Taking Charge of Your Career

By: Dan Franzetti, Chief Operating Officer, QBE North America

With the advent of many new technologies and rapidly evolving threats such as cyber, the insurance industry is a very dynamic place to be. In my 25-plus years in the business, I can’t think of a more exciting time. And the industry needs new leaders. There’s a large cohort of senior leaders set to retire in the next decade. Replacing them is a significant industry issue.

Given this backdrop, young insurance professionals have a tremendous opportunity to rise and steer their careers in directions they will find stimulating, challenging, and rewarding. But it is not one that can be taken for granted. The old days of doing a great job in your current position and expecting the company to notice you and hand-hold your way up the career ladder have long gone. In fact, I’m not sure they ever existed.

I recall a point more than 20 years ago when I asked a senior executive about my career and what he and the company were thinking. His response was a mildly rude surprise. He said he was paying little attention to my career. He said when he woke up and took his shower every morning, he was contemplating his career and professional development and what his next moves should be. He advised me to do the same for myself.

While I was taken aback at the time, I took his advice. From then on, I redoubled my efforts on plotting my career path, setting goals, and deepening and broadening my capabilities. Now I owe him a debt of gratitude.

The approach that has worked for me starts with thinking about the job I want to be doing two to perhaps five years in the future. Sometimes, this is the hardest part because there’s no objective right or wrong answer. To make the decision, it helps to have relationships with people in a broad set of areas and levels who can give you perspectives.

Once I have decided the job objective, I think about the skills and relationships I need to achieve it. The relationship part is very important. That’s how you inspire people to teach you the skills and think of you when the right job becomes available. I then write down in detail a plan and timetable for acquiring the skills and relationships. Holding yourself accountable is key. I assess my progress every month.

Progress often requires moving laterally instead of up so that you learn and gain perspectives that will eventually help in higher positions. In my career, I’ve moved laterally as often as upwardly.

While you can’t expect your company to take responsibility for your career, you should look for ones that provide the environment for you to grow. For instance, at QBE we provide tools and training for employees to create their development plans and encourage regular sessions with their managers to discuss progress and possibilities. A willingness to take and act upon constructive feedback is the best way to grow. The insurance industry holds great promise for young professionals, and by taking charge of your development and growth, you can have a very long and rewarding career.

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