Here’s How to Start Your Career in Insurance

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On February 23rd, we hosted an Office Hours with Career Connections to chat about how students and new grads can start their career in Insurance!

Check out our conversation below!

TalentEgg
Hey Students and New Grads! Welcome to our Office Hours with Career Connections! My name is Akemi and I’ll be moderating our chat today.

TalentEgg
And now without further ado, I’d like to welcome our guest expert from Career Connections!

Trevor, Manager of Career Connections
Hi – I am Trevor, the Manager, Career Connections at the Insurance Institute of Canada. I am excited to be a part of today’s discussion and answer your questions about what a career in the insurance industry might look like for you! I think you’ll find that no matter your interests, education, or experience you can find your place in this vital and stable industry.

TalentEgg
Thank you so much! Here’s our first question.

Ken, a Business Insurance student at Seneca College asks:
“What is the career trajectory of an underwriter in the Insurance industry?”

Trevor, Manager of Career Connections
Thanks for the question, Ken. I can safely say that no two insurance career paths are exactly alike. In fact, rather than being linear trajectories, they are most often squiggly lines that depict the interests, career motivators, and successes of those working in the industry. Essentially, insurance professionals have the opportunity to steer their career in the direction they ultimately want to go. That being said… for someone who is clear on their intent to work in underwriting, you might get your start as an underwriting assistant or junior underwriter. There are also underwriter trainee programs offered by some insurance companies which are targeted to recent grads. From there, with insurance education (i.e. your Chartered Insurance Professional (CIP) designation) that you complete with the support of your employer while working, experience, and leveraging of your interests you can advance your career. Whether that be into a particular area of specialization (e.g. commercial or business insurance, marine, personal, farm… or something even like sports or entertainment), taking the next step to an intermediate or senior position, or working in another area of the business (e.g. risk management or business development), you have a lot of opportunities as an underwriter. Some may also eventually move into people management or become subject matter experts that other underwriters or industry professionals might draw on to help them in their work or special projects within the company they work for. Hope that helps!

Alberto, a Mathematics student at UOIT asks:
“Other than statistics and data science, how can I apply my academic background in mathematics in the Insurance industry?”

Trevor, Manager of Career Connections
Thanks Alberto! It’s interesting that while we often think first of data analytics and statistics when we think of applying a math background in the insurance industry, there are also a number of other ways to put your degree into practice. I would suggest that you have honed some great analytical, problem solving, and critical thinking skills as a part of your math studies. These are highly applicable in areas of the industry like underwriting and risk management. And… if you like people and strategy… you might even find application for some of your logic and forward thinking skills in something like being a broker.

Ajmer, an Insurance student at Seneca College asks:
“How can I connect with professionals in the Insurance industry?”

Trevor, Manager of Career Connections
Ajmer, there are a number of ways that you can connect to industry professionals.

First, you might consider attending an industry event or seminar through organizations like the Insurance Institute, Young Insurance Professionals of Toronto (YIPT), Young Brokers Council, Ontario Insurance Adjusters Association, etc. These can be great ways to meet and engage industry professionals in either a social or professional learning setting.

You could also consider leveraging your LinkedIn Profile to make connections with those who are in the industry. Remember, you want to be purposeful in your request – perhaps they are also a graduate of your program or attended the same school? Perhaps they specialize in an area of insurance you are interested in? Or, they spoke at an industry event or shared content you found informative, etc.? This helps you in fostering a genuine connection and having sound starting point for your conversation.

Also, keep an eye out for opportunities to engage industry employers on campus. Career Connections hosts a number of panels, networking events, and career fairs across the country. Your school may also host career events where industry professionals will be in attendance. Be sure to take advantage of these opportunities to build your insurance network.

To help you make the most of your insurance networking, check out our tips at www.career-connections.info and some of the great content we have contributed to on TalentEgg.

Stuart, a Political Science student at the University of Victoria asks:
“What is the best way to get your foot-in-the-door when looking for your first job in the Insurance industry? Is it a good idea to cold call an employer?”

