The insurance industry is evolving at a rapid pace and new ideas, tools and technologies abound. In today’s volatile climate, an ongoing commitment to learning and professional development is crucial to stay competitive; however, formal programs are often catered more to young professionals who are starting out in their careers. While continual growth and improvement is important at all career stages, seasoned employees often have to be intentional about seeking out these opportunities. If you’re more tenured in your career, there are a few best practices for continuing to grow professionally and remaining relevant now and in the future.
Commit to lifelong learning.
As you journey down your professional path, embrace ongoing learning and growth. This may mean attending industry conferences and bringing back best practices and insights to your team. Or, it could be working toward a new designation—no matter your level or age—and ensuring existing designations don’t lapse. Continually seek out ways you can expand your knowledge base, no matter how small. Spend a few minutes each day catching up on industry news. Familiarize yourself with the experts and thought leaders in your specific area. Read their books and blogs. Listen to their podcasts on your way into work. By routinely absorbing information, best practices and news, you’ll be at the forefront of what’s happening in the industry and seen as a valuable resource.
Get to know your strengths.
No matter where you are in your career, it is important to understand and own your strengths and gifts, while recognizing where skill gaps exist. If you’ve identified a growth opportunity in an area you think would make you a better professional, talk to your manager, human resources or a trusted colleague to help develop an action plan to build that skill. For example, if public speaking makes you uncomfortable, consider joining a local Toastmasters chapter. If it’s not easy for you to walk into a room and introduce yourself to strangers, uncover ways to gain confidence in that area. This could include starting with smaller groups, or developing fail-proof conversation starters.
Build your network.
It’s likely you’ve acquired a substantial network throughout your career. Cultivate these existing connections and seek out ways to further expand your professional rolodex. Actively participate in networking events and associations–whether they are local, regional or national. This is more than attending a cocktail hour or occasionally skimming emails; join committees, participate and be seen as a true thought leader. By continuing to nurture and grow your network, you’ll not only have a wealth of resources at your fingertips, you’ll be better able to provide guidance and assistance to your colleagues and others within your network.
Have a social media presence.
Social media is a key aspect of building a personal brand in today’s always-connected environment. Most individuals you come into contact with—be it professional connections, potential clients or colleagues—will seek out your social media profiles to learn more about you, your background and your role. Make sure you have a presence that best represents you and your personal brand. Also, while you don’t have to constantly post, take some time every few days to respond to messages and requests or comment on your connections’ recent activity. Social media is here to stay and it’s important to find the right balance of online and in person networking.
Volunteer for task forces and committees.
If you are willing and able to take on new projects and opportunities, raise your hand and let your manager or others within leadership know. This may mean joining task forces or committees or taking on leadership positions within modernization efforts. In addition to networking internally, you’ll likely become an expert on new systems and technologies and viewed as an early adopter who others can go to with questions. More seasoned employees may be inadvertently overlooked for these types of responsibilities, making it even more important to speak up and play an active role.
Mentor younger talent.
Whether formal or informal, these relationships provide an opportunity to connect with younger generations on a personal level. Not only will you be able to share your experience and insight, it’s likely you’ll get to know yourself better in the process. Afterall, one of the best ways to learn is to teach and individuals often feel they gain more from mentoring than they give.
Engage with recruiters and vendors.
Even if you aren’t actively looking for a new role, taking periodic calls from recruiters can help expand your professional horizons. These conversations enable you to learn what’s happening in other companies and provide a chance to help someone in your network. Approach vendors in a similar way. While you don’t need to take every sales call, view them as an opportunity to learn about new tools, platforms and technologies in the industry. Down the road, your department may have a need for a specific type of resource and you’ll already have an understanding of what’s available.
Leverage your experience.
While the industry is changing and new skills are required, don’t lose site of the value of your professional background. Leverage your experience and arsenal of transferable skills. More seasoned employees have a wealth of learnings from on the job experience. While specific circumstances may have changed, historical knowledge and storied insights can set you apart.
In today’s work environment, it’s important to proactively commit to growth, especially later in your career. By being open to change, continually working to learn new and hone existing skills, and networking both within your company and the industry, you’ll be set up for long-term success.