Canadian Underwriter

COVID-19 doesn’t mean putting your career on hold: Insurer exec

November 24, 2020   by Adam Malik

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The global COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people work and learn but similar to how brokerages and insurance companies continued to operate in a new environment, learning and growth opportunities shouldn’t have to stop, said the leader of an insurer during a webinar.

It may be tough to think about learning and career growth while working from home and isolated from colleagues but it’s important to continue to think about what’s next for your career, stressed Andrew Steen, president of Berkley Canada.

“I want to start with the assurance that your career is definitely not on hold during COVID,” he said during the Insurance Institute of Ontario’s recent At the Forefront webinar series entitled Finding Your Success in Today’s Hard Commercial Market. “I think we all had an initial period of adjustment that we had to make while we started working remotely. After that period of adjustment, though, I would now argue that now’s the time to double down on your skill-building.”

What he means by that is, insurance professionals need to use this time as an opportunity to take an inventory of their skills as they are today and where they want to take them.

“What is it that you want to build next to set yourself up for a broader contribution in the business? Are those hard, technical skills? And if so, what are those and where are you going to go to get that the learning around those?” he listed as self-assessing questions.

And don’t forget about those soft skills — what needs to be developed? Steen highlighted presentation and communication skills are something to keep top of mind when the way people meet and see each other has changed. “Certainly, one of the things I’ve observed is environments like this, where communication is a lot different — and in some respects, a lot more challenging than communicating with people face to face — is that something that you want to work through?”

Once you’ve done that inventory, look to where you can get those skills developed, be it through your professional association or other institutions that offer education, he added.

Steen was asked about coaching and mentorship and how that takes place in a remote working environment. That type of learning needs to be more self-directed now, he answered.

“And the reason why I say that is, for all of us that have been in the business for any length of time, I describe our inherent learning — most of the learning that we do — has been apprentice-style. So I remember pulling up to people’s desks and asking a more senior person, ‘Hey, what do you think of this risk type? Here’s how I want to approach it. What am I missing?’” he said.

But that type of learning can’t be done now when working from home. At least, not naturally. Those experiences have to be manufactured, Steen said.

“So I would say it’s more self-directed by virtue of: I think you got to take a more conscious effort to say, ‘What pieces of skill am I missing?’ And that’s not something you need to do by yourself, but something that you can talk to your boss about or talk to a mentor about,” he explained. “Get some feedback around what skills you need to build, and work on that from there. Your execution of filling in those skill gaps, I think that piece really does need to be more self-directed at this point.”


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