Finding Your Dream Job in Insurance by Serendipity

A suited woman presents to a small meeting of professionals.

You can actually find your dream job in something unexpected, like insurance.

Before my interest in insurance, I aspired to become a hairdresser. I often battled between the ideas of running my own salon or working for someone else — but, no matter what, I was going to become the best hairdresser in Bermuda.

So, how does one’s interest go from hairdressing to commercial underwriting? Unlike most people, who have had family guidance into the industry or have fallen into it by accident, my story is a bit different.

In 2007, my mother’s parked car was hit by another motorist’s vehicle, causing a total loss in damages. My mother submitted her claim to the insurance company, expecting to be reimbursed for the initial purchase price of the car. Instead, she received half that (which I now know to be the wonderful concept of depreciation). Understandably angry, she chose to vent to me, of all people. My 15-year-old mind questioned why she didn’t receive the full amount she seemed entitled to. Although unfortunate, this circumstance encouraged me to research how the insurance industry works.

Two years later, representatives from St. John’s University presented a lecture to the top math classes in Bermuda. While they mainly encouraged students to pursue careers in actuarial science, they also provided us with information about the school’s risk management and insurance program, which I determined to be more my speed. After graduating from high school in 2010, I took a bite out of the Big Apple and ventured to St. John’s University, where I majored in risk management and insurance (RMI).

While at St. John’s, I learned about all the nuances of insurance. I learned (and am still learning) about the many types of insurance that are offered worldwide. Of everything that I learned, what surprised me most was the concept of celebrities insuring their body parts — I had never heard of such a thing. More so, I learned of a professional baby-food taste tester having her taste buds insured and a professional American football player having his hair insured. It seemed that the possibilities of insurance were endless!

I am now about a year and a half into my full-time insurance career and have already experienced the multifaceted nature of the industry I have come to love and enjoy. During the first year, I worked as an excess and surplus property underwriter trainee in New York. Since February 2015, I have been working in Bermuda, providing malpractice and errors and omissions (E&O) insurance for large law firms around the world. It’s truly amazing to see how one can move throughout a company in this industry, and even across borders, to explore different lines of business in order to become a better-rounded individual and underwriter.

One of the many misconceptions of the industry that I hear from my peers is that it is “boring.” I have found the industry to be quite the opposite; the key is finding an aspect of the industry that aligns with your interests. For example, during school, a professor told me a story about a woman who was very interested in makeup. Eventually, she became the risk manager for one of the top cosmetics firms in the world. The insurance industry does not consist solely of reinsurance and insurance companies. There are firms of varying size and geographical scope that require assistance in risk mitigation.

By joining the RMI program at St. John’s University, I was exposed not only to the theoretical world of insurance, but also to the practical one. So many companies are looking for the best talent, and I was granted several scholarship and internship opportunities. As an RMI student, I was also allowed to rub elbows with senior personnel in the industry. I quickly learned that the insurance industry is driven by relationships and reputation.

The nature of the industry is especially prevalent in Bermuda, as the island is only 21 square miles. About 30 Bermudian students were at St. John’s while I studied there, most of whom were also in the RMI program. It was almost guaranteed that, once people discovered I was from Bermuda, they would mention another Bermudian student they had met. I’ve been back in Bermuda for just over six months now, and several people (whom I don’t know!) have stopped me on the street to offer congratulations on various accomplishments, as my name had come up in discussion with someone they knew. It doesn’t help that my name is unique either (as far as I’m aware, I’m the only Jubilee on the island).

While it may help to gain a foundation of insurance knowledge before entering the industry (such as through an RMI program), it is not required. I have noticed that more students are enrolling in RMI programs; however, many of the more experienced insurance professionals have degrees in geography, biology or law, to name a few, which have immensely supplemented their chosen career.

Even if one initially decides on a noninsurance area of study but ultimately desires to join the industry, several designation and certification programs can help. There’s a program for almost every area of the insurance and risk management industry. I currently hold six insurance designations. One of my former professors holds 12 — that’s right, TWELVE! 

Remember that, just like any other career, insurance and risk management may not be for everyone. While the industry can offer a lucrative career for those with an opportunity to join, there will always be some people whom the industry cannot satisfy for one reason or another.

My last word of advice: choose the insurance and risk management industry for a career you may potentially enjoy — don’t base your decision on financial gain. Take me for example: you might be dreaming about being a hairdresser, but you can actually find your dream job in something unexpected, like insurance.