A career in insurance is all about building relationships.
Whether you’re working with people to ensure they get the protection they need, helping existing customers and clients through difficult times, or collaborating with colleagues at work, strong relationships form the basis of every single interaction an insurance professional has.
Those connections can also help you get a job in the insurance industry. “Networking is a key gateway to finding opportunities in the insurance industry,” says Trevor Buttrum, Career Connections Program Manager at the Insurance Institute.
So where do you start? Trevor recommends that students and new grads attend industry events to learn more about careers in property and casualty insurance, connect with employers and established insurance professionals, and practice your networking skills.
Career Connections and the Insurance Institute hold various insurance-specific events throughout the year, including career fairs, professional development seminars, conferences, wine and cheese nights, and even curling bonspiels!
Many other provincial and regional insurance organizations, such as the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada (IBAC) and its provincial counterparts, the Canadian Independent Adjusters’ Association (CIAA) or the Toronto Insurance Women’s Association (TIWA), for example, also organize events you can attend, some of which are specifically for students.
Before you attend an insurance industry event
First thing’s first: follow the event protocol, making sure you register to attend ahead of time and submit payment if it’s required. “It’s really important not to just show up,” Trevor says.
If you can’t afford a pricey admission fee, contact the host organization to see if you can volunteer at the event instead. “As a volunteer, you’ll have the opportunity to connect with insurance professionals and stay on top of trends in the industry,” he says. Volunteering is also a great way for people to get to know you, your career interests and your work ethic.
Then, do some research. Find out what the event is about, who will be there and who your key points of contact should be. Student-specific seminars, career fairs and networking events should be your first stop, but you should get outside of your comfort zone and take advantage of other opportunities too.
Develop a game plan for networking
Don’t just wing it. Trevor recommends setting networking goals for yourself to ensure you get the most out of each insurance industry event you attend.
“It’s really important to determine how many conversations you want to have to feel like it was a success for yourself,” he says. “If you set a goal, then you’ll be able to reward yourself when you achieve that goal.”
- Speak with insurance professionals in three different types of jobs to learn more about career paths in the industry
- Have conversations with and get business cards from at least 10 people
You should also know what you’re going to say. You don’t need an “elevator pitch,” Trevor says, but you should be able to introduce yourself concisely and start a natural conversation.
It’s OK to start with just your name, but you should also be able to articulate who you are, what skills and education you have, what kind of career you’re interested in, and how the person you’re talking to can help you get there at any point in a conversation.
Insurance industry networking dos and don’ts
DON’T: Ask for an insurance job on the spot. “It’s always best to start by asking them to tell you about their organization or what they do,” Trevor says. “Demonstrating that curiosity will go a long way instead of flat out asking for something.”
DO: Stick to your game plan, but keep an open mind. “You absolutely want to make sure that you’re not turning down an opportunity or appearing too narrow in your focus,” he says. “If somebody is talking about something that is not your ideal path right now, ask a couple of questions and explore that a little bit – they may know someone who you will want to speak with.”
DON’T: Make it all about you. Ask people about themselves, their jobs in insurance, and what they think about what’s happening in the industry. “Insurance professionals get really excited to tell their stories and talk about their own careers. They like to be able to help if they can.”
DO: Bring your resume, but don’t expect to hand it out. Trevor says you should be prepared just in case the occasion arises, but your resume should probably stay hidden in a portfolio or in your bag.
DON’T: Interact only with other students. If you go with friends, split up and spend some time networking on your own. “If you’re always in a group of students, it makes it really difficult for people to approach you because they think you’re already engaged in dialogue,” says Trevor.
DO: Ask for people’s contact information and make a plan to follow up – if they seem into it. “Read the conversation and know that, if they hand you a business card, chances are you should follow up. You will know who the most appropriate people are to follow up with if you trust your gut,” Trevor says, adding that you should agree how you will follow up with each person as you wrap up your conversation with them.
How to follow up after each event
Networking isn’t a one-time thing. Each connection you make at an insurance industry event is just the starting point for a potentially long and fruitful professional relationship. To ensure they remember you, follow up with everyone within 24 hours. Remind them who you are, where they met you, what you discussed and what you’re looking for (again, it’s probably best not to ask for a job – start with a call or a cup of coffee instead).
To achieve the best results, says Trevor, be specific: “‘I was wondering if you might free Tuesday at 4 p.m. for a telephone call’ is very different from ‘Perhaps we could set up a call sometime’ – you’re giving them a timeframe and there’s a need for them to respond if you give a really specific call to action.”
Insurance is already part of everything you do.
Why not find your career in it? To learn more, visit www.career-connections.info.