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Ambassadors In Action

The first challenge ambassadors have when selling students on a career in the industry is educating them on the value of insurance

It starts with an engaging question such as: “What are you studying?” “What are you looking for in a career?” “Have you ever thought about a career in insurance?” And it often leads to “Tell me more” or “How do I get there?” In between, the conversation is about interests, experience and education and how to connect to careers in insurance.

Each year, the Insurance Institute’s Career Connections’ ambassadors and staff engage in these types of conversations with hundreds of thousands of students (high school and post-secondary) and career changers.

“Career Connections ambassadors breathe life into an idea or a vision for a career path,” says Trevor Buttrum, Career Connections Program Manager. “They demonstrate the different shapes and sizes of possible careers in insurance and articulate so many broad and niche opportunities alike.”

Current workforce trends tell us that building awareness of and creating connections to the industry are more important than ever. Ambassadors are playing a key role in engaging potential talent and helping them to find their place in the industry.

The current ambassador roster consists of 300 insurance professionals acting as spokespeople for the industry. Through their presentations and outreach they are spreading Career Connections’ message that “your interests and experience may add up to a great career in insurance.”

Most often, ambassadors are looking for an opportunity “to give back to an industry that has provided a stable and secure career,” says Darlene Diplock, CAIB, CIP, sales leader with Aon Risk Solutions.

Laura Lightheart, CIP, McFarlan Rowlands Insurance Brokers, echoes many industry professionals in her belief that there is tremendous opportunity to illustrate that “insurance is an excellent option for a career and although I fell into it like so many others, it can be a very rewarding industry.”

For most ambassadors it’s an opportunity to connect with the younger generation, as Juliana Agriesti, CIP, commercial account manager, program and niche solutions with Cowan Insurance Group, explains, “I like talking to students and finding out what they want to do with their lives, what they’re interested in these days. I like hearing about their perceptions of the industry as well. I didn’t have access to an organization like this when I was in school, so it’s been really fun getting out there to talk to students and learn from them as well.”

“For the last three years, I have attended Women as Career Coaches, a mentoring event hosted by the Halton Industry and Education Council (HIEC) that brings high school students and professional women together,” says Elaine Porter, CIP, Account Manager with Bryson & Associates Insurance Brokers Ltd. “Each year I leave more inspired. So many young women with enormous potential are wondering about their future and having an opportunity to mentor them has been priceless.”

What Do Ambassadors Do?

There are more than 110,000 people who work in the property and casualty insurance industry in Canada, which means there are over 110,000 stories that can be told.

Ambassadors give presentations on campus, participate as a member of panel discussions, attend career fairs and help to give a face and voice to the industry. They provide information about career options and education, and offer advice connecting to a career in the industry. Those volunteering with the program will participate in at least three events, including one classroom presentation, throughout the school year.

Ambassadors are also given a number of tools, games and training to help make each touch point an engaging experience for the audience. As Laura explains, “I really like playing the penny game during presentations, it really seems to summarize how insurance works as a pool and presents the concept on a very basic level. The students seem to really get it and have fun seeing the results.” (To download a guide to the penny game, visit citopbroker.com/special-reports.)

“When I’m giving a career talk,” says Elaine, “my strategy is to just share something real with the students so that they understand that I am not a pretender. A handshake and a smile work well as a starting point.”

Juliana says, “I talk about my education and career path, how unusual it was and what my insurance career has done for me on a personal level. I think students relate to the fact that I was unsure of what I wanted to do and of who I was as a person at a young age, not unlike them.”

Typical Questions

Career seekers are interested in what role suits them best, how they can find a job, what education and designations will help them get ahead and, usually, the most frequently asked question is: how much they can make?

Through their training, ambassadors navigate this question by providing salary ranges and pointing to the website (www.career-connections.info). It is not about providing an exact figure. Rather, demonstrating that insurance can be lucrative, offers stability and is an industry committed to investing in the ongoing development of its workforce.

The next most asked questions are about insurance in general—for example, why car insurance is more expensive for young (male) drivers. Again, ambassadors are provided with tools that help foster understanding of how insurance works.

Essentially, it all comes down to educating career seekers about a little known industry, illustrating insurance’s role in society and exposing them to the multitude of rewarding career options the industry has to offer.

Challenges

“Admittedly, sometimes, the students aren’t always interested in learning about careers. They are still young and not always thinking that far ahead,” says Lightheart. “I try to make it fun with good information so that they may remember some of it later when they are ready to consider a career.”

“The most challenging part of being an ambassador is overcoming the misperceptions about insurance,” says Agriesti. “I talk about all the positive things that our industry has done for communities across Canada as well as explain that being an insurance professional isn’t just about cold-calling or selling insurance. I also share how even though we may not have the most glamorous jobs in the world, we have job security and plenty of opportunity for advancement, as well as a lot of fun, since there’s no shortage of associations to join or events to attend!” 

Traditionally, we know that insurance careers are not the first thing people think of when considering their options, however, that is starting to change with Career Connections anecdotally observing a marked increase in career seekers looking for information about a career in insurance. Our ambassador and staff outreach is making insurance top of mind and the Career Connections website, provides a useful tool for those more seeking information.

“We are having some really great conversations with career seekers from all backgrounds, not just business,” says Margaret Parent, director of the Insurance Institute’s Professionals’ Division. “From art history to kinesiology to finance and accounting—it is rewarding to see the light bulbs go off as they learn that there could be a place for them in insurance.”

From the ambassadors’ perspective, “it is a wonderful feeling to know that you have contributed knowledge to others that will help them with their career decision-making,” says Diplock.

“The media has often given a negative impression of insurance, we read it in books, or watch it on TV,” says Porter. “But I am convinced that with more education, awareness and understanding, we (industry professionals) can turn this negative into a positive.”

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Copyright 2012 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the June 2012 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine.

Transcontinental Media G.P.