Trevor, Manager of Career Connections
Stuart, thanks for your question. Networking, research, and genuine curiosity can go a long way when you are trying to get your foot in the door in the insurance sector.

Networking – there are lots of ways to engage industry professionals. Whether it be at industry events or in professional learning, on-line, or on campus. Career Connections has a full list of professional associations (e.g. Canadian Independent Insurance Adjusters Association, Insurance Broker’s Association of Canada, etc.), links to the Insurance Institutes and Chapters across Canada, and even some great networking tips to help you get started – www.career-connections.info. Also, make use of tools like LinkedIn or Twitter and keep your eye out for insurance employers on your campus. You may even want to connect with your Career Centre to see if there are alumni working in insurance that you might be able to speak to.

Research – spend some time getting to know insurance companies and the positions they have available. The Career Connections jobsite – www.career-connections.info has a list with links to 150 insurance employers to kick start your research. The more you know about a company and its culture, the easier it is for you to determine if they have openings and are ultimately a fit for where you want to go in your insurance career.

Genuine Curiosity – When you have the opportunity to engage professionals, be sure to come prepared with questions that allow you to get a better sense of what it will look and feel like to engage in the industry. For example, ask them to describe their role and what success looks like for them. Or, to talk about the emerging trends in the industry and how that might impact the way their company does business. Or, what they like most about working in the insurance sector. You’ll likely find that industry professionals like to share their experiences and insights. This approach will help you in determining what area of insurance might be the best fit for you, and ultimately help you in aligning answers to interviewers questions based on what you already know to be true about the industry.

Gunveet, a MBA student at Thompson Rivers University asks:
“What types of management opportunities are available in the Insurance industry?”

Trevor, Manager of Career Connections
Gunveet – thanks for your question! Each area of insurance requires both people and technical managers/subject matter experts to help lead and provide support to their respective functions. Essentially, there are quire a few management opportunities available in the sector. In fact, 40% of managers currently working in the sector are expected to retire in the next 5 – 10 years. So, there is a need for people with this capacity. Find the area of the business that is of interest to you… demonstrate your skills and capacity… and then, think about how you might be able to contribute to the leadership of that function from both a people or a technical expert perspective.

Parul, a Management student at McGill University asks:
“What kinds of opportunities for career growth does the Insurance industry offer to young graduates?”

Trevor, Manager of Career Connections
On the whole, the insurance industry offers an above average opportunity for advancement and a rewarding career in a vital and stable sector. It is also important to recognize that employers are most often prepared to invest significantly in your insurance education, training, and setting you up for career success. This can come in covering the costs of your insurance designations, professional memberships, offering financial incentives for completing insurance education, etc.

Many companies are also starting to think about unique programs that can support new grads in their career development – these might be trainee programs or rotational programs. There may even be an opportunity for accelerated development or leadership associated with these initiatives. Look for early career or new grad opportunities on our job site – www.career-connections.info and each of the company websites that you might be interested in.

Insurance offers a world of possibilities for you in your career – and, you have a great deal of influence and opportunity to contribute to your career success. Being excellent in what you do, striving to continue to learn and grow, being realistic about what might be next for you in your insurance career and demonstrating a commitment to professionalism will also go a long way in opening doors and opportunities.

Sophie, a student at the University of Alberta asks:
“What types of technical skills do you need to become an underwriter in the Insurance industry?”

Trevor, Manager of Career Connections
Underwriting at its core is about analysis, relationship management, and sound decision making. You are deciding whether or not the risk being presented by an agent or a broker is one that your company can reasonably take on and need to determine the premium an individual or business must pay to receive the appropriate level of coverage.

This requires critical thinking, good communications skills, creativity, a focus on customer service, open mindedness, curiosity, tactfulness, and problem solving skills. Negotiation skills, creativity, and adaptability will also prove an asset.

Freddie, a Commerce student at Dalhousie University asks:
“What does a career in Insurance look like?”

