Networking your way into insurance can be tricky. If you are left wondering why you haven’t networked your way into that Property Treaty Reinsurance role you’ve been after or the Fine Art & Specie position you’d like, there are two questions you need to ask yourself:
1. Are you determined enough?
2. Have you been using the right strategy?
Hunting out opportunities is hard work and can be scuppered if you have the wrong strategy.
But the hard work really can’t really be taught, you just need to pick up the phone, write the next email or hunt out the next person to contact. Determination generally isn’t the reason why you are not getting offers, it’s the not knowing how to go about networking your way to success that means rejection. What you need is a strategy that works equally as hard as you do.
Here are 4 points that will set you in the right direction when networking your way to a job.
When speaking to people in the insurance industry, the first thing they always say is how important their network is when developing and growing their business. It is just as important for you, as an outsider, to develop and grow your own network to help you break in.
So spread your net as far and as wide as you can and reach out to people that you wouldn’t normally think to contact. Use family and friends, and friends of friends and the family of friends; contact the people you met at the graduate fair and those you met at networking events – there is no one you should not consider contacting if you are serious about getting into the industry.
Use the right methods to get in touch
When you are contacting someone for the first time, if you have spoken to them before, or a friend or the contact has put you in touch with them, give them a call. A phone call is by far the best method of communication. Emails and social media websites, although making it infinitely easier to find the right person to speak to, have made us lazy and means we can sit behind a safety screen.
Get out of your comfort zone, plan what you are going to say on the phone call and pick up the phone. You will make a far bigger impression if you ring someone up and talk to them, than if you fire off a semi-generic email.
This does not apply if the person is not expecting your call.
If you have found the relevant insurance guru via LinkedIn, Google, or via their company website, send them an email first showing your interest, then follow up with a call.
More will be written on cover letters soon, but in the mean time, keep it short, simple and to the point. Ask them if you can meet up for a coffee as you’d like to learn more about their line of role/company/line of business. Suggest a time and be appreciative.
If they do not reply, resend the email a week later. Failing a response to second email, pick up the phone and speak to them. Express your interest, and ask them if they would mind meeting up for a quick coffee to discuss role/company/line of business. They may suggest a location, but if they don’t, ensure you have somewhere very close to their office in mind to meet them.
Saying the right things when you get there
The purpose of your meeting with them is to build rapport with them, so they feel motivated to help you. Insist on buying them the coffee (even if you are a struggling student) as it shows you’re appreciative of their time and even the small act of buying them a coffee might leave them feeling like they want to return the favour.
When opening up the conversation, avoid trying to impress them with your knowledge of the insurance industry. The chances are they’ve been doing it a very long time and they will just end up talking you through it or correcting you.
The same goes for your university grades or how much you can bench press. Don’t hard sell yourself as you’ll end up getting nowhere.
Make an open ended statement about something that happened to you, for example if they ask how you are, say you’re good, but would have been better if a pedestrian hadn’t walked out in front of you as you cycled to work. It gives you something to talk about and will lead on to further conversation.
Stay refreshing, upbeat and enthusiastic and stick to interesting conversational topics rather than market talk, and refrain from telling them you carry old ladies’ bags home for them when you see them struggling, even if you do – you’re trying too hard to impress them and it will do the exact opposite.
Ensure you ask them specific, yet open ended questions about their role, like: what variety they see in their day to day role, or what they most enjoy about their job. Sound interested and make notes; caveat your note taking by saying you’re going to be doing more research.
Not forgetting why you’re there
If you’re thinking you’re meeting up with all of your new found contacts to ask them for a job, you’d be wrong. This is a positioning meeting, enabling you to build a rapport with your contact, build your network and make a great first impression.
When you get to the end of the meeting, thank them for their time, tell them they’ve given you a fantastic insight into their job role and then hit them with real reason you are there: ask them if you can contact them if you have any more questions.
This is the most important question and sets you up for the next step.
Popping the question
A couple of days after your meeting or phone call, send them a short email thanking them for their time.
Then move on and say you were really impressed with the passion/enthusiasm/etc they showed for the role/company/line of business, and after meeting with them you would like to learn more about their company.
At this stage, it’s time to pop the question and ask them how best you could position yourself for an interview with their company.
Keep it as an indirect question, this way it does not appear too forward, and it means if they do not have anything themselves, they might put you in touch with someone else in the company (or further afield – insurance is a close knit community).
It is at the stage that you’ll need to attach your CV, saying something like: “I have attached my CV for your attention.”
If you do not get a response first time, follow the same process as before and resend the email, then pick up the phone, leaving a week in between attempts.
If you have them hooked they will ask you to send over your CV. Send them your CV only at this point. If they want it sooner, they will ask you for it. Sending it before this will risk it being added to the pile of CVs that is cluttering their desk or filed away somewhere in their emails and being forgotten about.
Now your CV will be in their company’s hands and you have a contact in the company.
Do this 10 times and you’ve built your own insurance network.