I recently went back and looked at our survey results to read the comments again. I can’t help but thank you for your honesty and openness in leaving us your comments. As I read through the comments, one jumped off the page at me. No, I’m not going to quote this comment directly. I want to protect the privacy of the person that left it. Let me relate the sense of the quote. One needs to figure out what to learn and hopefully it will meet his/her needs and will be supported by the employer.
That makes sense to me. Here are some steps to follow to find training and get your employer’s support for your training requests.
Start by looking at your career. There are some very concrete questions that you need to ask yourself at the very beginning of this process.
- What does my current position require of me?
- What position do I want in five years?
- What kind of questions or discussions am I having?
- What do I already do well?
Think about it. The questions and conversations that you are having around your position today indicate the topics that you need to know about. You know what you do every day. When I started looking at training, I was an underwriting assistant. I was learning how to assemble commercial policy forms, helping my underwriter to make sure that the policies were complete. One topic that I needed was an understanding of how to read policy forms and why we attached specific forms to a policy. Seeking policy training allowed me to learn the basics of the ISO forms and then allowed me to learn more about reading the carrier specific forms that we used.
Let’s go back to another question. What position do you want in five years? Go find someone that has the position that you want and get a short meeting with them. Please don’t just ask, “So, how did you get this gig?” Have a conversation. Tell them that you’re interested in growing your career and you would like a few pieces of advice. Ask what they’re reading. Ask what classes they would recommend. Keep it short. They are busy, so show up on time and (maybe more importantly) leave on time. If you schedule 30 minutes, take 30. Don’t take 31 minutes. Make sure that you follow up with a nice thank you email (or better yet, a thank you note. Yes, a handwritten note is best.) Who knows, this may turn into a mentoring relationship, but that’s another topic for another day.
Knowing what you want from your career and how other people got there is a good start. Now you have to start looking at training options to get yourself there. This is going to take a little time so go fix a fresh pot of coffee, grab a soft drink or a big bottle of water. We may be here a while. Please don’t try and use your favorite search engine right now. You’ll get over 450,000,000 results for ‘insurance training’. We don’t have that kind of time and we need to know a few more facts about you first. You need to know what kind of training you prefer and how that can fit into other limitations.
There are live classes in a classroom with 50 of your peers available. These classes can run from 4 hours to 20 hours. In some areas, you can find some classes that will meet 1-2 hours a day for 2 days in a week, or once a week for several weeks. There are classes that you can take by ordering the study materials and reading and studying the books or choose a recorded online guide through the materials. There are also online live webinars that last 1-4 hours depending on the vendor and content.
So, you have to decide which of these formats fits your schedule and preference. Many of us like to be in class, but we just can’t get away from the office (right now) for 3 days. Some of us may find that the self-study is an option, but life can get in the way of that. It’s easy to put the books aside when there’s a baseball game on, a toddler running home, or life throws you a curve that you can’t handle. It may be that an online webinar will provide you with the learning that you need right now. Whether in a live or pre-recorded format, this sort of just in time learning may be what you need this week to help you with something that you’re facing today while helping you meet those long-term goals. There are well known organizations that provide all of this learning.
Now that you know what format you want, you still need to decide which training meets that need. You need to decide if you want a designation, if you need CE, or if you need to learn something because you need the knowledge. Here are some of the top choices for different formats.
- The National Alliance for Insurance Education and Research (classroom and live webinars)
- The Institutes (self-study and self-directed online. Some areas have classroom available)
- Insurance Journal’s Academy of Insurance (you didn’t think I would leave this one off the list, did you?)
Once you have decided on all of that, you still have one more hurdle to overcome. You have to get someone to smile, say yes, and write a check for it. Don’t just go into your manager’s office saying that you want training. They’ve heard that before and they aren’t biting on it. You need to let that manager know that you’ve put thought into this request. Make it a formal meeting. Get on her calendar for a 30-minute training conversation. Go into the conversation with a humble and grateful spirit. You’re glad to be working where you are and you are grateful for the opportunities that you have there. Take the time before the meeting to write up your training plan. Include as many dates as you can. Include the budget estimates and the time that you’ll need to be out of the office and how you plan to make up the work (or get someone else to back you up). Include how this training will help the company. When I have done this, I included my analysis and business justification as a document attached to the invite. Even if she doesn’t read it, you gave it and that says something.
As a final thought, let me tell you about my training plans and how I continue to learn. I have sought insurance designations because I felt like it was important especially since my degree isn’t in insurance. I’ve attended classroom sessions that have run from 2 hours to 20 hours. I have done self-study for designations. By the way, if you take that route, schedule your test at the beginning and put deadlines on your calendar. It will help that test date from sneaking up on you. I have also attended live and recorded webinars. Beyond that, I’m trying to read a book every month, alternating between non-fiction and fiction and I am a constant consumer of podcasts and blogs. Maybe another time, I’ll make some solid recommendations.