The Importance of Preparation in Paving Your Career Path

A mixed group of professionals collaborate in an open office.

It's all about timing, opportunity and an exceptional amount of preparation.

How does a girl who grew up in the Philippines cover three continents with the same employer in 3 years? The answer is timing, opportunity and an exceptional amount of preparation. 

Six months ago, I relocated from Chicago to Melbourne, Australia, for a job opportunity. Previously, I had interned with the same employer in Singapore. I was no stranger to travel, and had a bit of practice relocating. By this time, in addition to living in Singapore for my internship, I had also moved to Philadelphia on my own to attend Temple University. 

I became aware of the prospects of a career in risk management and insurance (RMI) 5 years ago when I attended an introduction to risk management class. As it would later unravel, RMI 2101 proved to be a crucial step in my professional development. 

After RMI attracted my attention and I decided to pursue it for a career, I actively sought ways to train myself to be able to eloquently translate what I was learning in the classroom to professional settings. After all, what use is it to have a gold mine of knowledge if it remains buried and unrefined? 

I realized that preparation was key for my future career path. It may sound simple, but you and I can both attest to experiences where being prepared proved to be the catalyst for a desired and most favorable outcome. Now, lack of preparation does not strictly equal disappointment; as a matter of fact, spontaneity can lead to innovation. However, preparation oftentimes proves to be that little bit of extra that tips the scale in your favor. 

My interest in RMI and desire to be prepared for my future led to my involvement in Gamma Iota Sigma (GIS). While learning how to identify exposures and risk management strategies, I was simultaneously preparing myself to be able to confidently communicate what value I can contribute to prospective employers. 

Through GIS, I participated in interview and etiquette workshops and networking events. I also took the initiative to apply for leadership roles — the last position I held was 2014 executive vice president of a 460-member strong Sigma Chapter. Being an officer gave me the platform to be able to encourage peers to pursue RMI as a career and to take hold of their careers by participating in GIS. My role also gave me the opportunity to attend the annual GIS Leadership Conference where I met fellow student leaders, one of whom was a president of another chapter and who is now my best friend and other half (#GammaLove).

My mixture of international experience, an RMI degree, professional development training and a knack for seeking comfort in discomfort set the stage for my maturing career. My summer internship in Singapore introduced me to the world of financial lines and the suite of directors and officers (D&O) liability insurance, errors and omissions (E&O) insurance and cyber products, which I currently underwrite. 

Following my internship, I pounced on a great financial lines job opportunity in Chicago. My move to Chicago was greatly eased by my network of fellow Temple University Owls and GIS peers who were already based there or were transitioning with me. Having already been bitten by the international travel bug, I seized the opportunity to relocate to Melbourne to broaden my knowledge of the global insurance market. As it would turn out, my internship in Singapore helped lay the groundwork for my recent expatriation as some of the relationships I built then are now helping me navigate the Asia-Pacific region.

It is amazing to think that 5 years ago, had it not been for that RMI 2101 class and subsequently joining GIS, I would not be where I am today. It is human nature to seek comfort in stability and routine. However, change and uncertainty are inevitable. Given that change is challenging, we yearn for familiarity. However, familiarity should not breed complacency. We should actively seek situations that will push us to realize hidden capabilities. 

Mindful of these observations, I am working to build a career on the realization that insurance and managing risk work in an ebb and flow — differences arise in terms of market conditions, and in my case, accents, but the fundamentals remain. So when timing gave way for the opportunity to intern in Singapore, work in Chicago and relocate to Melbourne, I supported my candidacy by exhibiting previous international experience and sound technical and professional development training. I am eager to see how international experience early in my career will attract future opportunities.

Still, I am careful to take on each day by absorbing knowledge and experience to support my development as a risk professional. If you are pursuing the risk profession, set yourself apart by preparing through GIS — you never know where timing and opportunity may take you!

Cathleen Gabriel is a Financial Lines Underwriter at AIG.