Written by Jim McBride
Time to put your transferable skills into action? Have a driving passion for serving customers? Interested in navigating the career lattice? If so, you may be the perfect fit in both of these top five growth industries in Phoenix: Insurance and Financial Services!
Unique industry insights from two round-table panels of recruiting experts, hosted by Jessica Pierce, sparked lively discussion on the hottest jobs and how to start your career transition. Our audience of job seekers and networkers heard Q&A topics ranging from getting started without previous industry experience, to career pathways and industry myth-busting. Keep reading for a full recap.
PANEL 1 – Career Advancement in the Culture of the Insurance Industry
State Farm – Molly Romine, Recruiter
Farmers – Steven Acevedo, Supervisor
Liberty Mutual – John Walters, President, AZ Insurance Institute
Q – What advice do you have for people who are interested in pursuing career opportunities in the insurance industry?
A – We are always looking for people with a positive mentality. It’s so important to always be positive. Do your research – spend time connecting with people in the industry, read blog posts, get to KNOW the industry, learn the acronyms and become a practitioner of knowledge. Be yourself – we want a glimpse into your life, so you can be a superstar and have an amazing experience.
Q – Sometimes Insurance companies get a bad rap. What myths can you shatter?
A – Going in, I was planning on a career pivot within two years because I thought it would be boring! I soon recognized there’s so much more beyond the entry level position. Our company is like a mini-city, you are able to pursue so many other things within the organization. There’s a perception that insurance is all about being an agent. But there are lots of moving parts in areas like claims, underwriting and IT, just to name a few. There’s no college major that doesn’t apply to the insurance industry. There are lots of non-traditional roles. We’ve employed nurses, doctors and even physicists.
Q – What has kept you engaged?
A – The ability to keep on my learning path, finishing up my master’s program with the financial assistance that was provided. Plus, there are so many great people. The industry is known for attention to work-life balance. Only 10% of our workforce is call center and there are work-from-home opportunities at nearly all levels. There’s huge flexibility with work schedules. In the call center we are honoring our commitment to the customer so there is a need for schedule adherence, but we are not looking for robots.
Q- What are the career pathways once employees come on board?
A – I refer to this as career lattice. You can grow sideways – left or right – as well as diagonal. You’re navigating the lattice versus the career ladder. For some, the best career move may be lateral. It’s important to find an internal mentor as well as a mentor within the industry. Identify your interests and strengths. There are plenty of internal opportunities, keep your eyes open and decide which direction you’d like to go. Keep in mind, there are new jobs being created that didn’t exist 5 – 10 years ago.
Q – What are some tips for people who are pursuing senior management roles?
A – There definitely are openings. We’re always looking for talent and there’s always a need for leaders. The positions are typically posted internally first, then externally. If starting at entry level isn’t for you, network in the industry and learn about the jobs that aren’t posted yet. Learning the ropes really helps. We do try to promote from within, which can make it tough for external candidates. However, we know external candidates have valuable niche skills and the desire to compete for these roles.
Q – What is the outlook in the next 2 – 5 years in the insurance industry?
A – Phoenix is a great labor and academic market. The area is not disaster prone (no floods, hurricanes, etc.) so that’s why we’re here. Industry change is being driven by technology, regulation and consumer demand. As technology improves, our ability to serve improves. We’re not like Blockbuster, the movie video tape company that didn’t change with the times.
Q – What are the hot careers?
A – Jobs in IT, telematics, artificial intelligence, data science, programming, data platforms are all really hot. So is leadership. Great leaders can be hard to come by. Showcase your talent from other places you’ve worked.
Q – What are the benefits you offer?
A – We offer a cafeteria-style. It’s very broad and generous. We want your mind free and clear, not worried about insurance coverage. The benefits are not cookie-cutter. We match the diversity of our employee groups. For example: just out of college, single parent, looking to adopt – it’s designed for different stages of an employee’s life cycle. Tuition reimbursement is very popular.
Q – (audience) Are there any programs for hiring seniors (50+)?
A – Jobs are open for people of all ages. Some roles may be more attractive to seasoned job seekers. There’s been a noticeable increase in the number of part-time retirees who are looking for a flexible schedule.
