Kids don’t say when I grow up I want to work in insurance – how I got here and why I stay

I asked my 3-year-old what she wanted to be when she grew up and her response was a doctor. I asked what kind of doctor, to which she replied “teeth doctor”. The dentist phase has stuck (and has been great bribery for brushing her teeth well). She has also declared she wants to be a pet doctor, teacher, mommy and lion. I am not sure how I encourage the last one but they all align well with her smart, sweet and sassy personality.

Dentist or lion? It’s a tough choice!

Her random responses made me reflect on what I remember saying when I was growing up. My recurring themes were teacher, lawyer and writer.

A 2015 survey conducted by Fatherly confirmed that our top selections aligned with kids in general. While age and gender influenced selections, overall kid responses centered around taking care of others. The top 5 for all kids were pro athlete, doctor, don’t know, teacher and veterinarian. There were also some fun responses such as beast master, pop princess and gold miner. One even responded with hedge fund manager, which is a close as it got to insurance industry.

My personal shift from teacher to writer was due to finding my extracurricular activity in junior high. I was a newspaper nerd. You can actually letter in that at my high school and there is a jacket somewhere in my parents’ basement to prove it. I loved all parts of it, from brainstorming, planning, interviewing, writing, creating and designing.

I was the incoming freshman who declared during my summer visit with my advisor. He graciously and gently said most wait to declare but I was certain and selected Corporate Communications anyway. To everyone’s surprise, I graduated with that same major,  Marketing tacked on.

As graduation approached, I assumed that I would end up in non-profit marketing or advertising account management. A shift from being a writer, but still related since it involved a creative aspect.

Twenty-something me would have laughed at anyone for predicting I would work in insurance. Insurance wasn’t on the radar. I had never contemplated or considered risk management as a career path. I also never took courses related to insurance. I hadn’t even purchased my own insurance policy. I literally knew nothing about insurance.

How I got here?

  • Job Security – I knew all too well the reliance on client contracts and grant funding for my anticipated career options and realized that I wanted something more stable.
  • Geographical Influence – I decided that I wanted to stay in Des Moines and insurance is big business in central Iowa. The type of roles I wanted would have been more likely in larger metros.
  • Job Availability – There were openings with career advancement opportunity. I didn’t want to take just a job (I even turned down an offer and multiple interviews) but I did need to find income.
  • Work to Live (not live to work) – I knew going down the creative path would be more difficult and I decided the always searching or worrying wasn’t what I wanted. The corporate world offered not only increased stability but salary. It also seemed like a less stressful option for career longevity.
  • Family Ties – At the time, I had 3 first cousins working for the organization. It gave me a greater sense about the organization due to the close ties.

Why do I stay?

  • Above Reasons – The reasons I found myself in insurance remain. Employment opportunities with availability and advancement still rank high on my list. I value security and stability.
  • Great company – I wound up at the right organization for me with a culture that fits. I know that I did not give this enough weight early on and now find myself mentoring college students to consider it heavily. You spend a lot of time at work so it is imperative that the environment is one you will enjoy.
  • Nerd is Nerd – The stretch from newspaper nerd to insurance nerd isn’t as hard as you would think. Instead of geeking out over the next edition, I nerd out over finding a solution or identifying a trend. The core is more similar than you would expect.
  • Endless Career Options Insurance doesn’t mean everyone works in sales or underwriting. Every job function you can think of for any business is also in insurance, plus the stereotypical occupations as claims or actuarial. Insurance has marketing, finance, product, IT, HR, and many more. An extra bonus is that most industry leaders actually value well-rounded exposure to various areas of the organization.
  • Insurance People Rock – Admittedly, I am biased on this one, but I think the misconception is you must be boring to work in insurance. That simply isn’t the case. The industry is filled with interesting and intelligent professionals. Plus, there are great support systems for those wanting to move up, move over and move around within the industry.

While my 20-something would laugh hysterically about the twists and turns life took, 30-something me couldn’t be happier for the journey. Never say never as it may close the door to an unconsidered career path.

I doubt my 3-year old will be a dentist but I also didn’t become a teacher. By chance, I found an 11+ year career in insurance to everyone’s surprise – mine included.

I would encourage others to look into insurance as a possibility. Any business role you can think of can be found in insurance. There are also likely opportunities that you don’t even know existed. Insurance is poised to be in a constant state of change as technology and data alter the industry which makes it an exciting time to join in. The conservative nature has shifted with multiple industry leaders having casual dress and flexible schedules. Today’s insurance office looks nothing like that of the past. It is also anticipated with the upcoming mass retirements within the industry that lots of insurance jobs will be available.

Kids still won’t dream of working in insurance but I hope that more college students will investigate it as a career option.

About Alicia Gross

Living in Des Moines, Alicia unexpectedly and ironically found a career in insurance. She graduated with a Bachelors in Corporate Communications and Marketing and also obtained an MBA in Executive Development. Alicia started as a licensed agent in 2006 and then transitioned into sales operations focusing on project management and continuous improvement. She shifted from direct sales to product management in 2015. Today, she is responsible for the growth and profitability of auto and home lines in her assigned states. She loves that the role is a mix of analytics, collaboration, communication, and strategy. Alicia is involved with various associate resource groups, mentoring opportunities and recruiting efforts. Outside insurance, she is passionate about family, traveling and giving back.

2 thoughts on “Kids don’t say when I grow up I want to work in insurance – how I got here and why I stay”

  1. Given the significant nepotism in the insurance industry, it’s more like the parents are saying, “when you grow up, you’re going to work in the insurance industry”…

    I’d also add that currently, the insurance industry is a huge opportunity for millennial women. I have been a mentor in the career development/internship programs of a global carrier & broker, 50% of these groups were young women – which was fantastic to see. The leadership is still male dominated, but the gender landscape of the underwriter/broker workforce is definitely changing.

  2. Fully agree with this statement – “Admittedly, I am biased on this one, but I think the misconception is you must be boring to work in insurance. That simply isn’t the case. The industry is filled with interesting and intelligent professionals. Plus, there are great support systems for those wanting to move up, move over and move around within the industry.” That is the long-term to stay on insurance. I fell into it as it paid a little better than banking at the time, and I was able to get HIRED which is what I needed – a JOB, and additionally a perk was the position had a cool title “Commercial Underwriter” sounds pretty cool when you are 21 and past titles have been “News Paperboy” “Bagger” “Dish Washer” ” Store Clerk” and several others. And I even got a business card.


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