Canadian Underwriter

Why you need to define your personal brand early in your career

March 16, 2021   by Jason Contant

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Defining your personal brand early in your insurance career path can pay dividends in the long-run, viewers attending an Insurance Institute of Canada webinar heard recently.

Three-quarters of lifetime earnings are defined within the first 10 years of a person’s career path, so it’s important to be deliberate about what your brand is and what you bring to the table, said Ernest Mashingaidze, a claims adjuster for strategic products at HSB Canada.

“Everybody has a personal brand, whether you detect what it is [for yourself], or whether somebody else detects it for you,” Mashingaidze said during Career Insights: Personal Branding to Elevate Your Career, held Mar. 5.

“The reason why branding is important is because we have an inherent nature as human beings to not care about things until they matter. Nobody minds being at home until you’re forced to be at home. Nobody cares about their personal brand until somebody else defines what your brand is or what you’re all about.”

Webinar host Trevor Buttrum, manager of Career Connections at the Insurance Institute, asked the speakers what career branding means to them.

“At the heart of it is, what is your superpower?” said Nathan LaFayette, chief insurance officer with the British Columbia Automobile Association. “There is something you do that your peers would certainly recognize; that’s your trait.”

When companies make hiring decisions and build their teams, they look for differentiation, LaFayette said. “If you can get good at differentiating what makes you unique, and back it up with evidence-based outcomes from your past, you will have an advantage over everyone and anyone looking to progress their career.”

Mashingaidze defines your career brand as, “What do people say about you when you’re not in the room?”

Buttrum cited his own example of a definition: “If you had to write your own obituary, what would you want people to say about you in your final days? What would you want to be known for in terms of the reputation, the ethics, and the approaches you bring to the table? Being known for those [characteristics or skills] early on in your career is really great advice, so you can continue to build on those foundations and be able to capitalize on them and advance in the direction you want to go.”

It’s also about walking that fine line between promoting yourself and shameless self-promotion, Buttrum said. “[It’s about] selling your skillset, but also making sure that it’s still coming off with a bit of humility. That’s a really distinct skillset to let people know what you’re good at and what you may bring to the table.”

Jessica Coburn is vice president of treaty reinsurance broker at Guy Carpenter and chairwoman of the board of directors at the Young Insurance Professionals of Toronto. She advises that “you want to really dig deep” to identify your unique strengths, interests, and personality.

“If you can relate to people, differentiate yourself, show your superpowers, and [make] people aware of what that toolkit is, [then] that can really take you places in your career…especially as you’re begnning your journey,” she said.

Debra Steeves, a New Brunswick-based home and auto underwriter at The Co-operators, said “everybody wants to be known for something that makes them unique and individual.”

Steeves said her “superpower” is when people come to her because they think she will know the answer. “And if I don’t, they know I will help find the answer. I like to think my superpower is having that ‘stick-to-it-iveness’ to find the answer and admitting when I don’t know, but we’ll find out together.”

Building your personal brand takes time, Buttrum observed. It’s not a “flash-in-the-pan” approach.

“You become that go-to-resource to whom people know they can go to get the information they may need, or who will be their partner in helping them get to the bottom of whatever’s on their mind.”


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