As a student or new grad, navigating the insurance industry can seem daunting, especially when you have little experience or are unfamiliar with all of the ins and outs of how the industry works. You may have already written your resume, but if you want to get an inside look at the industry, one of the best ways to get your foot in the door is by networking.
Networking is a term you may hear frequently in relation to a job search strategy. It is a vital part of the process, and while it may seem scary, it can play an important role in helping you land a job! Nearly half of insurance professionals landed their job through a referral! Speaking to, and getting advice from, professionals already connected to the industry you want to work in can have multiple benefits gain insights on a role or company, expand your understanding of how the industry works and even build out your network.
If you’re new to networking, or just looking for some tips to help build your confidence, then read on!
Tip 1: Do Your Research and Know Your Audience
One of the best ways to prepare for a networking event is to conduct your research ahead of time – both about the event and the attendees. You can visit the websites of the various employers or organizations that will be at the event. Learn about their core business, customer base, values, where they are located, and if there are any opportunities that interest you. This will give you a starting point for conversation.
Conducting your research prior to attending will help you target key employers that interest you, and will give you the opportunity to prepare specific questions ahead of time. It will also give you some knowledge on relevant current events and industry happenings that can help boost your confidence when engaging in conversation. Be sure to keep an open mind when doing your research. There may be companies you haven’t heard of before, but they may still have opportunities that fit your career wants and needs.
Lastly, set some goals based on the research you have conducted. Is there anything specific you want to get out of this event, or anyone, in particular, you want to meet? How many people do you want to network with? Setting clear goals for yourself can give you some direction and can also help to make things a bit less intimidating.
Tip 2: Putting Your Best Foot Forward
Making a positive first impression is important at networking events. Choose an outfit that you feel comfortable in and appears well put together. Comfortable, yet appropriate footwear is also important as you may be standing for long periods of time. If you are doubting whether your outfit is right for the event, consult with a friend, career services professional, or our related articles on the TalentEgg Incubator for suggestions. You’ve likely heard the phrase ‘dress for success’ and now is the time to put that into practice!
Putting your best foot forward also includes how you greet people and your handshake. This is the first impression contact that many of us overlook. A confident hello, a smile and offer of a handshake (if it feels comfortable and works for you) can help your networking start and end on the right note. This will show the employer you are ready and interested in having a conversation with them!
Tip 3: Practice Your “Elevator Pitch”
Time is precious at networking events, so it’s important to maximize the first 30 seconds of your interaction with someone. You want to be able to discuss who you are, what kinds of opportunities you are looking for, and what you have to offer (e.g. your experience, your education, your skills/attributes). The key piece to this: practice. You should be able to introduce elements of this into your conversations naturally rather than launching right into all of these facts at once at the beginning of your conversation. A genuine, confident, and professional approach will help the conversation flow and will yield the best result.
Tip 4: The Follow Through and Follow Up
After you have left the networking event, you want to make sure you follow through with any commitments you have made and follow up with those you connected with. You want to solidify and continue to grow that connection with your new contacts. If you have decided to apply to a position that has come out of the networking event, be sure to let your contact know that you have done so. If you told someone you would call them or forward them a link, be sure to do this in a timely manner. This is a great opportunity to say “thanks” and emphasize that you enjoyed meeting them.
It’s important to understand that not every networking opportunity will lead to a professional relationship – some contacts you make will be warmer than others. There may be contacts that will be more likely to help you achieve your career goals. You may want to consider approaching these contacts first to request informational interviews and explore job opportunities.
Networking can feel like uncharted territory, but these tips will help you be confident when making connections. The insurance industry values building strong working relationships with others to ensure the best possible coverage and service for customers. Networking will give you good practice for working in insurance. Since it is already a big part of the industry (whether at events, in online networks like LinkedIn, between companies, or even internally), you will find that insurance professionals are very open to the process. So, take a chance – you might be surprised by how far networking can take you!
You can learn more about the insurance industry and networking by visiting Career Connections – the gateway to Canada’s Property & Casualty insurance industry!