Tag Archives: career

4 Keys to Charting Your Career

If you just landed your first job in the insurance business, chances are that you’re focused on that new position, not necessarily on what comes next in your career. You’re probably plenty busy doing what’s necessary right now—learning the new job, adjusting to a new company culture and hustling to prove yourself. You’re giving 100% to succeeding in your new role.

That’s smart, especially considering that most new hires have less than two weeks to prove themselves on the job, according to new research from Fullbridge and Harris Poll. One in four executives say that employers take only two weeks to decide whether an entry-level new hire will be successful. Other executives say that it will take longer, but all agreed that it takes less than three months. With stats like that, it makes sense that long-term career goals take a back seat to making a great first impression.

But while you’re settling into the rhythm of your new gig, you should make time to outline a basic road map for the rest of your career. As your early career moves away from entry-level positions and into more specialized roles with more responsibility, giving some thought to your future goals and plans can have a huge impact on your overall career trajectory.

See also: The Many Paths to a Career in Risk

There’s plenty of traditional advice available for people early in their career. A lot of that information is good, but there’s also more current insight applicable to young professionals. Here’s our breakdown of four ways to chart a course early in your career and figure out what makes you happiest on the job.

1. Don’t job hop—department hop

Young professionals today have a reputation for switching jobs a lot more often than previous generations do. Recent research shows that this characterization is largely unearned. Young people tend to switch jobs more often than older workers, but millennials aren’t switching at a higher rate than young adults of past generations did.

Changing jobs early in your career has its benefits, including a chance to earn more money and exposing yourself to more aspects of the industry. But there are downsides, too. Switching jobs is hard work, and some of it may be unrelated to learning the insurance business. You’ll need to learn to adapt to a new company culture. You may need to relocate. You may have to build your network of work friends and go-to leaders all over again. In short, you’re almost starting from scratch each time you switch organizations.

Many young professionals have found a happy medium in department hopping. With the right organization, young insurance pros can gain hands-on experience in a variety of insurance disciplines through shorter stints in different departments. This gives you an opportunity to talk to different managers about salary ranges and your career priorities, and you can learn more about the industry without starting over at a new organization. If you’re interested in switching departments, take a look at Lifehacker’s advice for having that conversation with your boss.

2. Don’t find just a mentor—find a sponsor

There’s no doubt that finding a mentor early in your career is extremely important. Many of the insurance professionals profiled on The Community cite finding a mentor as one of the most essential components of their early-career success. Mentors play a key role in career growth, but the Harvard Business Review argues that there’s another supporter you need in your corner: a sponsor.
While mentors take a comprehensive look at your career (and often your personal life), a sponsor is someone within your current organization who can act as your advocate. It should be an executive or another leader who offers career guidance “by making important introductions to senior leaders, expanding the perception of what you can offer the organization and offering powerful backing to help you soar and protection when you stumble,” according to author Sylvia Ann Hewlett.

3. Don’t just network—learn more about the industry

So much of the focus on early career development is on networking. Make no mistake—growing your professional network is important. But for young professionals, pure networking events like happy hours and meet-ups aren’t the most efficient way to meet other insurance pros and find new opportunities.

Early in your career, there are plenty of ways to learn about the industry that also offer networking as a key secondary benefit. Look into industry designations. (AINS is a great way to get a comprehensive look at the insurance industry to figure out which elements of the business interest you most.) Or you can register for an industry conference and bring a stack of business cards. You also have a much better chance of getting your employer to chip in for these kinds of experiences.

As you work to gain greater industry insight and expertise, forging relationships with other soon-to-be designees or conference participants will come naturally. And those relationships will be rooted in the pursuit of industry knowledge and career interests rather than personal ambition and cocktail-party chatter.

See also: Work/Life Balance … Your Tightrope to a Rewarding Career  

4. Don’t just think about goals—write them down

One last small piece of advice for charting your career: once you determine some concrete goals, write them down. Recent research from Dominican University of California found that individuals who write down their goals and share them with others are far more likely to achieve them than people who didn’t write them down or tell others about them.

Writing down your goals and sharing them—perhaps with your sponsor or growing professional network—go a long way toward making you accountable for achieving them. As you advance in your career and take advantage of new opportunities in a quickly changing industry, make sure to refer to your written goals and update them regularly.

Have you found success charting your career goals? Let us hear your best tip in the comments section below.

The World Owes Me Nothing

I am fortunate to live amid incredibly smart, driven, hard-working people who care about making an impact. Sometimes, some of them trust me enough to come to me for business and career advice.

