February 13, 2023

Six Ideas for Young Insurance Professionals Looking for Career Advancement

by Chris Winterboer

Being an insurance recruiter, I am often asked how I got into the business and ultimately to the place I am today, 25 years later. It was a circuitous route, which is fine for me, but you might want a more linear progression, especially if you’re early into your career and want to take that next big step forward.

Find a Mentor

  • Choose someone in a leadership position (preferred) or someone who is significantly further along in their career.
  • Have them be in a similar discipline. If you want to work your way up a commercial lines underwriting department, you probably don’t want a seasoned Employee Benefits Producer to be your top choice.
  • Ask them to use their Rolodex regardless of if the two of you are employed at the same company. A good mentor always has your best interests in mind when it comes to long-term career opportunities.

Be Willing to Try New Things

Sometimes the best idea when you’re looking for the next step in your career is to try something outside your comfort zone. Larger companies have programs that can expose you to a variety of disciplines and departments. If you don’t work for a company with these options, you can seek out your own resources. If a producer wants to better understand what motivates an underwriter, wouldn’t it be helpful to sit in that seat? Or a manager knowing how to work with direct reports because they once sat in their chair. I have even found in my job as a recruiter a natural ability to relate to candidates as I might have done something similar to what they do now or in the recent past.

Be Active Outside the Office

The more you can participate in your community (i.e. volunteer projects, networking events, sitting on boards) the better chance you have of meeting professionals with common goals, industry connections, and networking ideas. You may even meet competitors, and as they say, “If you can’t beat them, join them.”  You might open yourself to a potential partnership you never would have imagined had you not left the comfort of your office.

Educate Yourself in Cross Disciplines

As a young benefits producer, I intentionally spent time with people across the aisle- commercial producers, surety, marketing and communications, etc. In doing so, I gained the following:

  • I learned about their work on a daily basis.
  • I discovered ways to help them, and in turn some ways they could help me.

The more you know about other divisions around you, the more you become invaluable to the greater organization from a 30,000-foot perspective. When the executive team promotes their next leader, you’ll be right in line because you have a broad understanding of more than what is right in front of them.

Don't Be Afraid to Take Risks

I don’t want that to be a common theme, but you must jump off some ledges early in your career if you want to see any dividends before your 50th birthday. Very seldom are opportunities just going to show up on your front step. Seek them out. Take a job that seems scary. Go outside your comfort zone to stretch professionally. Ask any executive in the insurance industry and very few took a straight line, easy path to their C-suite role.

Meet A Few Recruiters Along the Way

Is this tip self-serving? Yep, but I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t believe it. Note that I said “a few” and not just one. While I would like to think I know a lot of people in the industry, I certainly don’t know everyone. Having a couple trusted recruiters looking out for new career opportunities ensures that you’ll have access to opportunities no matter the timing or changes to their business, clients, area of specialty, and so forth.

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