Much has been made in recent years of the need to attract more professionals and particularly those in their early career years to the insurance industry. Efforts that have coalesced around an annual #insurancecareersmonth in February are commendable, but they are hampered by a simple fact that should be acknowledged and addressed: “insurance” is a boring word.
The connotations carried by the word “insurance,” such as safety, security, and stability, are good and important values. But they are neither interesting nor exciting. Meanwhile, as those who are fortunate to work in insurance know, the business is almost always interesting and can be exciting often enough as well. It is a business that offers diverse choices and opportunities, and it is rewarding both in a financial sense and in the way it performs an essential function that allows individuals and organizations and ultimately society to carry out their functions in serving, building and creating.
It is, in other words, a great industry in which to pursue a career, but it suffers from an inalterable flaw that keeps it from seeming like one–its name. So, here’s an idea: individuals and organizations seeking to attract fresh faces to the insurance industry should avoid using the word insurance. Completely. In other words, don’t tell those you are trying to attract that “yes, it’s insurance, but it’s interesting.” Rather, tell them what it’s about, at least get the conversation started, without using the word insurance.
The term that should be used instead, and you probably could have seen this coming, is “risk management,” which has a wonderful ring to it and does in fact convey notions of interest and excitement. It also happens to be true that what is known as the insurance industry is in fact the risk management industry, as insurance is simply a piece, albeit an important one, of the broader risk management function.
To be sure, there has been some recognition of risk management being a more attractive term as “risk management and insurance” (sometimes acronymized to RMI) is at least occasionally employed in communications aimed at attracting people to the business. It’s a good appellation for communication within the business world as well as social occasions. “I work in risk management and insurance” sounds better than just “insurance” at cocktail parties and soccer field sidelines, doesn’t it? And it’s accurate because conceptually, risk comes before insurance; if there is no risk, there is no need for insurance. #itstartswithrisk.
But when it comes to reaching out to those we are actually asking to join the fun, it would be better to drop the i-word completely. At least in initial communications, whether they be in websites, tweets or emails, messages encouraging exploration in our beloved industry should use “risk management” exclusively and avoid “insurance” altogether.
For anyone feeling queasy about potentially misrepresenting what is being sold — “Ha, gotcha! You don’t know it but you just joined the insurance industry! You’ve been sentenced to three decades of doldrums.” – rest assured there is nothing duplicitous about it. Every insurance company is, in fact, a risk management firm, and every insurance agency is also a risk management business.
Most of us have a “how I got into insurance” story that probably differs from the “stick to your dreams” narratives frequently shared by professional athletes and movie stars. At some point, we had to come to terms with the idea of working in this thing called “insurance,” and if you think back you may find yourself acknowledging that it took some doing to get over the concept. It’s a little like when you have a child and another on the way and you realize it’s time to trade in the sports car for a minivan.
For my part, I saw and responded to a newspaper ad (yes kids, that’s where they used to post job opportunities!) for a “trade journal reporter” in the early 1990s. I can still recall feeling a bit deflated when I was called for an interview and informed that it was an “insurance” trade journal (and not one that covered aeronautics, or textiles or basically anything other than insurance), and I actually hesitated to go for the interview.
I wonder to this day if I would have even mailed my resume and cover letter (yes kids, we used to do that, with stamps and everything!) if the job posting had said “insurance reporter” in the first place. Failing to do so, I feel pretty certain more than 25 years into an extremely rewarding and enjoyable career, would have been a mistake. Similar mistakes can be avoided if we follow the example of the person who placed the ad, simply not including the word insurance in initial outreach communications.