Women in Insurance: Industry Insights on How to Chart a Successful Career

Blog #2The Property and Casualty Insurance sector has historically been viewed as a “male-dominated” industry, meaning men hold the majority of the upper management positions. Property Casualty 360  reported last year, “At the largest insurers and reinsurers women held only 6 percent of top executive positions, 12.5 percent of board seats, and 8 percent of inside business, legal or actuarial officer roles such as chief actuary or division president, according to a recent industry study by St. Joseph’s University Academy of Risk Management and Insurance.” Coleman Search Group recently asked top-level female executives if they would share their perspectives to provide insights that may help other women excel in the insurance industry and improve statistics by landing more influential leadership positions.

As one Commercial Lines Sales and Marketing Vice President for a major insurance carrier progressed in her career, she found it harder to overcome the proverbial “glass ceiling.” She feels that even though the industry is benefitting from diversity, there still seems to be a preference for male-oriented leadership styles in many upper level positions. That being said, she has found career success through taking a positive perspective on any opportunities she has faced in the industry. She comments, “I don’t really see things as obstacles. Everything is a problem to be solved and some are more difficult than others.”

A Senior Vice President and Chief Claims Officer for a major insurance carrier said for her, one of the biggest issues she has faced is ensuring women are effectively supporting and encouraging each other to reach their full potential. She says, “I have had several women champions over the course of my career and without them I doubt I would be where I am today.”

Here are some key points they shared with Coleman Search Group to help other women be successful in reaching higher-level positions in the insurance industry:

1. Stay educated and informed on the trends and new facets of the industry. The Commercial Lines Sales and Marketing Vice President says, “The insurance industry needs new ideas, new ways of thinking. Technology and data analytics are transforming the industry for the better, making insurance careers more attractive.”  Insurance companies are always looking for candidates that are on top of the latest trends and developments in the industry. Continually pushing yourself to learn more, stepping outside of your comfort zone by taking on new responsibility or volunteering for high visibility projects may be what sets you apart from other employees and candidates pursuing those attractive opportunities. Obtaining additional insurance designations will also help to position you as a key candidate for many high-level positions. One of the executives stated that obtaining a Chartered Property & Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) designation and a Senior Claims Law Associate (SCLA) designation were keys to her success.

2. Use your personal strengths and interests to succeed. The Chief Claim Officer indicated, “There are so many career paths within the insurance industry to choose from, and the work can be very meaningful.  Find the area of work that you enjoy most.  For some people that area is loss prevention and mitigation; for others it is helping injured workers get back to work.  What is so great about this industry is that there are many options available to you. If you are willing to navigate for that right fit, it can be an awesome career.

3. Evaluate yourself regularly and be open to adjusting your work style to excel. According to the Commercial Lines Sales and Marketing executive, “Self-awareness is a great place to start.  Ensure that you are fair and objective in your position on issues, and that your interactions reflect that integrity.  Show confidence and assuredness, but not arrogance.  If you persevere in that manner, you will be accepted, valued and elevated into positions of influence.

4. Be open to new opportunities (even if it scares you). “As more women move up in the industry it is necessary to develop a broader skill set. Be voracious about learning new things and jump at opportunities, even when you think you might not be quite ready for them,” explains the Chief Claims Officer.

The insurance industry is always evolving, and women continue to make great strides every day. Soon, more women will hold high-level positions bringing even more gender balance to this ever-changing field.

How Generation X and Y Can Succeed in a Business of Baby Boomers

Generationx blog picThe workplace is filled with all kinds of employees who have different personalities and traits. People from every race, religion, sex and political affiliation are often brought together by their place of employment. In addition, a company’s staff also consists of employees from multiple generations including Baby Boomers, Generation X and now, Generation Y (also known as “Millennials”). Over the last few years, “generational gaps in the workplace” has been a hot topic and the subject of many studies and articles.

Until recently, the insurance industry has consisted primarily of employees from the Baby Boomer generation. As time evolves and companies become more reliant on technology and social media for success and efficiency, more members of Generation X and Y are being interviewed by insurance recruiters. This doesn’t mean Generation X and Y employees are more valued than Baby Boomers, but it does mean that it is advantageous for Generation X and Y employees/candidates to be cognizant of the generational gaps that do exist in the workplace. Being informed and prepared on how to be successful at bridging the generational gap in the office will only help Generation X and Y candidates land, maintain and succeed in those great insurance jobs.