Trevor, Manager of Career Connections
Freddie, a career in insurance can take on many forms. No two look the same! Whether you like people, analysis, problem solving, presentations, data and numbers, or providing guidance to others, there are a number of different and rewarding options available to you.

To learn more, I’d suggest visiting the Career Connections website – www.career-connections.info and taking our quiz which will give you a couple of potential starting points to explore based on your interests and experiences to date.

You can also take a look at how you can leverage your education, interests, and experience in the industry, check out full career profiles (including salary information and future outlook), hear directly from industry professionals in our videos, and take a look at potential positions on the job site. Hope this all helps in giving you a sense of what your insurance career could look like…

Maria, an Environmental Science student at Western University asks:
“How can I make my cover letter stand out among other applications?”

Trevor, Manager of Career Connections
Maria, you are correct in that the cover letter is one way that you can stand out from other applications to a role in the insurance industry! I’d invite you to consider the cover letter and resume from the perspective of the employer… which is, that they have a need. If you frame your application from how you meet the employer’s need with the skills, experience, and education you bring to the table, you essentially position yourself as the ideal candidate for the role. This is a great place to be!

Mariya, a Business and Commerce graduate from Niagara College asks:
“What kinds of opportunities are there for new grads in the Insurance industry?”

Trevor, Manager of Career Connections
Mariya – there are a lot of different opportunities for new grads in the insurance industry. In fact, Career Connections promotes 9 gateway roles in the industry ranging in everything from claims to actuarial to risk management to sales. Ultimately, your interests, education, and experience are going to drive you towards starting point. But from there, it is ultimately up to you to decide which opportunities make sense for your career.

You can learn more about these roles and explore which ones are a fit for what you are looking for on our website – www.career-connections.info. There is even a quiz that you can take to help you in a narrowing down which area of the industry might be right for you.

Keep in mind that some roles make up a greater segment of the industry’s workforce than others. For example, Brokers/Agents, Underwriters, and Claims Professionals represent the greatest number of industry professionals. So, you might find the greatest amount of opportunity in those areas of the business – that said, don’t rule out the other options… just be aware and perhaps even open to more than one possibility.

Some companies are also offering specific opportunities for early career professionals like trainee or rotational programs. These can be a great way to get a taste for the industry and even to accelerate your career development. You can learn more about what 150 of our industry partners might have available by visiting and linking to them via our job site.

Arvind, an International Accounting and Finance student at Seneca College asks:
“What can I do to strengthen my career prospects in Insurance as a student?”

Trevor, Manager of Career Connections
Arvind – that is a good question. I would say there are a couple of things:

1. Connect and network with industry wherever possible – this could be at events on campus, on-line, or even at industry functions. We have some great networking tips on our website – www.career-connections.info and in our articles on TalentEgg.
2. Learn as much about the industry as you can – read trade publications like CI Top Broker or Canadian Underwriter, attend topical seminars, and keep abreast of issues impacting insurance – e.g. climatic change, the sharing economy, autonomous vehicles, etc.
3. Determine which area of the industry is of most interest to you – you can take our quiz or explore on our website – www.career-connections.info – and, spend time learning about the industry employers who would need someone with your skills and experience.

Hope this is helpful in showcasing how you can take some steps now that will pay off in the long run in helping you connect to the industry!

Hiwot, a Business Insurance student at Seneca College asks:
“How can I best represent my international experience in the Insurance industry on my job application?”

Trevor, Manager of Career Connections
Hiwot – First, it is important to recognize that insurance is a global industry. So, there is definitely a place for and appreciation for perspectives from other countries and a wide array of experience profiles.

You may even find that you have a leg up on many of your peers as you already have experience in the insurance industry.

The best way you can represent this experience is to present it honestly and effectively on your resume – we have some great tips for resumes on our site – www.career-connections.info and in some of our articles on TalentEgg.

