Mentors a major boost for young insurance professionals

As the number of retiring baby boomers begins to increase, the insurance industry will soon be faced with serious employment shortages. For the younger generation of post-secondary graduates, this means ample opportunity to fill the gaps in an often overlooked industry with an immense amount of career potential.

While considering career options, the insurance industry is not usually seen as an exciting career path for recent graduates. For most, insurance does not share the glamorous appeal of other professions in the financial world that seemingly offer a stronger work-life balance.

What recent grads often do not know is that the insurance industry can hold a great deal of untapped potential for the right candidate. With a lack of information and relevant education on the industry, where can young insurance professionals turn for career advice and necessary skill sets for success?

This is where mentors can come into play. Business mentors have never been more critical to the insurance industry than they are today. Experienced insurance professionals can help address the industry’s talent shortage by becoming mentors to those looking to get started in the industry. Many steps can be taken by young or new insurance professionals to attract and maintain a mentorship relationship to the benefit of all.

The state of the industry
Despite the benefits, perks and flexibility, careers in the insurance industry do not often attract or hold the immediate attention of recent graduates or young and qualified candidates.

According to a study from the Independent Agents & Brokers of America (2008), the average age of an insurance industry professional is 54, and 60% of insurance industry professionals are older than 45. Pair this with the increasing variety of options for candidates to choose from when it comes to career and job selection, and the urgency for attracting young individuals to the industry becomes even greater.

Additional challenges, such as “talent robbing,” often come into play as well. This takes place within the insurance community when top-tier insurance professionals working at one firm are approached by competing firms with the promise of a higher salary or other added benefits. As a result, retaining talent becomes just as difficult as finding talent and serves as an additional hardship to weather for companies in the industry.

Despite these challenges, the insurance industry as a whole has put forth great efforts to address recruitment issues. It has increased its profile to potential recruits through campus job fairs, advertisements and attractive sponsorship programs.

How mentorships can help
Whether opening the eyes of a candidate to career options in insurance or helping a young insurance professional move up in the industry, mentors can play a key role in attracting and retaining young candidates in the industry and addressing talent shortages.

There has never been a better time within the insurance industry to do well. The shortage of talented people has never been more evident. Individuals who are committed to their education and professional work behavior can move up the ladder of success quickly. Mentorships allow candidates to get a clear and accurate picture of the benefits and realities of working in the insurance industry.

Here are some tips for both mentors and mentees to help with establishing a relationship that works for both parties:

1. Ensure a two-way dialogue. Mentorships are about listening and learning, but mentees need to be able to find their own voice and outlet as well. Mentors must be willing to let their mentees speak freely while addressing any of their concerns or questions. Mentors who simply talk at individuals will offer little value. As a mentee, do not hesitate to pipe up and ask questions.

2. Mentorship is about sharing. If you are not willing to share, then neither party will experience the full benefits of having a mentor. Mentors should be willing to share their career experiences, and mentees need to be open and honest in return.

3. Clarity is essential. Before approaching or establishing a mentorship, it is the responsibility of the employee or mentee to outline: 1) what they want out of the relationship, and 2) a general structure for meetings, conversations and take-away tasks. The mentee must lead the course and ensure the relationship stays on track.

4. Mentorships can build job security, particularly a business mentorship that is internal (your mentor works for the same organization). Mentors can help candidates understand ways to keep their job secure and move up the company ranks, so look for one inside your business or company if possible.

5. It is about working smarter, not necessarily harder. Mentorships require time from both parties involved. Time should be used wisely, focusing on concrete tips and tricks for becoming more efficient, flexible and resourceful at work.

6. The buck stops at the employee. It is essential that employees understand they have a responsibility toward their career success. It is not just about sitting back and waiting for things to happen. Finding an engaging mentor can be a significant step toward this and, of course, hard work.

7. Be open. Mentees have a lot more than just career advice to gain in a mentorship relationship. Mentors can also speak about education, motivation and work-life balance. Find out from your mentor what he or she sees as the key points to long-term success and happiness.

Mentorships require a time commitment from both mentor and mentee, but the rewards can be great. For the industry as a whole, mentorships can act as a tool to attract and retain young individuals considering career options and directions.

For mentees, the rewards are manifold. From obtaining inside scoop on the realities of the industry to ensuring job security and gaining insights on overall work-life balance, mentorships offer immense value and can act as a major boost for young professionals.

Tom Rivers is an insurance recruiting specialist at Summit Search Group BC with over 25 years of experience within Canada’s leading insurance organizations.

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