Important Lessons Learned – Job vs Career

By: Bert Dizon, Senior Account Manager, Gallagher Bassett

Like many in the insurance industry, I got my first job in insurance at a young age and did not know what to expect.  I was hired as an adjuster trainee for an insurance carrier to work property damage claims on a personal lines auto desk with very little working knowledge of the industry and little to no personal or professional expectations.  At that age, it was a job. 

Having graduated from college with a Marketing and Management degree and a strong desire to get into the entertainment industry, I figured this would just be a means to makes some money to survive life after college.  I was fairly certain that claims and insurance was not an industry that I would enjoy long term.  Almost 19 years later, I am still in the insurance industry enjoying my career.  It is no longer just a job I thought I was good at, but it has truly become a career I enjoy.  But why and how did that paradigm shift come to pass?

Proactivity vs. Passivity

When I first took on the role of a claims adjuster, I looked at it as a stressful, thankless and tedious function.  It’s very easy to get in the habit of seeing the role as a virtual punching bag because insureds and claimants are yelling at you for taking too long to resolve their claim.  In addition, you are getting pressure from your management to work harder and close your files.  Finding serenity in between a rock and a hard place seems to be impossible.   Like most, I started out trying to figure out the best time management practices to alleviate stress.  I tried letting my phone go to voicemail and checking and returning my message in a set time, working all my new losses at the end of the day, or giving myself the first couple of hours of my day to work diary and mail.  This involved hard starts and stops with the hopes that I would be organized enough to get everything done.  What I found was: That was not the answer.  That was a passive way of handling my desk, which allowed me to fall behind and increased my stress level at every turn. 

I realized if I worked proactively, the management of my desk became easier as time passed.  It was hard to make changes, but simple things like answering my phone every time it rang or returning a message as soon as I got it, and working a new loss as soon as I received it, got me to a point where I felt like I was getting ahead and not falling behind.  As time when on, I found that the number of phone calls I was getting began to taper down and there were fewer fires to put out.  The pressure from both sides became less as well, because management was not getting escalation calls from insureds and claimants. Eventually my closing ratios went up because I was being more proactive at resolving my caseload.   

In short, my lesson learned was that completing more small tasks and being proactive allowed me more time in my day to take on more and more.  Eventually I began to have the time capacity to take complex cases and projects from management.  It helped me to find a way to manage my desk in a less stressful way and make the day-to-day work less stressful, as well as adding value to my organization. 

Do not doubt your abilities

It is extremely easy to believe and become comfortable with the belief that your experience as an auto liability adjuster, for example, is just that, nothing more or nothing less.  Also, that handling a particular type of claim, property or auto, is all that is out there.  Sure, there are levels, trainee, adjuster, lead, supervisor, etc, but “once an auto adjuster, always an auto adjuster.”  That thought is simply  not true.  There are insurance claims out there for all different types of products, services, and industries. Every niche in our world is insurable.  Starting out in the carrier world, I did not stop to think about what else was out there, other than what the carrier I worked for had to offer.  It was not until I entered into the Third Party Administrator (TPA) world, that I discovered that there were so many interesting types of policies for claims professionals to handle.  When I discovered the world of professional liability claims, construction claims, livery claims, cyber claims, cannabis claims, etc., I realized how vast and interesting claims handling could be. 

When I began asking management to allow me to handle claims outside of what I traditionally knew, I was asked if I could handle a certain type of claim.  I discovered that handling claims, regardless of the type of policy, was mostly universal. 

Understanding how to investigate any type of claim comes with experience and guidance, of course, simply because the laws, statutes, and players may be different.  However, the key to it all is being able to understand the policy that coverage is based on.

This may sound daunting, but I have found that most policies are written with similar language and have the same basic format that make handling an auto/property claim or general liability claim, no more complicated than a cyber or cannabis claim.

The lesson learned here is that, when you narrow your focus, doubt your ability, or maintain the perspective that you cannot, you limit yourself.  No one in our industry started out as an expert on his or her first day.  In addition, there is no point in time when anyone can say they have learned all that they can.  Everyday a professional in ours or any industry needs to seek to learn more and do more to have their career flourish.  Moreover, it takes trial and error and the desire to learn to grow, but certain basic foundations and core functions, like understanding policy language, will facilitate that growth.

“Don’t let perfection, be the enemy of good” 

To sum this up, it is important, to be able to be your best and truly enjoy this, or frankly any career, you must be proactive, thirsty for knowledge, and believe in yourself.  You must be willing to learn and actively seek to expand your understanding of the way the industry works. You need to build a strong industry knowledge foundation for yourself in order to build your career.  My industry mentor told me on many occasions, “don’t let perfection, be the enemy of good.”  No one in their career should ever expect to be perfect. Frankly, perfection is a subjective and a mostly unattainable standard. 

The last thing that is important to remember is that years of experience, while notably a good and recognizable thing, is not the equivalent of expertise.  Your ability and capacity to learn and the courage to put your best foot forward to be better at what you do is not strictly reliant on time.  Do not let age or years in the industry be a deterrent to the goals you want to achieve and the impact you want to make on your career. 

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