Once the July renewals are out of the way, the insurance and reinsurance markets tend to have their quietest month. Business never sleeps, of course, but during my broking career, August meant that the usual late nights in the office were typically replaced by the ability to leave work early (i.e. on time, but it feels early!). There were also more likely to be a few glasses sauvignon blanc standing outside a city pub in the last of the suns rays!
This means it is also the perfect time of year to do things you don’t usually have time for, so here are 5 ways that you can advance your career this summer without missing out on the sunshine and beers:
1 – Learn a new skill
Confidence is key to career success and, just like a muscle, confidence can be built by pushing ourselves every now and again. Leaving our comfort zones to do something new gives a sense of achievement, introduces us to new people and grows our self-confidence – all of which reflect positively on us at work.
So, whether it’s learning to fly the trapeze, speak Spanish or become a bee keeper, your confidence (and career) will receive an automatic boost.
2 – Volunteer
I’m passionate about volunteering and can talk for hours about how hugely beneficial it is to your career, citing examples and quoting statistics (if you’re interested, see here) – The summary? It boosts your confidence, builds your network, enhances your personal brand, develops your skills and makes you more employable and promotable.
It doesn’t take long to find opportunities either; in the US MIUSA is a great place to start and if you’re a CPCU, you can volunteer to help lead the CPCU Society nationally or locally. Plus, your local CPCU Society Good Works Committee may have events within your community.
In the UK Do-it.org has a host of varied options listed. If you’re in the London market, why not join other (re)insurance professionals and sign up to help young people by sharing your experience at an event in the city (whilst boosting your personal brand and network at the same time!)?
3 – Read a different kind of book
Your preferred beach reading may be the latest James Patterson or Zadie Smith or an old classic like Of Mice and Men or The Catcher in the Rye, but you could choose to use that reading time to learn something new. Don’t know what to buy? Inc.com has a great list of business memoirs, career guides and the most exciting research on the future of work that you could add to your kindle (or suitcase if like me, you still prefer the feel of actual paper pages). You’re sure to find something to like that will also leave you with some inspiration to take back to the office.
4 – Get organized
Clear out that inbox once and for all. If you’re anything like me, it can build and build until it’s a mess of half filed conversations, reminders and becomes a makeshift “to do” list that can get out of hand. When your inbox is a mess, it reduces your productivity, and research shows this type of distraction takes up vital cognitive bandwidth and reduces your ability to do other things.
Set some time aside and delete, file, archive and respond to those you’ve been putting off and then revel in the glorious emptiness as you skip out of the office.
5 – Update your LinkedIn Profile
I can’t tell you how many underwriters and brokers I work with who have neglected this most critical of career tools. If they have a profile at all, they have uploaded a terrible photo copied from their office security pass or worse, a holiday snap! (I recently had to advise a seasoned broker aspiring to great things that the photo of him holding a beer glass in each hand wasn’t the most professional impression to make!) Many have no information under their current or past roles and a big blank space where “interests” should be.
I guarantee that you will be “googled” at some point by a client, colleague, competitor or potential employer and chances are it’s your LinkedIn profile that will be the first thing they see. Why on earth would you set yourself up to make a bad first impression? You wouldn’t right? Check out this infographic which covers all the basics you need to know, no excuses.
There are of course other, more advanced ways to enhance your profile. If you want to, you can use LinkedIn to really stand out in the industry, grow your network and build your personal brand and reputation as an expert attracting clients and potential job offers too. Perhaps we’ll cover those another time but for now please, I beg you, just get the basics in place today.
6 – Take a holiday
When we work in a demanding, fast paced environment it’s easy to miss how stressed or tense we are becoming in fact Project: time off has found that Americans are taking less time off than at any time in the last 40 years. Our bodies have ways to let us know we need to rest and we must listen (I learned this one the hard way, ignoring the messages from my body 10 years ago landed me in hospital).
But even if you’re not suffering, take time to switch off (yes, literally – no blackberry on your break please), and there is no need to feel guilty about it, in fact research has shown that you may actually be perceived as being more productive for taking time off! A well deserved break will ensure you stay healthy and are at your sparkling best when you return to work ready for new challenges and opportunities.
7 – Plan your next career step
Life is so busy that we often find ourselves rushing from one meeting to the next; the renewal dates blend into one, and the years pass in a flash. But, if you really want to succeed in this industry it is vitally important to know what you want to achieve in order to set a goal and to have a plan.
You may want to land a promotion, get involved in more client work, or make the move from insurance to reinsurance or from broking to underwriting. Some of these things can happen by luck, you’re in the right place at the right time but seriously, do you want to leave your career success to chance?
Exclusively for readers of InsNerds.com Katherine has prepared an awesome (and free free) (re)insurance career planning checklist to make sure the success of your career isn’t left to chance. Download it now!
So, you’ve got a good month ahead with more time to spare than usual. What will you do to progress your career this summer? Comment below, we’d love to hear from you.
About Katherine Bryant
Katherine Bryant is an executive coach working with (re)insurance professionals who want to accelerate their career success. Whether it's gaining a promotion, changing role or honing the perfect leadership style her former life as an underwriter, broker and most recently a COO at Aon supports her current role; consulting and coaching at companies such as JLT, HSBC, Aon, Gallagher, AIG and various Lloyds syndicates.
Use your summer to grow without missing out: 1. Learn something new. 2. Volunteer. 3. Read some fiction. 4. Get organized. 5. Update LinkedIn. 6. Vacation. 7. Plan your next step.
This article was our first collaboration with Katherine Bryant in the UK. Not enough people downloaded the pdf she provided and she hasn't written more for us since :-( . Check out her stuff, it's quality!