Long Term Career Planning:
Rx For Adjuster Success
By Kevin M. Quinley CPCU, AIC, ARM
Long-term career planning in the claims industry may seem impossible these days, given the precarious nature of the insurance business and epidemic staff turnover. Claim adjusters can and should, however, take the advice of experts, take a long view and device a long-term career plan.
A long-term career plan might take many forms. Essentially, the plan should reflect your career goals and ways to attain them. A career plan is a map, but not necessarily a detailed outline. Moreover, it should be flexible, adaptable over time. Change in the claims business requires flexibility. A long-term career plan is useful as long as it is flexible and reflects the adjuster's real interests. You cannot let it be an outside force which drives you.
Adjusters work flexibility into a career plan simply by recognizing that such a plan is organic and will evolve as you change as an individual and as the business environment changes.
The planning process, which involves self-evaluation and research in career options, reminds you of the inevitability of change in any adjuster's work life. Equipped with this heightened awareness, claim professionals are likely to adjust much more easily to changes while also ensuring that you find satisfaction in your career.
Self evaluation is the first step in setting long-term career goals. Career goals are best shaped from two elements -- what you love to do, and what you do well. These will not necessarily be the same things, and herein lies the seeds of some career stress.
To identify what you are good at, and what you love to do, adjusters much search for clues in their work experience. What adjusting assignment are you proudest of? Which of your former successes are you most likely to mention? What challenges and tasks do you meet with enthusiasm rather than dread? What strengths and weaknesses have others cited in their comments about the work you have done?
Seek the opinions of others, especially mentors, to form a more complete evaluation of yourself. Start with your performance evaluation, but go beyond it. Straight talk from a boss, supervisor, co-worker or informal mentor may be most useful. They might be able to tell you, "You would be miserable in a bog insurance company or organization. You ought to think about becoming an entrepreneur or a claims consultant."
Choosing a Path
Picking a career path involves sighting a destination. How "far" do you want to go? A fairly common "ultimate" among claim adjusters is to become a Claims Manager or Risk Manager, even if there is often only a vague understanding of what this latter job term means. These positions may or may not be right for you. In fact, choosing them as your destinations might lead you to neglect other rewarding roles more suited to your skills, aspirations and needs.
Wherever you decide to go, you need a "label" for your destination. In other words, a job title. Without this, it is tough to plan, and you have no real way to communicate what you want to do.
If you set your sights on becoming a claims manager, be sure to extend your career plan beyond your first Claims Manager position. The top spot is also not necessarily a secure one.
In setting your career path, adjusters must decide whether they are willing and able to make the trade-offs, investments and modifications demanded by the positions to which they aspire. Without this commitment, a long-term career plan is useless.
Keep in mind, too, that career planning is not a solo practice. This is particularly true for adjusters with families. Needs of spouses who work or have their own careers and the needs of children must be factored into the plan.
To design a long-term career plan that has a realistic chance of attainability, adjusters need detailed information about their job markets. They can guess about the market, or do research. Look at people who are doing the jobs that you ultimately want to be doing. Ask yourself, "Where did these Claim Managers/ Risk Managers/ Executives come from?" Routes to jobs may change over time, but you may still discover the types of people who might be in competition with you for the positions you will seek in the future. Adjusters creating their plans should research what their desired jobs demand.
Without a map, you might be stuck taking statements for the rest of your career. There is nothing inherently wrong with this but, to advance into claims management, use these tips as a “career compass” to chart a course toward professional advancement!
Kevin M. Quinley CPCU, AIC is Senior Vice President, MEDMARC Insurance Company, Fairfax, VA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.