Insurance is a people business, and a professional network comprised of a diverse group of risk professionals can become your most important career asset. This article provides practical advice for building a network of risk professionals who can help you solve problems and succeed in your work.
Insurance is a people business. As a risk professional, you will have important relationships with all manner of people working as underwriters, adjusters, risk managers, brokers, and advisers of various types. You are well advised to work hard to develop and maintain positive and deep relationships with as many of these people as you can. A professional network composed of a diverse group of risk professionals can become your most important career asset.
When you encounter challenges or problems on your job or in your career, the people you know can be incredibly effective resources for rising to the occasion. Perhaps you need to find a market for a risk that is difficult to place, decipher the application of an insurance policy to a particularly sticky claim, find out if a particular service provider you are considering is dependable, or get a better understanding of the risks involved in some new activity being considered by your company or your client's company. These are just a few examples of challenges where a phone call or email to a personal contact can be a fast track to information or a solution that makes you the hero of the day. Another is when you decide to change your career path and look for another employer.
You will have many opportunities to build your network. If you are currently a risk and insurance major in school, start there. Join Gamma Iota Sigma, get involved with the chapter, and develop relationships with your fellow members. When graduation arrives, keep track of where they go and maintain contact with them. One day, some of these people will rise to leadership positions in the industry, and your relationship with them can be very helpful.
Once you enter the workforce, networking opportunities will abound. You will naturally get to know people through your working relationships with colleagues and your organization's business partners. Additionally, consider joining and participating in an association such as the local CPCU chapter, an independent agents' association, Young Risk Professionals (YRP), RIMS chapter, etc. Through these you will be able to expand your network beyond your immediate circle of business associates. When you have opportunities to attend educational seminars and conferences, make the most of them by meeting as many of the other attendees as possible and exchanging contact information with them. Holiday parties and other industry social events will provide similar opportunities to expand your network.
Develop your networking skills and learn how to proactively work a room to meet people and leave a positive impression. At first this may seem intimidating and difficult, but, with practice, you can become proficient at it. If you are at an industry event, everyone in the room has the industry in common, and it's relatively easy to strike up a conversation about the issue of the day. Asking the person open-ended questions about their background or life also works well. All people like talking about themselves and giving advice to others!
Consider asking questions like these:
How did you wind up in the insurance industry?
What has been your proudest career moment?
What would be your top career tip for a young person in this industry?
Do you have children? How many? How old?
What hobbies do you enjoy?
When you meet new people and obtain their contact information, it is, of course, important to add them to your contact list. When you do, include some notes about your first meeting (when where, etc.). If you've learned some personal details about them, include those as well. Having the ability to recall at a later date the name of someone's spouse or the sports in which their children engage will be very impressive.
Within a day or two of making new business acquaintances, send them an email acknowledging that you enjoyed meeting them. Try to mention some relevant portion of your conversation with them to show you were engaged and listening. Doing so will also help their recollection of you in the future.
In addition to maintaining a contact list in your personal email account, use a LinkedIn account to keep up with people. Spend time setting up a high-quality profile page for yourself and invite any new acquaintances to connect within a few days of your meeting them. The beauty of LinkedIn, as opposed to your private contact list, is that people keep their LinkedIn accounts updated when they change jobs.
At least for the contacts that you deem the most important, it is a good practice to reach out to them on occasion. This could be a quick phone call to say hello and catch up on things, an email, or even a card during the holiday season. And, of course, you shouldn't hesitate to reach out to them when you need help or advice. That's why you work so hard to maintain your network!
From time to time, your contacts will likewise reach out to you for help or advice. Always take the time to respond, helping them as much as you can and asking for nothing in return. This type of response will cement your relationship with them, and they will one day be happy to return the favor when called upon.
By following this process, you can develop an extensive professional network that can play an immensely important role in your career success. As time goes by, you—and the members of your network—will achieve more career success, and, like a fine wine, your network will be continuously improving. You are also likely to develop some close personal relationships with some of the people in your network, and that aspect can be the most rewarding part of all.
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