Brokerage Ops the September 2015 issue

Old Men, Shady Characters, Dull Cubicles

A good summer read: opening eyes, putting minds at ease and changing millennial attitudes. Maybe not a bestseller, but the next best thing.
By Ken Crerar Posted on August 27, 2015

As we hammered bushels of crab and dunked the best Maryland had to offer into vats of butter, I observed that our interns were as at-ease as could be, exuding confidence that they belonged. It was hard to believe they were the same wide-eyed college students who nervously walked through our office doors just a few weeks earlier.

I’ve long bragged about the people we have at The Council, but each summer as our staff engages with and mentors a new crop of students, I’m reminded how fortunate I am to lead an organization whose employees understand the importance of a good internship.

The vibe at our cookout that day was a far cry from, “old men, shady characters and dull cubicles,” which is how one of our interns described the insurance industry prior to the start of his summer job with us. We also contended with word associations such as “unexciting and static,” “somewhat negative,” “filing a claim with my auto insurance” and “the most boring place you could work.”

Thanks for your candor, gang!

We had an art history major, an accounting major and someone who wanted a career in sales. They hailed from New York, Maryland and Kansas all the way to Minnesota, Germany and Scotland. I’m happy to report that after two and a half months, some are seriously considering commercial brokerage as a career. One intern in particular came to us as a referral interested in D.C. politics and left with interviews lined up with some of our member firms.

“Our clients work with some amazing companies, and it’s not the same thing every day,” said our intern Juliana Alvey. “Not only that, but the industry itself has a lot to offer, such as travel, competitive income and benefits. As someone who will be graduating in a year and looking for full-time employment in a difficult job market, insurance looks like a viable option.”

Internship programs are a great way to change students’ initial perceptions of who we are and what we do. If our industry strives to create a positive, collaborative experience for the up-and-coming workforce and engage them in the office culture, it would go a long way with our collective recruiting efforts. These students are smart and vibrant. They want real work and meaningful projects that allow them to showcase their skills, and the willingness of full-time staff to coach them along the way is critical.

One key to success we found is making the day-to-day about the interns—their professional development, their experience, their networking and growth. This year, we focused on group projects and encouraged them to creatively solve problems. Some examples include development of a member engagement survey, revamping the membership “pitch” presentation, redesigning the Leader’s Edge media kit, writing contributions for our Cyber Roundup and a making a final presentation to our entire staff on educating college students about what a broker is. They also became a “millennial focus group” for us as we develop a broader campaign on how to attract young people to our industry. Every little detail counts.

“My experience this summer at The Council has made me much more aware of the advantages of a career in insurance,” said intern Sarah Bartlett. “The constant human interaction and problem-solving skills required to be a successful broker definitely make the profession seem more appealing. The high starting salary, steady industry growth and relative job security are also very impressive.”

The ideal scenario is obviously to give them a positive internship experience, recruit them to the business and get them to stay. But I’d consider just changing their perceptions of the industry a pretty good accomplishment.

“My time with The Council has changed my thoughts about the insurance industry,” said Zack Horowitz. “While I still think about old men, I also think about how the industry aids businesses across the globe and provides a safety net that leads to innovation.”

It’s a work in progress, but I guess I’ll take “old” over “old, shady and dull” any day.

Ken Crerar President & CEO, The Council Read More

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