Insurance Academy

3 Ways to Maximize Your Learning

By | September 2, 2020

Insurance learning should be an ongoing part of every insurance professional’s life. Many of us have licenses that require us to attend classes and get continuing education credit. Some states require certain classes and some states require you to avoid the same classes year after year. However, CE credits are not all there is to the insurance learning experience. We need more than just the right number of CE credits. We need to learn how this universe of insurance works.

For some, our learning started with a pre-licensing course.

For some, our learning started with our first insurance gig.

For some, our learning started because we were risk management and insurance majors in college (although I don’t know many who did that).

Wherever we started our insurance learning path, we need to keep learning as long as we are in this universe. Maybe your learning has stagnated. Maybe it’s just boring to you now. Maybe you’re looking for classes because all of your favorite classroom classes have been canceled this year and you don’t know which class to take next.

You’re looking for a way to improve your learning. I almost wrote take your learning to the next level, but I don’t know what level you’re on, and I kind of hate that phrase anymore. We’re just going to deal with us wherever we are, getting better at insurance learning so that we get better at our insurance jobs. Getting better at our insurance jobs means that our customers are taken care of better. When our customers are taken care of better, they stay our customers longer and tell their friends to become our customers, too.

Here are three ways you can make your insurance learning work better for you.

Learn the basics, but don’t stop there.

We need to learn the basics. It’s the basics that get us started. The basics teach us the difference between personal auto and commercial auto. The basics teach us the difference between property and casualty.

That’s the starting point for all the rest that we learn. We need the basics and it’s not bad to go back to the basics every once in a while. We’ve all heard the tale of Vince Lombardi starting every new football season telling his players, “This, gentlemen, is a football.” Every once in a while, we need someone to stand in front of us (either in a classroom or on some online platform) and say, “This is an insurance policy.”

Yet, we cannot continually go back there to stay. It doesn’t do us any good. It doesn’t pull us forward. It doesn’t teach us anything new. Eventually, we sit in those basic classes and our eyes glaze over nicely and we take an unscheduled mental vacation. Or we attend those classes intentionally so that we can have those mental vacations.

Where are my flip flops?

Find a specialty, but don’t forget the other stuff.

You can’t know it all. There it is. I wrote it and I’m not sorry. You are not a space vehicle launched out into the universe with the sole mission of learning all that you can and reporting back. You are an insurance professional who needs to know something about just about everything and a lot about some things.

You really should pick a specialty, whether it is a line of coverage or a particular sort of insured, pick something. You could specialize in personal lines or commercial lines. You could specialize in professional lines or unique coverages. Just pick something and get good at it.

Maybe it’s not a particular coverage that interests you, but the sort of insured you like to deal with. A friend of mine enjoyed dealing with customers in the restaurant space but didn’t like dealing with contractors. I used to be an underwriter for fire departments, which I loved. Then I did home medical equipment dealers, which I liked just fine, but didn’t love. Then I did campgrounds and outdoor adventure risks. That was fun, too.

Every time I moved from specialty to specialty, I was able to learn all I could about each one. This gave me the depth of knowledge that I needed to properly underwrite the risks. At the same time, moving from specialty to specialty gave me a breadth of knowledge that supplemented the depth in each specialty.

While I’m advocating specializing in something, I’m not saying that your specialty today should be your specialty in 30 years. If that’s what you want, fantastic. I have friends who have stayed at one company for their entire career. They’re happy and fulfilled. I have other friends who bounce around every few years from one thing to another. Sometimes they land in the same specialty and other times they don’t.

The key is to understand that you can specialize in something today and whether you intend to keep that specialty for 2 years or 20 years, it’s your specialty now. Learn all you can about it. If you move on to another specialty, there is knowledge and wisdom that you can easily transplant into your new specialty.

Begin to teach, but never stop learning.

If you want to get your learning maximized, you’ll make the move from learner to instructor. As Darth Vader said, “The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner. Now I am the master.”

I still remember the first few weeks at my first duty station in the Army. My biggest concern was doing what I was told and keeping my head down to avoid trouble. It never worked out that way. Within a few days of being at my unit, my NCOIC (Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge), my boss, told me that I was responsible to teach the team a basic lesson about our job. All I had to do was to take what I had just learned in training and teach it to them. Sounds simple, right?

What terrified me was that they already knew this stuff. They were experienced. They had been in the Army for 100 years for all I knew. He wanted me, the new guy, the Private, to teach the team a basic lesson about how to do our job. I studied and I prepared. I read and read. I practiced. I used big notepads. I was ready and the day came when I would stand in our little team room and teach the team.

That’s kind of when things fell apart. It was horrible. I knew that stuff backward and forward but standing in front of those more experienced soldiers made my skin crawl. Turns out that was the best thing for me. I learned that day that if I was going to know anything, the one sure-fire way for me to learn it myself is to have to teach it to someone else.

That’s a real next step for you to move your learning to a whole new space. If you’ll learn it well enough to teach it to someone that doesn’t know anything, you have truly begun to master your topic. That doesn’t mean that you can stop learning. It just means that you’ve made learning the priority.

These tips are just the beginning. They are not designed to take you to a place where you never have to learn anything again. They are designed to bring you to the realization that you should keep learning for the rest of your life. It doesn’t matter if you are an insurance professional for 75 years. There’s more to learn.

Keep learning.

About Patrick Wraight

Patrick Wraight, CIC, CRM, AU, is director of Insurance Journal's Academy of Insurance. He can be reached at pwraight@ijacademy.com.

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