Gone are the days of insurers offering multi-line and multi-divisional training to their new staff.
People entering the workforce today will start their careers with an insurance carrier or brokerage firm within one of the many insurance industry disciplines. They will only be trained to handle one line of business, whether that be property, general liability, work-comp, commercial auto, professional liability/management liability, etc.
This concept of working one line of business used to be part of an old adage, “Become so niched and specialized in one industry and you will never be without a job.”
While this concept is accurate, there is just one problem with this thought process. You will become an expert in underwriting property insurance or selling cyber E&O coverage for example, but you inevitably will become bored within the field you have become specialized.
I speak with insurance professionals across all spectrums of the industry, from claims to underwriting to risk management, and there is one ensuing trend I see for those that have been in the industry more than five years: they are ready for a change and want to learn a new line of business but can’t find a way to make the switch. They face the same response(s), over and over, from other carriers or brokerage firms.
It usually goes something like this, “We’re unable to hire you, we’re not looking to train a property underwriter on professional liability coverage,” basically saying, “You’re a property underwriter and that is all you will ever be.”
So how can you escape this trend and make a career transition while keeping your love for insurance alive?
1) Reverse Engineer Your Career. If you are new to the industry or even 10 years in, try to envision where you want to be in 10, 20, 30 years and work your way back. Think of the steps that will need to be taken to get you there and begin to implement them one day at a time. This by no means is a quick and easy process. It will take time, it will take a lot of networking and it will take a lot of hard work to get to where you want to be.
2) Prioritize Ongoing Education and Certification. Continue to educate yourself as you progress through your insurance career. If you are in claims, but want to become an underwriter, you should consider getting your CPCU designation. If you are an underwriter and want to make the move over to claims then consider getting your AIC designation.
Maybe it’s not necessarily wanting to make a switch from claims to underwriting, but maybe you would rather join the growing trend of cyber insurance, but you have only handled professional liability business for lawyers or accountants. In this scenario you could work on getting your Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP) designation to help make you stand out and gain a better understanding of the cyber insurance space.
Designations will ultimately help you stand out from the competition and show hiring authorities you are serious about making a switch. If a designation is something you are seriously considering, but feel you can’t afford to take the necessary classes, speak with your manager. Most carriers and agencies will pay for or reimburse you, since they know achieving these designations will be mutually beneficial.
3) Network, Network, Network. The insurance industry is very small and you will make a plethora of connections over the years to come. You need to utilize those connections to your advantage. High level claims people tend to work with underwriters to explain the claims process to the insureds or brokers with whom they partner and answer any questions they may have about policy language. Underwriters visit brokers to solicit new business and familiarize them with their company.
If you want to make a switch, for example, to product development at some point in your career, make sure that you look for opportunities to sit on future committees that allow you to make connections with people in product development. As you have all heard before, “It’s not necessarily what you know, but who you know.”
4) Partner with a search consultant. When searching for new opportunities, speak to a recruiter that specializes in the industry. The recruiter will be able to offer advice as to how you could parlay your background into a new field or product line. A recruiter’s job is to network with as many industry professionals as possible, which allows him/her to learn about many unadvertised opportunities. A recruiter may also be able to “sell” your background and experience to a hiring manager, and the reasons why you are looking to transition, whereas just sending a resume will not have the same impact.
5) Attack Social Media. As you continue to grow in your profession, make sure you are staying involved through social media. Many successful people in the insurance industry provide insight into different trends and topics. Continue to plug yourself into conversations with people that work in the area of business you are looking to become a part of.
If you’ve started your career in a claims adjuster position, but want to become an underwriter, then make sure you are following underwriters and reading articles they share. If you are an underwriter, and want to become a broker, then follow more brokers to learn about that side of the business.
Social media should not just be used as an educational tool to read articles that are shared; you should make social media a form of conversation with industry peers. Like, share and provide your own thoughts on social media content. If you do not understand something that was said in an article, comment on the post and ask.
Another way to leverage social media is to use it to promote your personal brand. One way to do this is to publish articles that demonstrate your knowledge in a certain line of business. Now, obviously, if this is a route you intend to pursue, make sure that you develop an article that is backed heavily by research. Writing articles just for the purpose of putting out content without ensuring your thoughts are backed by research will ultimately show you as unprofessional and hurt you in your attempt to transition to that line of business.
Feeling lost and pigeon-holed is something we all go through in our careers. What you do before and during those times of feeling lost will show your true strength and resilience. The ability to push through and make the changes you want to see ultimately lies with you. Following and implementing some or all of these tips can help set you on the right path toward reaching your future career aspirations.
About the Author
Bryan Jackson is an account manager with Polikov Recruitment Solutions, specializing in the commercial P&C and professional lines industry. Jackson works to help individuals navigate the hiring process and connect companies with top industry talent that are looking to make an impact.