Q – (audience) What is the best way to navigate a job fair? The job I’m looking for is not available and I’m directed to watch the website for postings.
A – There’s no easy answer to this question. If we’re at a job fair looking for customer service people, that’s going to be our focus. The best answer is to dig in on the website and make sure to network. We have employee referral programs, reach out and connect with current employees. They will be motivated to help you.
Q – (audience) – What is the best way to prepare for an interview?
A – Be ready for behavior-based questions. We’ll be looking for specific examples of situations from your past. Come up with a list of 10 examples and practice. This is what happened…this is how I handled it.
PANEL 2 – Never Expected to be Where I am Today – Financial Services
Freedom Financial Network – Heather Marcom, Head of Talent Acquisition
Chase – Lekheythan Malone, Sr. Recruiter
Greater Phoenix Chamber Foundation (Financial Training) – Brittany Holmes, Workforce Development Manager
Q – What skills do you need to move into financial services?
A – We hire from all kinds of work experience. It’s really all about how you communicate with customers. We’re not just call centers. There are plenty of opportunities in roles beyond the call center.
Q – Financial services does not always sound exciting and fun. Why do you like this industry?
A – There is a common theme, we are passionate about serving our clients; educating and answering questions to help people achieve their financial goals in life. We have empathy for people when they need our help. We offer great benefits and we’re growing, which is very exciting.
Q – What if a job seeker has no previous financial services experience, are there opportunities?
A – The call center is typically where you start. Although over 50% of our roles are filled internally, we are looking for skills that are transferable. We also focus on a competency and culture fit. Be able to articulate your transferable skills, verbally and on your resume. If we understand your transferable skills, we can help direct you. It takes effort. Do your research and don’t ask, “whadya got?” You should always know what specific job you are seeking.
To build your industry knowledge, make a point of attending an industry conference to network, learn something new or brush up on best practices. Some positions require a license. Getting into a licensing program shows initiative and a commitment that you’re ready for the securities industry. There are four-week programs with outplacement assistance through the Greater Phoenix Chamber Foundation. (See: Financial Industry Training Open House)
Q – What are the career pathways in financial services?
A – We’re building a path from our customer service “farm team” and coaching people through the career ladder. But we’re still figuring it out because we’re a new company. Internal opportunities are numerous with so many different and diverse lines of business, so there’s lots to explore. It depends on want you want to accomplish in your career and we encourage employees to move around. Managers have career development on their score card, so they are having those conversations with their direct reports.
Q – What is the future of the industry?
A – We are piloting part-time roles in our core services because workforce flexibility is critical. More automation is coming, so make sure you keep up on your skills. You HAVE to be tech savvy, so don’t get left behind. We still need lots of people behind the technology to serve customers.
Q – What are the attractive benefits beyond the standard suite?
A – Freedom Financial Network: Voted Best Place to Work in Phoenix. Cafeteria, coffee bar, covered outdoor seating areas, BBQ, games, core values C.A.R.E., time off on your birthday, time off to volunteer.
Chase: Internal resume and interviewing workshops, coaching and networking. Retirement portfolio flexibility options.
Q – If someone has a credit history issue, are they eligible to work?
A – Yes, you would be eligible for 95% of the roles. A typical background investigation is conducted on prospective employees but only a limited number of roles require a credit history check.
Q – (audience) If I’m looking for a manager role, what job title should I put on my resume to get it through the applicant tracking system?
If you’re applying with just one resume for every job, you’re using the wrong approach. Look at each job description and customize your resume to that job. Drop in key words and don’t worry so much about the job title. Recruiters recognize that job titles can vary. And remember, a recruiter will spend about 30 seconds scanning your resume.
GCU – Jim Pangborn, Director
GCU offers an IT functionality “boot camp” featuring an in-depth program to build your skills for a career in the technology field. GCU also provides business management MBA programs and continuing education for those interested in adding on to their skill set.
Numerous open staff positions at GCU, featuring:
• Director of Compensation
• Sr. Financial Analyst
Jessica Pierce closed the meeting with a review of upcoming events. Up next, “Put Your Strengths to Work – Find a Job that Fits” featuring Stephanie Clergé on Tuesday, January 22nd in Gilbert. Jessica acknowledged the many partners and volunteers who help make Career Connectors a success!