As a student, it’s easy to connect with classmates and maintain close ties throughout your time at school as you attend classes, study, work on projects and socialize together on a daily basis.
After graduation, however, those connections can deteriorate as you find yourself spending most of your time with clients and colleagues in your office.
You may think it makes more sense to focus on your work than your network once you’ve landed your first job, but Michelle Jennings, Customer Relationship Manager at the Insurance Institute of Canada, says growing your professional network is a key aspect of your on-the-job development. “Interacting with other professionals in the industry gives you access to new opportunities to grow and strengthen your career.”
Your success as an insurance professional may very well depend on the knowledge and relationships you develop with other professionals like you, says David Elliot, President of the Young Brokers Council (YBC). “Staying connected with other professionals gives you a breadth of experiences and strengths which enables you to place risks and hopefully avoid any common mistakes,” he explains.
But if you’re a Broker, for example, you shouldn’t just befriend other Brokers. According to David, who also owns his own brokerage, it can be beneficial to interact with people in other roles as well, such as Underwriters, who work closely with Brokers to determine if the insurance company will insure a Broker’s client, and at what rate, premium and exclusions, etc. “Staying connected with company Underwriters assists in the prompt and most beneficial placement of business for your client.”
The bigger the network the better, according to Chelsea Smyth, a young Broker herself and Chair of the YBC board. “A network of peers and veterans in the industry provides the opportunity to share viewpoints and areas of expertise, discuss regulatory changes and marketplace fluctuations, keep up to date with events and seminars, and build relationships geared to an overall learning and growth experience,” she says. “The benefit to all involved increases as the network grows.”
So while job-specific professional associations like YBC and provincial Insurance Adjusters Association or Insurance Brokers Association of Canada (IBAC) chapters can be excellent sources for networking and professional development, it may be wise to pursue similar opportunities within organizations with a wider reach as well.
For example, you could join:
- one of the 10 Canadian chapters of the Risk Management Society (RIMS)
- Women In Insurance Cancer Crusade (WICC), an organization of both women and men dedicated to raising funds for cancer research and provide educational forums for the industry on how to support those affected by the disease
- Canadian Association of Insurance Women (CAIW) or one of its member chapters for women in Toronto, Montreal, Nova Scotia or Western Manitoba
- any number of local or cultural association, group, club or council for insurance professionals, such as the Insurance Professionals of Calgary or Hamilton District Insurance Association
Once you’re a member, the key is to get involved, says David.
“Simply joining the groups will not connect you to the industry – you must attend the networking events, and participate in the charity and social events in order to gain the industry connections,” he explains. Many of these groups have annual conferences and conventions, professional development seminars and workshops, social events, and even sports leagues and tournaments.
“If your local territory is not as active as you would like, suggest an event for them to run – it will enable you to be directly involved and I’m sure many others will benefit at the same time,” David suggests.
Michelle says industry magazines’ websites and LinkedIn are also great resources for upcoming events. “The Insurance Institute is constantly updating our website with local offerings,” she adds.
How to make the most of your new connections
According to Michelle, there are three ways to make the most of your new connections:
Keeping up-to-date on industry events and knowledge through continuing education helps in networking interactions.
It’s essential to make the first move in some situations. Approaching a group of people can seem daunting, but remember: everyone is there for the same purpose – to network. Always make sure to bring business cards!
3. Follow up
Collect other people’s business cards, and try to send a follow-up email within 24 hours. Even a quick note saying “it was nice to meet you” leaves a good impression. This provides you with an opportunity to build a lasting business relationship.
Insurance is already part of everything you do.
Why not find your career in it? To learn more, visit www.career-connections.info.
Photo credit: YBC Ontario Facebook page