When asked about her favorite part of working in the insurance industry, Jennifer Kessel, marketing director at USG Insurance Services Inc. in Canonsburg, Penn., doesn’t hesitate to point to something that has historically made the industry thrive.
“The relationships,” she says. “When I first started, I would go to national industry events and barely know anyone. Now I can walk into a room and immediately see faces of people that I recognize and am excited to see.”
After beginning her insurance career as an unpaid intern in the marketing department at USG Insurance Services, Kessel spent two years working in the non-profit space before returning to USG, where she has remained for the past seven years. She says she has worked hard to build a relationship with the company and learn as much as she can along the way.
“I had zero knowledge of insurance at the time, but through project assignments, conversations, self-study and mentorship I was able to quickly learn,” she says.
Kessel says the culture at USG is one big reason why she has remained with the company throughout her insurance career, adding that as insurance companies tackle talent challenges around employee recruitment and retention, she hopes the industry will continue to recognize the importance of company culture.
“I’ve been fortunate to work for a company my entire career that believes that the ability to be in a specific position isn’t determined by gender, age or education,” she says. “Instead, it’s determined by the ability of the individual to successfully complete the duties associated with the position. However, I’ve heard other companies and the industry as a whole are not there yet.”
Kessel says she is drawn to E&S wholesale insurance in particular, as it provides the opportunity for an individual with any background to excel at a career as long as they are solution-sales minded and hard-working.
“I would recommend anyone new in the industry to seek valuable mentorships and to ask questions every chance you get,” she stated when asked to share her advice for newcomers to the industry. “Use others’ intelligence and experience as a way to elevate your career.”
In addition to the opportunities it provides to build a meaningful career, Kessel says she loves the wholesale side of insurance because of the ability to tap into her creativity.
“We get to be problem solvers all day long for industries that are changing every day,” she says. “It’s not about if we can write an account; it’s about how we get creative to write an account. Researching and understanding new, emerging industries and coverages gives fresh and new perspective to each day.”
Kessel says she believes success in any career path requires a thirst for growth and knowledge, as well as a lot of hard work, and insurance is no exception. As she looks toward the future of her insurance career and the industry as a whole, she reflects on her days as an intern and the advice she was given about prioritizing professional connections in a relationship-driven business.
“When I was still an intern, a member of the industry gave me advice to spend the majority of my first two-to-three years post graduation developing my professional relationships instead of my personal relationships,” she says.
“I did and it paid off, but it only paid off with a lot of hard work.”
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