Sunday, December 7, 2008

Tips for Those In A Tough Economy

Look to the Insurance Industry for Job Stability
by Dona DeZubeMonster Finance Careers Expert

In tough times, we all need tips to get, stay or hump ahead. From time to time I hope to bring those who may be seeking work ideas, and that they will share theirs with me. One area that has come to my attention is the insurance industry. Not one everyone thinks about when they go to college, but one so many of us work for when we get out. Here are some tips.

People may not think of insurance as the most glamorous industry in America, but it does offer stability, challenge and growth to those who choose the profession. “You don’t have a lot of college students graduating and saying, ‘I want to work in insurance,’” says Eric Schulting, enterprise recruiting and retention manager for State Farm Insurance in Bloomington, Illinois. “But there are a lot of benefits and advantages in insurance that you don’t have in other industries.”

For instance, insurance is fairly recession-proof, because insurance companies tend to be fiscally conservative and Americans need insurance whether the economy is up or down. And since insurance firms are often mutual companies (meaning they answer to policy holders rather than Wall Street), they can launch sophisticated and aggressive information technology strategies, routinely support safety education and tend to have close ties to their local communities, Schulting adds.

The industry is not without challenges. If gas prices rise too high, consumers may decide to own (and insure) fewer cars, and fewer home sales mean fewer homeowners’ policies sold. When unemployment rises, so do theft and arson, and, therefore, hazard insurance claims.

Industry job growth is also limited by corporate downsizing, improved productivity due to new underwriting technology and a trend toward marketing by mail, telephone and Internet. At the same time, the industry is expanding into the sales of other financial-services products, such as securities, retirement plans and mutual funds. That trend is balanced by competition from banks that have entered the insurance market.

Retirement is also driving a strong hiring climate for the young: With so many of their employees rapidly reaching retirement age, insurance companies are on the lookout for all types of employees. “The biggest trend influencing hiring and employment in the insurance industry is the generational shift the talent market is going to experience,” says Sharon Rues Pettid, manager of human resources for a large national insurance company.

But there is hope for the old: Some insurance firms look beyond recent college graduates and also recruit mid-career professionals from the health, financial-services and call-center industries. “We hire doctors and nurses for underwriting,” says Clarissa Gilliam, corporate vice president of talent acquisition for another insurance organization. “We open our search to investment houses for our accounting positions and look for sales and marketing people who want to move over and learn insurance.”

At State Farm, call-center jobs are plentiful since the company does not offshore its customer-service representative (CSR) positions. However, competition for those jobs can be keen, because the pay is decent, the benefits are generous and job security is good, Schulting says. And multilingual CSRs are particularly in demand.

Actuaries and underwriters continue to be very much in demand, according to Pettid. “This unique skill set is challenging to find and provides a unique and defined career path,” she says. “Also niche product line expertise, such as group disability insurance, tends to be very hot and lucrative for candidates.”

The medical service and health insurance segments are the fastest-growing parts of the insurance industry, thanks to aging Baby Boomers buying health and long-term- care insurance, as well as annuities and other pension products. Growth may be slower in the auto insurance segment, where competition has resulted in rate declines in virtually every state, says a spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute.

While some areas of insurance are projected to grow more than others, companies in all lines will continue to need support personnel in the years ahead, Gilliam says. “We don’t get to be successful at life insurance without having good accounting, corporate, compliance, public relations, underwriting, risk and tax people,” she says. “Life insurance is our brand and our product, but we’re a major, stable, successful, diverse employee-friendly company.”

Additional Articles on this subject:

Insurance Careers Home
Insider Tips for a Powerful Insurance Sales Resume
Sample Resume for an Insurance Sales Professional
Tips to Prepare for Your Insurance Sales Interview
Get Ready for Your Insurance Industry Interview
Insurance Industry Fueled by Finance, Accounting Professionals
IT Pros Can Find Variety of Jobs in Insurance Industry
Lawyers, Paralegals Work at the Center of Insurance
Job Q&A: Claim Team Manager
Opportunities Knock at State Farm Insurance

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