Networking is the key to building lasting relationships and a meaningful career. In insurance, you’re always building relationships – whether with clients, co-workers, brokers, or your managers. It’s important to get comfortable with networking and fostering connections that will help you to hatch your career in the industry.
“Networking is a key gateway to finding opportunities in the insurance industry,” says Trevor Buttrum, Career Connections Program Manager at the Insurance Institute. “The broader your network or range or reach that you have to be able to leverage, the better professional you are.” If the thought of networking makes you want to jump back into your shell, don’t worry! We’re sharing some pro tips on mastering your networking skills so that you can land your next job in the Insurance industry.
1. Informational Interviews and Coffee Chats
An informational interview is a casual conversation with an industry professional, where you’re able to talk about career related topics. This is a great opportunity to get some inside information about how a successful professional built their career, talk about the industry, where they started in the industry, and what they’ve learned from their career path. These connections, while informal, are valuable when you’re conducting your job search. “What’s great about the industry is that because we are a community and used to being connected, there’s lots of opportunities to do that, even if you aren’t a part of the sector,” says Trevor.
To achieve the best results when setting up a coffee chat, you should be specific. Trevor lends some advice for scheduling coffee chats with industry professionals, “‘I was wondering if you might be 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.”
Once you’ve set a date, make sure you have done your research and come prepared with questions to your coffee chat. You’ll want to make sure you come prepared to make the most of the quick meeting. For instance, you’ll want to know a bit about the background of the professional you’re meeting with ahead of time to help with conversation starters. Also, try to learn about the different types of roles in the insurance industry and develop your questions from there.
“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.”
2. Have a Game Plan and Elevator Pitch
It’s so important to have a networking game plan. Having a plan in place will make sure that you’re checking off all your boxes and will help to put you at ease. Now, this doesn’t mean you need to bring a “to-do” list to networking meetings or events. But it’s definitely a good idea to have a strategy! This strategy starts with being true to yourself. Assess where you are and where you want to be in the future, as this will help you develop your elevator pitch. “It’s important to see opportunity between who you are, what you have to offer and what an employer may be looking for and to seize that. That’s why preparation is so important,” Trevor says.
Be prepared at any event to introduce yourself, what you currently do, the skills and education you have, and what career or roles you’re interested in. If you don’t know exactly what roles you’re interested in, you can always share your interests and the person you’re connecting with may be able to help steer you in the right direction. Most importantly – be yourself, smile and make eye contact! Make sure your elevator pitch is short and sweet, with a call to action, and always leave it open for the chance to connect again in the future!
Don’t look at networking as a one-time event. Every connection you make with an insurance professional is a great starting point to get your foot in the door and foster a new professional relationship. Always follow up the next day to say thank you, regardless of the type of interaction you had. While you’re building your connection, try to refrain about asking for a job right away. Focus first on getting to know them, their role and their organization. “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,” says Trevor.
3. Go to Networking Events and Career Fairs
The best way to meet industry professionals is by attending local events that are offered by the industry or that are happening on campus. Whether you’re a current student or alumni, career fairs are a great way to interact and connect with potential employers in insurance. Stay up to date on upcoming fairs through your school career centre or on employer website events page. Don’t forget to connect on social media since many employers and schools will post online about upcoming events, info sessions and fairs!
Be open minded and remember your networking game plan and work on making a genuine connection! It’s important to bring your resume to these events — just in case — but don’t be discouraged if you don’t end up handing one out. The hiring process has become increasingly digitized, so having a paper copy can be a great way to break the ice with a potential employer in case you need it. You’ll also want to ensure you’re dressed to impress to make a clean, wrinkle-free and professional first impression.
“Remember that any interaction or engagement opportunity that we have with an employer is a conversation and we have conversations every day. The only nuance here is that it’s conversation with a little more intent.”
4. Professional Groups and Associations
You can also join insurance networking and professional groups. For instance, in Toronto there are the Young Insurance Professional of Toronto, The Toronto Insurance Women’s Association as well as The Insurance Institute of Canada, all of which host various events and functions for networking. Trevor reminds students and grads that at these events, “you have the chance, not necessarily to get a job that day, but to be able to lay the foundation to people who are connected to organizations, who are connected to roles or opportunities that you ultimately want after graduation.” This includes volunteering your time at events or submitting research papers or presentations. “I think it’s about being in the right place and being able to plant the seeds to cultivate those relationships,” says Trevor.
5. Genuinely Connect
Create positive lasting impressions through genuine interaction. Don’t let that valuable information, or opportunity to impress, go to waste by not being present or not actively listening! Put away your phone and eliminate distractions. Listen to the person you’re connecting with and find ways to engage in meaningful conversation. Keep conversations casual yet professional.
Trevor suggests that students and grads do their research to be able to connect on a more personal level. “Connect with [your] alumni office to see where graduates from [your] program or institution may be working in the insurance industry and make that LinkedIn request based on ‘hey, we went to the same school, same program, I’d really be interested in your advice’. Or if they’re working for a company or role you’re interested in, instead of sending your standard LinkedIn request, really customizing that and stating– ‘you’re doing something I’m really interested in, I noticed your post or noticed the organization that you’re working for.’ Give them something to latch onto that’s about them and I think that starts to create a genuine connection. A lot more people than you think are receptive to that.
Prep Makes Perfect
Networking is a life-long skill. You will always meet new people, make new connections and create lasting professional relationships, so it’s important to start preparing now! “Remember that any interaction or engagement opportunity that we have with an employer is a conversation and we have conversations every day. The only nuance here is that it’s conversation with a little more intent,” says Trevor. Review the tips above before heading out to your next event or reaching out to an insurance professional. You only have one chance at a first impression, so make it count!