Before every such meeting, I try hard to set aside my beliefs and biases and just listen. For me, it takes genuine effort to actually listen and remember that listening to someone isn’t really the same thing as just waiting to talk. I do my best not to make someone clearly in pain feel good with the formulaic “10 steps to happiness” psychobabble.

The problem usually starts with a clear symptom : “I hate my boss,” “I don’t have faith in my CEO,” “I deserve more equity,” “I need a bigger title,” etc. Having been in their shoes as an employee, a manager, a CEO, I’ve dealt with many of these feelings myself, so I can often relate to where people are coming from. I suppose that’s the real value of talking to someone—it helps separate problems from symptoms, and knowing the problem is half the solution.

A lot of times, what I discover in these conversations—once we talk through what’s going on and dig deeper into the situation—is that these surface emotions are just really reflections of the real problem, which is larger, more corrosive and harder to admit.

Entitlement.

The problem is we all feel entitled to something. Entitlement is a subtle and implicit belief that we deserve things, that the world owes us something.

The truth, something we all know, is that the world owes us nothing. However, it is hard to remember that at the right time, when you are feeling entitled.

I am not suggesting that having expectations, desires and sometimes taking things for granted is unnatural or even bad. I am saying that if you stop for a minute and zoom out, you’ll start to realize that a lot of your pain goes away if you stop feeling entitled and that dealing with the reality of your situation becomes a heck of a lot easier.

So the next time you are feeling upset about something, try it . Zoom out and tell yourself, “The world owes me nothing,” and see what happens.

When I do it mindfully, I can tell you I feel a sudden emptiness, followed by a delightful lightness. Sure, it may only last for a minute, but that little lull puts things in perspective, replacing the heaviness of “I deserve better” with “I am grateful for what I have. There will always be more I want. It will never be enough, but it will all be OK.”

Try this for a week: Every morning, tell yourself , “The world owes me nothing.” See if it subconsciously affects your thoughts, alters your tone and orchestrates your actions throughout the day. Note how that sets you up for a simple but powerful call of duty, to be useful to people around you—your family, friends, co-workers, customers, investors, neighbors, strangers, everyone! Be grateful for the many, many things you have.

We begin life with a cry. In the end, the only thing that matters is how many people cry when we die. Or maybe that, too, is an entitlement.

Originally published on Medium

Feeling Like a Keystone Cop

I’m beginning to feel like a Keystone Cop. You know the one; he’s the guy hanging on the back of the police car for dear life as the car speeds around the corner in hot pursuit of something.

Let me explain: For most of my professional career I have worked in the insurance industry, and I’ve diligently tried to keep hold of my personal steering wheel, directing my career toward what I thought might be the right way forward. Along the way, I’ve tried to keep on top of industry developments, people changes and company news.

But all of a sudden it’s beginning to feel harder. I can confidently say that I don’t think it’s just me. It seems that there’s a lot happening at the moment, and it’s happening more quickly than ever before. I’ve just got my head around advanced analytics; now I need to think about cognitive analytics. When I’ve sorted that one out, I will need to figure out “block chain” — then “sidechain.” By then, well, something else is bound to have come along.

So I’m hanging on like the guy on the back of the Keystone police car. From time to time, I try to convince myself that all of this change is founded on the basic principles of insurance, but I sense that the “rules” of insurance are also being reinvented. Is that a good thing, in an industry that is relatively unchanged for at least three hundred years? Perhaps it’s essential?

The danger – if there is a “danger” – is that we run the risk of technologically driven change with disregard to the basic foundations of the industry. Insurance as we know it now, with all its flaws and frustrations, remains as a critical part of society and commerce because we stand on the shoulders of giants. Technology is the great enabler of change, but should it be allowed to displace or threaten the basic tenets of our business – indemnity, utmost good faith and the rest? If we remove these, don’t we have something completely different than insurance as we know it?

From a professional point of view, change brings additional challenges. We all work hard to keep ourselves updated and, as a result, to remain relevant. But isn’t the speed of change making this harder? Mark Twain once said, “The only people who like change are wet babies.” Some of us are perhaps a little more tolerant of doing things differently — it’s in our personal DNA. If as individuals we are prepared to promote change, then we need as individuals to take our own medicine, whatever the consequences.

Continuous professional development has become more essential than ever before. Our ability to promote change, evangelize and manage change remains dependent on our personal ability to cope, and are critical success factors in our ability to remain professionally relevant.

It may feel uncomfortable hanging on to the back of the proverbial Keystone Cops car — but isn’t it better than being left behind?