If you’re unsure of how generational differences may play out in the workplace, here are some example scenarios and tips on how best to approach them:

1. Phone Call or Meeting vs. Email or Text– Although email has been used as a professional and efficient way to communicate for several decades, there is great value in a phone conversation or face-to-face meeting. Members of Generation X or Y have grown up in a world of immediate responses while Baby Boomers grew up on the belief that taking time to build and sustain relationships meant everything. It is important to know that even if something can be accomplished faster via email or text, a meeting or phone call may be more suitable for certain situations. Being able to determine the best communication platform with your Baby Boomer colleagues will help you form better working relationships. Also, as texting becomes the latest communication trend, keep in mind that it is relatively new for Baby Boomers and may be the least preferred communication forum. It is crucial for Generation X and Y employees to be open to verbal communication and to know which form of communication is preferred by colleagues in various situations.

2. Use of Social Media Websites-There is no doubt that social media plays a huge role in everyday life for many people. Most of the world uses Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or is at least aware that these sites exist. Although most members of Generation X and Y find social media to be incredibly advantageous and entertaining, it’s important to note that Baby Boomers may not feel the same way. Again, this technology has not always existed during their career and has possibly caused their work responsibilities and style to change in a big way. In most cases, Baby Boomers are just as excited as Generation X and Y to talk about the exciting things happening in their personal lives, but may not be comfortable sharing that information with the thousands of people it can now reach through social media. It is also important make an effort to build and sustain Boomer relationships on more than just a social media level. In some instances, that may require a Generation X and Y employee to avoid posting photos or even discussing your most recent social media update while working. Many Baby Boomers have a more traditional view on work place conduct and may feel updating Facebook or posting a photo on Instagram is not an appropriate task to be conducted during work hours.

3. Work Style and Environment-Members of every generation know that hard work pays off, but work style, approach and environment may differ greatly. The Baby Boomer generation may be used to a more traditional office setting with a quiet, organized, neutral-toned work space where they can concentrate on the task at hand. Generation X and Y employees may find a more colorful, creative-conscious and lively atmosphere inspires their best work. For example, a Generation X and Y employee may find that listening to music through ear buds or using colorful office supplies and décor helps them do their best work, but a Baby Boomer may see those things as off putting or distracting. If you are a Generation X or Y, you should be conscious of these possible opinions and respect different work methods and environment preferences by knowing when to use these items appropriately.

There is a lot to consider when it comes to the varying work styles in a multi-generational office environment. Being mindful of the different preferences of your colleagues in every generational group will help you be successful when seeking great insurance jobs. With Baby Boomers still playing such a major role in the insurance industry, companies are looking for candidates who are aware of this and can adapt easily.

Dedication and Connections Breed Success

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Many job seekers believe that building an impressive resume, attending a top-rated university and winning numerous awards are all you need to land that dream job. While those achievements are important and play a critical part in getting an incredible position, there are two items not found on a resume that also create true career success:  dedication and connections. On that note, Coleman Search Group (CSG) is proud to announce our own Iwalani De Los Santos (Lani) recently accepted the position of claim associate for one of the leading multi-line insurers, Zurich Insurance.  She accomplished a lot and formed new relationships during her time with CSG, which helped bring her to this place of career success.

As operations manager at CSG, Lani had the opportunity to get an up close view into the property/casualty insurance industry, which ultimately fueled her desire to work in this business. She learned how to identify key traits that made a job candidate successful and how important it was to be truly prepared for every professional scenario. These experiences, along with her dedication to learning, helped Lani hone her skills and qualities, making her a more sought-after job candidate. In her position, she was responsible for several key functions of the company which built her confidence in her own capabilities, as well as in the insurance industry as a viable career field.

Lani met and worked with various key contacts in the industry. Through these connections and interactions, she gained valuable knowledge from experienced professionals and began building lasting relationships that will forever play a part in her professional path. Lani’s positive rapport with clients, candidates and colleagues through daily work activities and networking events contributed to the incredible opportunities and glowing references she received.

A strong resume is definitely a key part of accomplishing professional success, but it’s not always the only or most important piece of the puzzle. As you can see in Lani’s success story, there is much more that goes into landing that great job. She does have the remarkable resume filled with coveted job experiences and academic accomplishments, but it was ultimately her dedication and the connections she made while at CSG that led to a great opportunity for an incredible company.