You will also want to do your best to understand how your experience equates or might translate to the Canadian insurance marketplace. Ideally, conversations with industry professionals, your professors, etc. would help with this. It will also be important for you to be able to use terms and position your experience in ways that recruiters and hiring managers will be able to easily understand and make connections to the role that they are hiring for.

Donald, a Business Administration student at Red River College asks:
“How has technology changed the Insurance industry?”

Trevor, Manager of Career Connections
Donald, as I am sure you can appreciate, technology has impacted the insurance sector in a number of ways over the course of our 500 year history. From the types of risks, the equipment we use, the way we do business with our customers and each other… it is all impacted by technology! Today, technology is playing a particular role in shaping the way customers access insurance products and services, file a claim, etc. It is also impacting the way we analyze and manage risk effectively. Think big data. It also is impacting the types of risks we are seeing… Uber, Air BnB, Drones, Cyber Security, Autonomous Vehicles …what have you. So you can see that technology is impacting the industry in a number of ways and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future!

Linda, a Business Management student at Ryerson University asks:
“What does success look like for graduates working in the Insurance industry?”

Trevor, Manager of Career Connections
This may sound hokey Linda, but success is defined by you and the satisfaction you derive from the work you do in the industry. Whether you are motivated by the opportunity for personal growth, being a part of a team, leadership potential, or even a sense of being socially responsible, you can find your own version of success in insurance.

I’d invite you to spend some time thinking about what you value and the kinds of rewards you would like to experience over the course of your career. From there, you can start to understand how you define success and what that looks like for you.

Ultimately, you can then hold that definition up against opportunities that you are presented with in insurance and which ones might be the best to help you get where you want to go.

To help you get a sense of the range of what success can look like in the insurance sector, I’d invite you to have a read of some of the Day in a Life profiles that we have featured here on TalentEgg. These are real professionals sharing their insights and experiences.

Chiamaka, a student at the University of Manitoba asks:
“Are there internships and co-op positions available for students in the Insurance industry?”

Trevor, Manager of Career Connections
The short answer Chiamaka, is yes. There are some companies that offer internship, summer, and co-operative education positions. I would invite you to connect with your career or co-operative education office to get a sense of the insurance companies they may already be working with in this regard. As well, you can do some exploration of companies that you might like to approach about these kinds of opportunities on our job site – www.career-connections.info. There are links to over 150 insurance organizations. Some will have dedicated sections for students or early career professionals to explore these types of opportunities. Others, may not have a formal program, but you might even want to consider approaching to see if they might be interested in hiring a co-op or intern if it seems like a particularly good fit for the type of company you would like to work for.

Ashley, a Human Resources Management student at George Brown College asks:
“Where can I find entry-level job openings in the Insurance industry?”

Trevor, Manager of Career Connections
Ashley, you can find entry level opportunities on our job site, on TalentEgg.ca, and on company websites themselves. You can find a list of over 150 insurance organizations on the Career Connections job site and get connected.

Also, you might find it useful to take a look at your school’s career centre site. There may also be postings there that are specific for your school or even your program. I’d also check in with the staff to see if they have a sense of alumni who might be working in insurance and if they might be able to help you in connecting with them to learn more about the industry and how they found their first position after graduation.

Brett, a Commerce student at the University of Victoria asks:
“How can I optimize my job application and best prepare for the interview when applying for jobs in the Insurance industry?”

Trevor, Manager of Career Connections
Brett, thanks for your question! Optimizing your job application is actually all about positioning your skills and experience in a way that showcases how you can meet the needs of a potential employer. If it is all over the place or if too much is left to the employer’s imagination (i.e. you didn’t connect the dots for them), it might get screened out even if you have a great deal to offer!

I’d suggest making use of the Career Connections resume tips and tools available at www.career-connections.info and reading some of our feature articles on TalentEgg for even more suggestions on putting your best foot forward.

When it comes to the interview, research (learning as much about the role and the company as you can), preparation (mock interviews or practicing interview questions), and honestly, being yourself, are the keys to success. You can learn more about Career Connections thoughts on how to ace an interview in the insurance industry in our featured content on TalentEgg.ca.

