5 Ways Young Insurance Professionals Can Elevate Their Careers
Posted in Professional Development
Author: Travis Lankerd
It is certainly no secret that our industry is always changing, evolving, and improving. With the nature of the world’s will being to innovate and adapt ahead of the times constantly, the insurance industry must follow suit (and even sometimes anticipate change) to be able to provide solutions for simple and complex risks adequately. While our industry strives to ensure risk management solutions for the known and emerging exposures faced by all other industries, we face a time-sensitive exposure of a different sort internally.
I have spent the last seven years of my life learning about and participating in roles within the insurance industry. I’ve had the pleasure of being able to speak with hundreds (maybe even thousands) of insurance professionals ranging from direct writing & independent retail agents to facultative reinsurance underwriters on the carrier side. In reflecting on the commonalities and trends that I have found in having these conversations, this one singular trend sticks out in my mind:
there is a significant age gap in the insurance industry.
The percentage of the industry made up of Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers that laid the foundation for this great industry is thinning by the day. The urgency for young talent has been created by the mass exodus of experienced insurance professionals into retirement. This may seem like a problem to some, but if you’re asking me – I see opportunity.
In my opinion, the age gap can be seen as a fertile ground for young talent to capitalize upon, thrive within and blossom into long, fruitful careers of mitigating and transferring risk. As simple and as grand as this may sound, it is up to us young professionals to not only fill the open vacancies in the industry, but to bring our very best efforts, minds and outlooks each and every day so that we may uphold, and hopefully improve upon, the quality of our industry. In this article, I’d like to share with you a few simple methods that I believe can elevate young insurance professionals’ careers to the next level, improve client experiences and make the past generations of insurance professionals proud.
1. Find a Mentor!
A universal strategy for young professionals who are in pursuit of success in any industry is to cultivate a professional relationship, and even friendship, with a mentor. I have been fortunate enough to have a mentor and/or mentors in every role that I have served in, and I cannot stress the importance of this enough (hence why it is number one on this list!).
Much like obtaining a second opinion when it comes to matters of medicine, a mentor can provide valuable insight pertaining to ongoing issues, challenges, or tough decisions one may face early on in a career. On a lighter note, mentors are fantastic resources for bouncing ideas off of and as a beacon to help ensure one’s compass stays true north in pursuit of goals.
2. Develop a Niche!
If I were allowed to have two number one picks for this list, this one would be it. In a market that is continually becoming heavily saturated in almost all lines of business, competition between agencies, wholesalers, MGAs and carriers is naturally heating up. Truthfully, it can be tough for firms and individual professionals to differentiate themselves from the pack at times. A tactic that can stem the tide of the typical is to develop a niche.
By developing a niche, this will allow any young professional to hone in on a product line or specific industry, and truly develop a greater depth of knowledge. This can only lead to improved abilities when it comes to working with clients, carriers, retailers, and MGAs alike. In my experience, agents lean heavily on their state associations when it comes to remembering who to go to for particular expertise in our industry. Niches make for fantastic ways of branding, and improving the chances of a client remembering the quality of service and value-added knowledge that they received.
3. Recognize and SEIZE Opportunity!
This past January, I had the privilege of sitting on a “young brokers” producer council for one of the top carriers in the E&S side of the industry. A couple of weeks ago, while sitting in on a meeting at this producer council’s summit, a product line leader from the carrier was speaking on topics relating very closely to this very article. One of the offerings of advice he sent our way resonated with me deeply: “Take advantage of opportunity as much as you can (when it makes sense). Don’t be afraid to do more or even ask for ‘more.’ We can almost always do more, and if an opportunity isn’t staring you in the face – then maybe it is time to ask for it.”
Now, this isn’t a “rah-rah” speech about working until burning out or encouraging the whole idea of “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” – you get it. What I believe this distinguished professional meant to convey was that the right opportunities might not always be presented to us on a silver platter. Sometimes, they won’t be, or they may even need to be catalyzed by the individual who is seeking the opportunity (simply, by asking). These opportunities are key in showcasing one’s commitment to career and personal development, and can lead to promotions, recommendations, and ultimately, more opportunity!
4. Learn from Failure… then MOVE ON!
A personal favorite reference of mine for all things relating to discipline, mindset, and approach to life is a man by the name of Jocko Willink. Jocko is a retired Navy SEAL who had a decorated career serving our country and is now a best-selling author, podcaster, leadership coach and TED talk alumnus. All of the content produced by this man is highly sought after and applicable to professional settings and everyday life, however, none more than his thoughts on facing failure.
When faced with failure, Jocko believes that one should simply think, “Good.” This may seem silly; however, “Good” is representative of the opportunity that failure presents. After failing, one cannot only learn from the mistakes that were made, but chances are afforded to improve and execute when the next opportunity arises. The longer failure is dwelled upon, the more time is wasted that could be utilized for learning and improvement. By taking failure head-on, and utilizing it as an advantage for the next attempt, one can truly differentiate themselves from the pack and always find more ways to develop professionally and personally. This ability is an absolute game changer!
5. Utilize Social Media and ENGAGE with Your Network!
Young professionals in the insurance industry have a unique opportunity when it comes to social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. These tools can be used to create personal brands, share achievements, and network with clients and colleagues. The trick to leveraging this resource is simple – engagement.
Engagement is the practice of actually communicating and interacting with posts and content on social media sites. This means hitting the “like” button, leaving comments, sharing articles, and posting one’s own created content, as opposed to just “scrolling.” Simply having pages on social media sites is not enough these days when faced with complex algorithms that filter out content and users that do not frequently engage with the site, which can make it impossible for others even to know that one has a social media presence.
Long story short, don’t be the coding equivalent of a wallflower on social media sites – that’s even less productive than being one at your first middle school dance.
Starting off a career in the insurance industry can undoubtedly be tough sometimes. Sure – there’s plenty of information available through education, articles, and colleagues offering guidance. Even Google is there to help. Regardless, there are always going to be roadblocks and bumps in the road when taking on a career in this industry. I will let you in on a secret though…
Those bumps in the road will become a valuable experience. The failures that occur along the way become lessons learned and opportunities for success. Those successes inherently become momentum, and sooner than later you’ll find yourself a couple of short years into your career looking back on those times with gratitude, because all of those moments led you precisely to right where you are now – charging forward into the roles that were once filled with the industry professionals who came before us. There’s no doubt in mind that you’ll make them proud.