Starting With Intention

Originally published in AM Best January 2020 Edition

As we start the New Year, I want to set an intention for 2020 that I hope will also resonate with you in regards to your career path. My focus in 2020 will be to make a lasting impact. As we develop our careers and grow ourselves professionally, it can be easy to become focused on our individual goals. This can sound like a number of different things: I want to be promoted, I want to lead a team, I want to earn X dollars per year, or I would like to find a role at Y Company. Then, we build our plans around the steps we believe are necessary to meet those goals. Those steps may also sound like a number of different things: I will earn X designation, I will take Y class, I will put in more face time at the office, or I will meet 4 new people per month.


These are all tactics that I have used and that I will continue to use. It is in my nature to plan and prepare for the future. But, in becoming too focused on my own plan, especially in regards to my career path, it can be easy to forget why one does the work, whatever work that might be. That is why, in 2020, instead of a detailed, goal-oriented plan, I will be working to focus on making a lasting impact. It would be fair to ask at this point exactly what that means. As I write  this column at the end of 2019, I don’t fully have an answer for you. But, I can share these three thoughts that are guiding my meditation on impact currently:


  1. Insurance is a pro-social product, but it is generally not seen as such. How can I influence the way insurance is sold and marketed to the general consumer to share this truth? One of the challenges with this problem is that insurance is a product that is bought by consumers to allow them to do the thing they actually want to do: own a home, drive a car, or employ workers. Until an insured has a claim, their interactions with their policy are minimal, and even at the point of a claim, their interactions may be confusing. How can we entice consumers to engage with their policies? Are their other benefits they would like to see from their insurer? In past roles, I was working directly with individual consumers and could educate them one by one as to why coverage limits and options mattered, can I do this on a broader scale or influence those who are in contact with consumers? 
  2. Insurance is a career that offers many interesting paths to those who choose the ecosystem. Yet, we struggle in attracting and retaining talent. Those without an understanding of our industry still see us as boring and stodgy. What can I do to improve our industry’s reputation? Further, how can I assist companies in their retention efforts, especially in entry-level roles, like call centers and processing departments? 
  3. Insurance is made up of an extremely silo-ed ecosystem. Agents and carrier employees struggle to trust each other. Within carriers, various departments may have only the slightest knowledge of the role of employees outside their department. Insurtech companies and legacy companies still have a “He Said/She Said” mentality.  Can I create valuable knowledge-sharing and community-building mechanisms or systems that break down some of these barriers?


All of the ways that I am thinking about impact are directly related to improving someone’s individual experience: consumers, entry-level employees, founders, insurance professionals.Insurance is a people-focused business, and I hope that will not change in my lifetime. I hope that as we set our goals for this year, we step back and think about why we are setting them. My desire to have a lasting impact has guided my career thus far, and as I step in to 2020, I am re-focusing my efforts to continue chasing that purpose. I’d love to hear what purpose guides your goals.

About Carly Burnham

Carly Burnham began her insurance career in 2004 as an office assistant at an agency in her hometown of Duluth, MN. She got licensed as a producer while working at that agency and progressed to serve as an office manager. Working in the agency is how she fell in love with the industry. She saw firsthand the good that insurance consumers experienced by having the proper protection. When Carly moved to Des Moines in 2010, she decided to commit to the industry, and she completed her CPCU in one year finishing it in 2012 and attending commencement in New Orleans. She completed her MBA at Iowa State University in 2014. During this time, she and Tony founded a Gen Y Associate Resource Group at Nationwide in Des Moines. After they had both left Nationwide, Tony recruited Carly to co-author and manage She has the difficult task of keeping his constant flow of crazy ideas focused and helping to flesh them out into useful articles. Carly enjoys sharing knowledge and ideas about the future of the industry and finds the website a good outlet for this passion. Carly is involved in the the CPCU Society Underwriting Interest Group. She also writes "Next Wave" a monthly column in the "Perspectives" section of Best's Review.

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