Tag Archives: careers

Happy Labor Day

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It’s Labor Day weekend which marks the official end of summer for most students and workers.  Vacation season is pretty much over as students return to school and workers begin to re-focus on work routines that have typically been somewhat disrupted by the distractions of warm summer months and the vacations taken both by themselves and co-workers.  For those of us in the upper Midwest, having experienced one of the coldest and snowiest winters in several years just a few months ago, we bid summer farewell with considerable trepidation of what the months ahead hold for us.

Nevertheless, this Labor Day weekend is our opportunity to enjoy one final extended weekend of warm weather, outdoor fun, and of course the celebration of the contributions of labor.  It is in the spirit of Labor Day that I would like to highlight the many types of career opportunities afforded by the risk and insurance industry.  Many people view insurance employment in just one dimension – the insurance salesperson.  That seems patently unfair since virtually every industry includes a sales component, and yet people don’t identify these other industries solely by their sales component.  For example, if someone says that they work in the automotive industry, it could be manufacturing, marketing, finance, design, or any number of careers other than automotive sales. Automotive industry careers do not automatically conjure “salesperson” as the default occupation, but insurance does.  Let’s face it, automotive salespersons (especially used cars) have had some public relations challenges as much as insurance sales, so why is the insurance industry occupational perception so biased towards sales?

Don’t misunderstand – the sales function is necessary in the insurance industry, just as it is necessary in any industry.  Without sales of the product, nothing else matters.  It requires talented people to perform this function.  My point is that there is so much more to the insurance industry than sales, contrary to public perceptions.  So on this Labor Day weekend, if you’re curious about other types of labor that comprise the insurance industry, please take a moment to explore the Gamma Iota Sigma Career Resources page.  There is a treasure trove of career information there, and it may just broaden your perception of all that a laborer can do in the insurance industry.

Have a happy and safe Labor Day!

Developing New Insurance Talent

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A few weeks ago I wrote about and highlighted MIFuture.org and its efforts to develop young insurance talent for the Michigan (and beyond) insurance industry.  Now I would like to highlight another organization that has a nationwide reach and a plethora of resources for both students and educators.  INVEST has a forty-year history of advancing the education and development of talent for the insurance industry.

I strive to convince young people that the risk management and insurance industry is a viable career option that is not as staid and boring as some think it is.  In fact, it is one of the most stable industries going, and offers a wide variety of career options.  The stability of the industry is illustrated by my first employer straight out of college many years ago: I worked for CIGNA Property & Casualty which at that time included a subsidiary known as the Insurance Company of North America, which happens to be the oldest U.S. stock insurance company tracing its founding back to 1792.  Insurance is an industry that is here to stay and its employment opportunities are not as susceptible to the economic winds as are many other industries.

With that in mind, young students who care to explore the industry should peruse a few of INVEST’s resources that are specifically geared towards those interested in learning more.  I highly recommend INVEST’s LearnInsurance.org website.  Students can explore the different insurance career options and find where their interests may best fit.  They may also learn some insurance fundamentals and find scholarship opportunities.

For those already in the industry, or in education positions devoted to teaching insurance content, the INVEST website offers many great resources as well.  I encourage you to check it out, and support this organization.

One graduate’s perspective

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Happy Independence Day!  This holiday is a celebration of the birth of our nation with the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.  However, this morning I am thinking of “independence” in more general terms.  I am thinking about the journey to independence taken by many young college students as they complete their degrees.  It’s a time of much personal and cognitive growth as they pursue knowledge and social growth working towards a chosen career path.  I’ve seen this growth and journey toward independence in my students and in my own daughters.

Recent Ferris State graduate Ethan Henderson discovered that he had a passion for the risk management and insurance industry while attending Ferris State.  Ethan has now begun his insurance career and he shared the following words about his Ferris experience:

Ferris State University is the reason I am graduating college with a job doing what I want to do. To further explain, I need to talk about the recently reinstated risk management and insurance degree at Ferris. I made the switch from Finance to Insurance after my sophomore year at Ferris, mainly because I did not want a typical desk job, preferring something more interactive and social instead. I liked the idea of math and risk assessment, but wanted to tie that in with marketing and personal selling. The program was like nothing else I had learned up to that point.  As soon as I started in the assigned curriculum, it was obvious that the material was very specific. With courses ranging from the specifics of property and casualty insurance, all the way to the broader business management and law type courses.

About two months along in the insurance program an opportunity for an insurance internship with State Farm in Big Rapids came across my email from my advisor. I immediately responded, was interviewed, and hired within two weeks. Through the internship I was able to receive my producer’s license in property, casualty, life, accident, and health, as well as become bank certified. Without a doubt I could not have passed any of those exams without the current curriculum and information I was learning in my insurance courses at Ferris.

The internship turned into a part time sales job that I held for the rest of my time at Ferris State. In December of my senior year, I began to apply all around the country for a commercial underwriting position, post-graduation. Deciding that I wanted to start my career in underwriting was something that I had decided upon learning about the job in my insurance courses, and wanting to get out of sales, at least for a while.  I had multiple phone interviews, and ended up getting to the last in person interview for two different companies by February of my senior year. I drove down to Cincinnati, as well as Farmington Hills, Michigan to interview. Within three weeks I was called back and offered a commercial underwriting position at both companies! So not only was I still two months away from graduation, but I had two amazing job offers to choose from. Both companies stressed the appeal of my Insurance degree from Ferris, as well as the internship that I was set up with through the program. I ended up taking the commercial underwriting job for the Farmington Hills company, and they have located me in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  I could not be happier with the education and opportunities this University and the risk management and insurance degree have provided me.

Insurance needs young talent

The insurance industry is getting old.  My apologies to many of my generational colleagues in the industry, but it’s an undeniable truth – many of us working in the insurance industry are closer to retirement than we care to admit.  While a large portion of the insurance industry workforce begins to dream of year-round golf, traveling, and pina coladas, leaders must first pave the way for new workers to fill the gaping talent hole that the baby boomer insurance generation will leave behind.  

According to one report, the industry will have 400,000 positions to fill by the year 2020.  That’s a pretty tall order which is made all the more challenging when the industry is also faced with some stigmas in the minds of young people who are considering both academic and career options.  When I talk to young people about the insurance industry as a career option, the most common initial reaction is some variant of, “I’m not interested in selling insurance.”  The challenge that must be overcome, if the industry hopes to attract sufficient young talent, is communicating the variety, stability, rigor, and reward of an insurance career. 

Over the coming weeks and months, I will write about some specific insurance career options that young people should give serious consideration.  For now, let me close with this:  I recently had the pleasure of talking with a principal of a very successful independent insurance agency in southeastern Michigan.  We talked about this very issue as he related the fact that there are probably one-fourth of the independent insurance agents who are now (or soon should be) giving serious consideration to succession plans.  He said that they need to do a much better job of communicating the opportunity for challenge, reward, and perhaps business ownership to young people.  We covered quite a bit of territory in our 90 minute conversation, but this was the most striking part of the conversation for me.  The career opportunity is significant, and insurance is so much more than just “peddling policies.”  That is a reality that I will revisit in the coming months, as I attempt to do my part to vividly communicate the scope of insurance career opportunities and get past the stereotypes and stigmas.