Attracting bright, young minds to an insurance career
Reprinted from Property Casualty 360 Magazine
Nov 09, 2015 | By Mark Kissick
The truth is that talented young people often bypass the insurance industry when career hunting, heading straight for finance, tech and other sectors that seem more exciting, innovative and service-oriented.
It’s a big challenge for an industry projecting a huge talent drain over the next decade. But we all have the opportunity, and quite frankly, the responsibility to step up and let these young people know the tremendous possibilities a career in insurance could provide them.
Like many insurance executives, I was fortunate enough to begin my career with an organization, in my case Zurich Financial Services, which spent considerable effort training and exposing me to many different facets of the business. Through a formal program, I spent time in sales, underwriting and claims, which prepared me to manage a region, a division, and ultimately assume responsibility on a national level.
But today, the sad truth is that young people getting out of school aren’t presented with nearly as many chances to learn about the great career opportunities available in insurance. The reality is a huge number of talented and motivated young people bypass insurance altogether when job hunting.
I recently saw this firsthand when — despite years of exposure to my own insurance career — my son’s attention was so easily captured by tech and Wall Street companies after graduating from school and starting his own career search.
The challenge ahead
The insurance industry is poised for a tremendous talent drain. It is estimated that over half of the insurance industry’s employees are 45 or older, with thousands of seasoned professionals ready to retire over the next decade. What’s worse, the efforts to recruit promising talent to replace them is hampered by both a greatly reduced number of recruitment and formal training programs and a “messaging” problem with millennials who, for a number of reasons, don’t even consider putting the insurance industry on their list of viable career choices.
Making a difference
But what I discovered when helping my son was interesting: Once someone took a little time to lay out the possibilities, he was quick to pick up on the potential. And once he began to interview and was exposed to other bright young industry professionals, he became really excited about the career prospects. Today, employed at a top-tier broker, I’m proud to say he’s a motivated and contributing member of our industry.
I bet if you took a poll, you’d find that unless someone attended a university with a strong insurance degree program, most that have made careers for themselves in our industry were referred in or came from another industry. Somewhere along the way, someone took a little time out of their day to educate them, make a phone call or give them a hand.
We need to sell the tremendous opportunities in our industry every chance we get. The capacity to grow and the chance to give back in a meaningful way are things that matter deeply to young people today. We need to put a little “sizzle” around the space.
Each of us has the opportunity and the responsibility to advocate for our industry and help a young person develop a career path and lifelong passion for insurance.
Shout it loud and clear: Insurance is an industry filled with opportunity
We need to get the message out that:
- There are a variety of jobs, and lots of room to grow. There aren’t too many industries that offer the pathways insurance does, such as sales, IT, actuarial, underwriting or claims to name a few. From running your own business to forging a path with a large carrier, there is no shortage of opportunity, no limit on advancement and no boundaries on location.
- Insurance will be there over the long haul. As long as people go to work, drive automobiles and own homes, there will be a need for Workers’ Compensation, Liability, Homeowners and Auto insurance. For a generation that grew up in the shadow of recession and is starting out with record levels of student loan debt, this is a big selling point.
The insurance industry provides over 2.3 million steady jobs today. That’s over 80 times the number provided by the top 10 social networks combined, according to InsureMyPath.org, a collaborative insurance industry effort dedicated to educating students and young professionals about industry opportunities. Tech may be “cool,” but the insurance industry is sustainable. It will be there for them over the long haul.
- The insurance industry serves others in a big way. The truth is there are very few industries that touch the lives of people like insurance does.
In the face of tragedy, insurance is what gives people the chance to rebuild their lives. How many would have the means to rebuild their homes or replace their possessions after a loss? How many businesses could operate, conduct life-saving research or innovate with technology without the safety net of insurance? It allows entrepreneurs, scientists, investors, artists, medical professionals and millions of others to follow their dreams and passions with confidence and peace of mind.
Millennials, with their built-in desire to make a difference, need to get the message that the insurance industry provides the tremendously important service of transferring risk so that illness, accident or disaster do not ruin someone’s life. Let’s help them make the connection that the work we do provides a real service to our society.
- There’s a tidal wave of opportunity heading their way. With an estimated 400,000 new jobs needed industry-wide by 2020, we need smart, well-rounded insurance professionals to fill the pipeline, and we need them now.
How exciting for these kids — and why aren’t we dangling this in front of them? It’s a great opportunity for an intelligent, driven young person. And we need to tell them that.
Mentor promising talent in your sphere
Is there a bright young person in your neighborhood graduating from school and not sure of his (or her) career path? Chat with him about your experience. Is there promising talent sitting at your table at the monthly chamber of commerce networking breakfast? Spend a few minutes telling your story. Did someone just post an insurance career question in one of your LinkedIn groups? Take a few moments to leave a thoughtful response. The possibilities are everywhere.
Are there places in your own company today where you can start small, perhaps with a few internship positions or a well-focused training program?
Our company has a small but growing program to train young people to become specialized loss adjusters and put them on the path to eventually becoming executive general adjusters. I referred our most recent addition — a smart, motivated young finance major right out of school who was also being recruited by a few big Wall Street firms. He recently shared with me that he had no idea a career path this exciting even existed.
And there are plenty of opportunities to support existing efforts in education and the community: speaking at local job fairs, guest lecturing at a local university, sponsoring a scholarship at a local high school, and supporting the national organizations that exist to promote the industry today, just to name a few.
The collective wisdom and experience that exist in our industry today is tremendous, and there are young people out there hungry for us to share it with them. With a little effort from each of us, we can convince the best and the brightest that a career in insurance has much to offer.
Mark Kissick is president of York Programs and senior vice president at Parsippany, N.J.-based York Risk Services Group, where he is chairman of the York Sales Leadership Council. He has more than 25 years of insurance industry experience.