CAREER PATHS IN INSURANCE
Advice for those debating in which direction to start their journey
By Bill Brooker
Navigating the vast array of career options in the insurance industry can be a daunting task for anyone. How do you cut through the noise and corporate talking points to truly find a career that is personally and professionally fulfilling?
Lucky for you, it has never been easier to make an informed decision that sets the stage for a long and healthy career in this fantastic industry. The career paths in insurance may be similar to what they were 20 years ago, but the resources and access available to job seekers today can help illuminate those paths like never before.
Let’s break down the three most common ways to gather information about insurance careers and what you can do to amplify their impact.
Internships are incredibly useful to show a preview of what working at a particular company or in a particular department is like. While in college, I completed three different internships with three different companies; my first job after school was in the claims department of one of those companies. Each one of my internships taught me something new about the industry and what department I wanted to join.
For you, you might learn that you prefer a smaller regional insurance carrier over a big national brand. You might find that you prefer working with agents instead of working directly with customers. This knowledge is something you can only learn by experiencing it. Aim to experience multiple different roles if possible.
The best internship experience I had was one that allowed me to spend two weeks inside each department within the company. It was my experience with their loss control department that guided me toward starting my career in claims. Without that experience, I would have likely not seen the value and impact a claims role would have on my life.
Perhaps more important, though, an internship is where you can start the critical work of building your network. The person who hires you, the other people in your internship program, the agent you shadow for a day, or the department head you sit with in the lunchroom are all great additions to your growing network of industry contacts.
I interned with about 10 other students over the course of my three internships. Every one of them found a career in insurance and each one is with a different company than the one where we met. This industry is full of amazing opportunities, and fostering your network will help you in ways you do not yet see.
Talk to people in the industry
Fifteen years ago, your parents would tell you to go talk to the agent down the street, or maybe they would have a distant cousin you could have lunch with—a grand total of maybe two people. Now, thousands of insurance professionals in the prime of their careers are more accessible than ever. They are writing blog posts, publishing articles, posting videos, and producing podcasts.
Building a compelling LinkedIn profile is a good initial step, but use that profile to connect to insurance pros who are at companies that interest you or that work in roles that you want to pursue. Send some messages out saying you are interested in their company and want to know more about working there. This will help you build that network of contacts that can really come in handy down the line.
It can also help get you used to the idea of reaching out to connect with other professionals online. Just last week, I engaged with another agent across the country who is a thought leader in a niche that I am cultivating. I asked for some advice and they were more than happy to go into detail with me.
If all else fails, reach out to someone in the recruiting department and say you are considering applying, but would like to know if they can connect you with someone in the department so you can learn more. This works when trying to rise up the ladder after taking an entry level position as well.
Try to find time to shadow the roles you want to apply for next. Document the time you spend and bring that to your next interview, along with the good word of the person you have been shadowing. If this seems intimidating to you, I promise that the people in this industry are very welcoming to outsiders and young professionals trying to find their way. Just about every one of us can point to someone along our journey who helped us reach where we are.
This industry is full of amazing
opportunities, and fostering your network
will help you in ways you do not yet see.
Research industry centers of influence
Reading articles published in industry magazines is a great way to learn the ropes and get a better understanding of what is going on in insurance. This knowledge will be valuable, but knowledge alone is not enough. Take it a step further by reaching out to the authors of these articles to ask them about getting started in insurance.
Talk to your college professors to see if they are connected to people within the insurance industry. This can be a great way to ask for a referral letter as well. Research the insurance trade organizations near you and reach out to the people active in them. If those options aren’t enough, your state insurance association has some of the most well-connected people in the industry, who would love to lend a hand.
The insurance world is a very connected one and if you show enough initiative and effort, you will get noticed and eventually someone will come along and encourage you to apply to a position because of what they see. If you are really struggling, go to a local chamber of commerce meeting, where there will certainly be someone from the insurance industry ready to talk with you.
[T]he right career path is the
one that affords you the most
opportunity working with people who genuinely
want to see you succeed.
The right choice
Now that we’ve covered how to gather the best possible information about a potential career path decision, how do you know which career path is right for you? The answer is that the right career path is the one that affords you the most opportunity working with people who genuinely want to see you succeed.
The insurance industry is so large that it rarely matters exactly what role you start out in. Your conversations with people in the industry will confirm this. People start in claims and move to underwriting. People start at an agency and then move to a carrier.
Having a great career in insurance is not about getting the role exactly right the first go around; it’s about being at a place that can help you grow while you surround yourself with people who actually want to help you make that happen.
Finally, when you’ve made your decision and started your career, stay hungry. It’s important to approach your career with intention and purpose. Prove that the people who believed in you were right by working hard and seeking opportunities to go above and beyond.
Embrace a mindset of continuous learning, seeking out industry-specific training, workshops, and conferences to stay ahead of the curve. Actively engage with your professional network, both within and outside of your organization, as these connections can provide valuable guidance and support throughout your journey.
Last, never lose sight of the value you bring to this industry and the values that make you who you are. By approaching your career with dedication, adaptability, and conscientiousness, you can build a fulfilling and successful path in the insurance industry.
Bill Brooker is a fourth-generation risk advisor at Brooker Insurance Agency in Strongsville, Ohio. Bill serves clients and non-clients alike, offering third-party insurance reviews, and speaks as a topic expert in the field of risk management. Bill is a firm believer in agents helping agents and welcomes anyone to reach out to him via his LinkedIn profile.