontextualize the future of our business.
I believe, on both a micro and macro level, a career in insurance is limitless. Every element of our industry – from the job positions to lines of business to types of coverage – comes with countless opportunities.
We constantly remind each other at Continental Underwriters, Inc., to think of the bigger picture than what currently exists. Different sectors of our industry offer additional variety. Who else can say their colleagues write policies to insure celebrities’ body parts? Anything you can imagine, you can probably find an insurance provider for it. If we can get young talent to envision those boundless opportunities within the industry, we’ll have done our part.
At the same time, the thought of insurance policies and the terminology they contain can seem confusing and overwhelming to those who don’t live and breathe it every day. When I was a student, I could absolutely attest to this. But now, working in this industry, I can confidently say our vernacular around what we do is just one small part of my overall job.
When interviewing candidates to join our team, we aren’t focusing on whether someone has memorized the insurance glossary. We’re looking more at the soft skills this person could bring to our organization and industry. If you have the right mindset and attitude (more details on that later), we believe everything else – including some precision – can be learned on the job.
Sharing Recruitment Insights Across the Industry
Speaking from personal experience, bridging the gap between emerging professionals and our industry networks provides a natural recruiting channel. We can connect these groups by offering speaking engagements, shadowing opportunities and sharing real-world stories from those of us who genuinely love what we do.
We often say at Continental Underwriters, Inc. that a powerful company is made up of empowered employees. If enough insurance organizations can elevate their younger talent and people with diverse backgrounds to be the voices of their companies when communicating with students and new workforce members, we can prove the boundless opportunities within our field.
Easy starting points for this strategy include engaging with collegiate organizations, such as Gamma Iota Sigma (a professional service fraternity dedicated to the insurance business – I was a proud member at VCU!), and leveraging traditional industry networks. Working together can make a real impact on our future.
Advice for the Next Generation
Much advice given to students preparing to become young professionals could also fall under myths. One misconception, in particular, is you must have a certain degree or major to obtain a certain job within the industry – and that’s not the case. In fact, I’d say an overwhelming majority of the most successful people in our industry did not receive a Risk Management degree. Experience plays the lion share of insurance education. Once you’re a part of the industry, you’ll find so much room to explore different jobs and roles. You just need to get your foot in the door – and, remember, we’re in an industry positioned for job growth.
This leads me to my next bit of advice, which is to get as much hands-on experience as you can before committing to a job. My key point is to get a first-hand idea of what it would be like to work in insurance, and I highly recommend spending some time with a smaller niche agency and a larger general agency or insurance company. You’ll gain the context to understand where you would be best suited as a young professional, and it will also help down the road when doing a cost-benefit analysis of any job offers you receive.
When it comes time to commit to a job, your decision will be much simpler if you consider the company’s culture at the same level of importance as other job attributes, such as salary and benefits. If a company offers competitive wages and you can picture yourself growing within their organization while identifying potential career paths of exploration with mentors, it’s likely the right fit for you. Remember what I said about empowered employees?
I’m optimistic that if we commit to showing the next generation what’s possible, our industry will outgrow any stigmas and misconceptions that may surround it, leading to a larger influx of new talent. My experience both as a student and as a young member of the workforce has remained true to this notion, and, needless to say, I’m ready to pay it forward.
Contact Olivia Wood today for more advice on recruiting new talent to the industry.