Alexander, a Business Technology Management student at Ryerson University asks:
“How do Insurance industries stay competitive and innovative in an age of disruptors like Blockchain? What are some new roles we may see in the future?”

Trevor, Manager of Career Connections
Alexander, many thanks for this question.

Insurance has a 500 year history. Over the course of that history, the industry has needed to adapt and shift to a number of new realities for individuals in society and in the way we do business. Change is now happening at an unprecedented rate and the industry needs to remain as adaptable and flexible as possible.

You are correct in that it will be important to stay abreast of these trends and at the forefront of the game changing issues impacting the world around us. The industry is looking at innovation labs, applications within FinTech, subject matter experts from other industries, and those with an aptitude for data science and analytics to help us navigate what might come next both in the ways that we manage risk from a business perspective, but also in the way we do business ourselves with our customers.

There are actually a few feature articles on TalentEgg.ca that talk about some of the emerging trends and issues in insurance – you might find some of them an interesting read and helpful in understanding how the industry is adapting to meet the needs of those we insure.

Ken, a Business Insurance student at Seneca College asks:
“Can you tell us more regarding the outlook of the Insurance industry?”

Trevor, Manager of Career Connections
Ken, in short… the future outlook for the insurance industry is bright! Even with the advent of new technologies, there is a clear need for talented, creative, and motivated people to join the industry. Our demographic research here at the Insurance Institute suggests that, here in Canada, as many as 25,000 professionals will be retiring in the next 5 – 10 years. This would indicate that there is not only possibility in the sector, but a high degree of probability in finding a rewarding career as well! Of course, where there is a higher volume of professionals – say, in brokering, underwriting, and claims – there is also a higher volume of opportunity. Hope that helps!

Ken, a Business Insurance student at Seneca College asks:
“Is the CIP recognized internationally, specifically in Hong Kong and or Holland? Can I use it to build my Insurance career in these places?”

Trevor, Manager of Career Connections
Ken – thanks for the question related to prospects and applicability of insurance designations like the Chartered Insurance Professional (CIP) in the global marketplace. Insurance is an industry that is everywhere and is truly global! In fact , many insurance companies have global parents or partner organizations working in other parts of the world. The CIP is also internationally recognized – that said, the degree to which it will earn you credit towards designations in other countries depends on the legislation, regulatory framework, and business operating norms that underpin the industry in that area of the world. The more similar it is to the industry here in Canada, the more credit you are likely to earn towards designations in other countries. That said, industry experience, knowledge, and expertise is portable and can be helpful in finding opportunities in other countries.

Jenna, a student asks:
“If I want to pursue a career in Marketing, are there roles like that in Insurance?”

Trevor, Manager of Career Connections
Jenna – yes, there are a few ways that you can take your interest in marketing and find a rewarding path in insurance. For example, business development or marketing representatives work to build awareness of a company’s insurance products and services amongst Brokers and Agents. There are also traditional marketing and communications roles – particularly, as Insurance organizations are highly active in the communities that they do business (sponsorship, etc.). And, of course, if you want to partner your interest in marketing with sales… you could look at being a Broker.

Oyefejo, a student asks:
“Do I need a specific certification in order to work as an underwriter in the Insurance industry?”

Trevor, Manager of Career Connections
Oyefejo – you do not require a specific certification to get started in your insurance career as an underwriter. Your post-secondary education and experience (even if it is not insurance specific) can be what you leverage to get connected to a role in the industry.

That being said, once you are in the industry, you will have the opportunity to complete training on-the-job and pursue insurance designations (e.g. the Chartered Insurance Professional designation) with the financial support of your employer to equip you with the technical knowledge and expertise you require to excel in your insurance career.

You can learn more about these designations and professional development opportunities on our site – www.career-connections.info in the Explore Careers => Insurance Education section. Hope that helps!

