Are You Young and Driven to be a True Insurance Professional?
I sat in a conference recently. In and of itself that was odd because usually I am a presenter rather than an attendee. Another oddity is the conference was not an insurance conference but rather another profession. I took away four major observations.
Because I was listening rather than teaching, I was reminded that as a speaker it is imperative to always put the audience first. A speaker can easily fall in love with their own voice, however unintentionally.
The conference was large with around 250 attendees. The conference was all about real education too, not passive CE, so the quality of the attendees was higher than what I usually see at most insurance conferences.
Few people less than 50 and almost no one less than 40 attended.
I have excellent knowledge of the subjects being taught but only within a narrow band. The audience's knowledge of the subjects was broad but shallow. It was intimidating listening to the audience's questions. They had so much knowledge about so many aspects while my knowledge is limited to specific aspects, though my knowledge in those aspects is deep. Almost all the attendees were nerds and mostly their egos did not get ahead of their abilities.
Based on these four points, if I was a driven young person, as I once was, I would vigorously attend the highest quality professional conferences I could find. I would ignore CE (you can get it for nothing and in no time so spend time on a real education). Find conferences where the best people in the particular insurance field you like attend. Do not attend the conferences, initially, where it is mostly big egos because you will not learn the foundational aspects of what you need to truly succeed.
Do not worry about asking stupid questions. Being young, even if the question is stupid, you get a free pass. Egotistic older people do not expect you to know anything any way. Remember too that many older, egotistic nerds absolutely love to help younger people. This is especially true if you can find one to engage outside of the conference. They can become a great mentor.
Rather than worry about your youth being a detriment, focus on how youth is an advantage. Youth is a huge advantage, if and only if, you will put forth far more effort than normal so you can be a true expert by 35 or 40. People that are 60 and see a 35 year old touted as an expert almost always scoff because they've seen many such younger "experts" come and go. But they generally have immense respect for someone that truly earns the expert title. Many will go to great lengths then to assist your career.
Focus on practical technical knowledge. This is different from just practical and just technical. Using coverages as an example, I know many people (young and old) that know their coverages inside and out but can never apply that knowledge. Having knowledge and applying knowledge are two different skills. On the other hand, I know more than a few producers and maybe underwriters who have no real knowledge of coverages but they sure can get the job done. Unfortunately, someone else always has to clean up the mess.
If your strength is on the technical and not the practical, learn the practical. If you are great in the field but weak on the technical, work on the technical. This is true whether you are in claims, finance, underwriting, sales, or whatever. Right now the industry is short of people with old-fashioned technical knowledge.
Understand that technical knowledge is not Googleable. Technical knowledge means having a deep understanding of the subject, in context and contrast, and how it applies in the real world. This means true thinking. Google does not think and I find many young people confuse knowing where to find facts and true thinking. If you want to get ahead, build that deep knowledge within your brain so that you can use it to think rather than thinking you can look something up and intuitively know how to apply it. The world does not work that way in the professional environment.
The older generation will leave the industry faster than high quality young people will advance so the opportunity for young people who care, are driven and have strong work ethics is fantastic.
NOTE: The information provided herein is intended for educational and informational purposes only and it represents only the views of the authors. It is not a recommendation that a particular course of action be followed. Burand & Associates, LLC and Chris Burand assume, and will have, no responsibility for liability or damage which may result from the use of any of this information.