Our industry does a lot of hand-wringing about how we’re facing a talent drain and a dearth of viable job candidates in the market. We all know the numbers: the frequently cited 2010 study by McKinsey says 20% of the current insurance industry workforce is near retirement, and the number will be up to 25% by 2018. Conventional wisdom says that insurance is a dull field that bright young people shun. All of this in spite of the many formal recruitment and mentoring programs that are out there.
But a recent article by blogger Eric Barker got me to thinking about this in a totally different way—from the young person’s perspective.
If we want young people to become successful in an industry rife with possibilities, we can’t do it with another cut-and-dried program: We need to be mentors.
Mentors aren’t just empty suits in the corner office, phoning it in. They are teachers, leaders, and confidantes, and their relationship with their protege is personal.
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Barker approached the subject by starting backward: looking at the background of some of the most successful people in the world. In spite of their differences, virtually all of these movers and shakers had had an important mentor in their lives by the time they were college aged—whether it was a teacher, a coach, or a higher-up at a job.
Barker boils down a mentor’s job to three requirements:
- They give objective career guidance, including suggestions on assignments or an advantageous career path.
- They provide emotional support when times get tough, such as recommendations on work/life balance or how to deal with a difficult boss.
- They act as an effective role model, demonstrating appropriate behaviors for different situations.
Young people in today’s workforce are a lot more challenged than we ever were. Jobs are at a premium, with roughly three applicants for every open position. Many new employees are carrying heavy student loans. If they’re ambitious and excited about advancing in our industry, we owe them more than a rubber-stamped training and mentoring experience. After all, these are the people who ideally will one day be running your business.
Think back to your own career. Did you have someone at one of your earliest jobs who encouraged you, took an interest in you, showed you the ropes? You probably did.