Trevell, a student asks:
“I hear that more creative applications that present skills through the uses of charts, graphs, and diagrams are becoming more and more commonplace – what is your personal opinion on using this type of format to present my work experience during the application process?”

Trevor, Manager of Career Connections
Trevell – Thanks for your question! I think you need to really consider the company you are applying to. For example, if they are more conservative in their approach, they might value a more traditional application. Whereas, a new start-up or digital firm, might want to see how you can break the traditional mould. So, doing your research is essential! On our job site, you can actually link to 150+ insurance companies – this can be a great starting point for learning more about the companies, their approach to business, etc.

Jess, a student asks:
“What kinds of opportunities are there for arts students?”

Trevor, Manager of Career Connections
Jess – thanks for that question! There are lots of ways that an Arts grad can find their place in insurance. The communication and critical thinking skills you have acquired might come in handy as an underwriter, for example. Or, your problem solving skills and ability to express empathy for others in a difficult circumstance might be helpful in a career in claims. Ultimately, it all depends on your interests and how you choose to apply that along with your skills and education. I would suggest taking a look at our site – www.career-connections.info and exploring ways that your arts degree can apply to a wide array of roles in the sector. I would also recommend taking our quiz – it can be helpful in narrowing down which area of the industry might be your starting point!

John, as a student asks:
“How mobile is the insurance industry? Can I move around to different countries easily, or am I fairly tied to Canada if I do my training here?”

Trevor, Manager of Career Connections
John – Great Question! The industry is definitely global and many companies in Canada have partners or parent companies located around the world. You would not be ‘tied’ to Canada as it were… but, may need to augment your acumen and expertise with an understanding of how insurance works in that country or to take an initial step back to learn the nuances before taking on a similar role to what you had in Canada. That being said, more and more companies are offering the opportunity to gain global experience through rotational programs or even secondments. So… yes, there is opportunity to take your insurance career global!

TalentEgg
We’re almost at the end of today’s Office Hours with Career Connections! Before we wrap things up – do you have a final piece of advice for students and new grads hoping to join the Insurance industry?

Trevor, Manager of Career Connections
In terms of advice, I would suggest that you keep an open mind about how you might apply your skills and experience in the insurance sector. There are a multitude of rewarding career paths out there. Be curious… attending a session like this is a great first step. I would encourage you to think about what your next one might be! Connecting with industry professionals on LinkedIN, attending an insurance event in your region, checking out which insurance companies are coming to campus or have hired alumni from your program in the past, etc. I think you will discover that there are a number of industry professionals who are willing to share their thoughts, insights, and expertise with you as you navigate towards a career in our sector. Finally, I’d also suggest spending some quality time with the Career Connections site. Here you can find a wealth of information that can help you explore further and ultimately find your place in insurance – whether it be through our quiz, career profiles, videos, or even the job site!

Trevor, Manager of Career Connections
A big thank you to TalentEgg for having us as a part of this egg-citing Office Hours chat! And, of course, our thank to all of you for submitting your questions and being a part of the conversation! It is great to see so many of you thinking about a career in insurance! I wish you all the best and please keep the conversation going with us on Facebook and Twitter. Check out our profile page here at TalentEgg (and, some really great content in the Insurance Career Guide)! And, of course, drop us a line with any other questions. We are happy to help where we can!

TalentEgg
Wonderful! And that’s it for today. Thank you so much to our guest expert from Career Connections for joining us and thank you to our audience for being a part of our Office Hours with Career Connections!

TalentEgg
Make sure to bookmark our Office Hours page to sign up for future live online Q & A sessions with Career Connections and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to get the latest updates on how to hatch an egg-citing career in Insurance!

Ready to learn more on how to build a career in Insurance? Go to the Career Connections website to begin!

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About the author

Akemi Liyanage Akemi Liyanage is a Content and Community Coordinator at TalentEgg. Helping millennials get on their feet and rise through the world as successful professionals is the reason she gets out of bed every morning. Tweet her your career questions, thoughts and ideas at @akemiliyanage.