While Heather was in school, she made one decision that impacted her whole career for the better — she applied for a job in insurance.
With a Bachelor of Arts double major in history and classical studies, Heather never considered going into insurance. It was just something she fell into.
“I applied for a co-op job when I was in college before transferring to university … I lucked out and got it,” she said.
Despite not having a background in finance or any concentration typically associated with insurance, Heather thrived and succeeded in the industry. Her success is not a surprise as insurance offers variety, flexibility, and above average advancement, according to Career Connections.
“There are insurance jobs for every type of person,” Heather said. “If you want to do research and development, you can work for the head offices of insurance companies. If you’re outgoing and thrive in personal relationships, you can work as a broker, underwriter or marketing rep. If you like to be hands-on and not at a desk all day, you can work as a field adjuster, appraiser and so many other options.”
Heather always liked literature, mythology and history. She had planned to go into education and teaching at a high school. But after volunteering in teaching for a while, she realized it wasn’t the right fit for her.
After finishing her co-op term at an insurance company, the employer offered for her to continue working part-time while she completed university.
“They were a very supportive company for the last three years of my degree,” she said.
When Heather finished school, she realized she had found her place working in insurance and decided not to pursue a career in the education sector.,
“They were flexible with my school schedule,” Heather said. “The environment and the culture of the company is what drew me to ask to be full-time.”
Heather’s love for the industry allowed her grow and develop for 14 years since she first started her co-op position and she currently works as a senior operational auditor.
As a senior operational auditor, Heather uses and creates audit programs, random samplings and testings, confirms the organization’s accuracy and efficiency, and compliance with regulatory rules and general company guidelines.
Before her current position, Heather worked at reception, the mail room, and as an underwriting assistant. She became a full-time underwriter once she graduated, and moved from a junior underwriter position into an intermediate underwriter/team leader role. She then became an assistant to the supervisor, to eventually assuming the role of supervisor in her department.
“It’s not perfectly easy to move up in insurance. It’s about being in the right place at the right time and showing you can do the job,” Heather said.
She suggests people volunteer in professional associations and join clubs and committees to show you are putting in the time and effort.
A Bachelor of Arts in classical studies and history may not seem like a good fit with insurance on the surface, but Heather’s career shows it can work together.
“You get to put all the research and analysis skills that you developed and used in university into practice,” Heather said.
“Courses in university will expose you to writing essays, working in groups, team projects, and those come into play every day as an underwriter or auditor,” she said. “There’s a reason why professors give deadlines, it’s important in the real world, and if you aren’t striving to meet these in school, you’re not helping yourself for when you’re in the workforce.”
A lot of people think you need to have some kind of finance background to be in insurance, but that’s not necessarily true, says Heather. As an operational auditor, you still work with numbers but it’s not the main role, she said. The important thing is to know how to research, analyze concepts, conduct interviews, talk with people and dig for data.
There are a lot of opportunities in insurance. The industry in Canada needs more new bodies due to people retiring, Heather said. There will be a lot of available positions, but people have to be open to the possibilities and willing to learn the business. To become a supervisor, you need to put in the time. Most companies will provide insurance education and growth experiences, including paying for certifications like the Chartered Insurance Professional (CIP). Take these opportunities if available and realize it is an investment in you…, so put in the effort to succeed, Heather said.
“I don’t think a lot of people in the same educational background as me consider insurance as an option,” Heather said. “If I’d known it was an option and the opportunities in the industry, I would have gone for it earlier.”
To learn more about how your education and experience can transfer into a career in insurance, visit Career Connections!