Insurance was among the industries hardest hit by the Great Recession of 2008. Downsizing and new technology also contribute to the industry’s stagnant employment numbers. But according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need to replace retiring workers will create new opportunities for prospective employees. So will the continued expansion of many insurance companies into financial products such as securities, mutual funds, and retirement plans; and the needs of the aging baby boomer generation that requires additional services (such as long-term care insurance). Though job growth will be a modest 3% between now and 2018, according to BLS, some companies are experiencing robust growth.
The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. Inc. (www.northwesternmutual.com) is one such insurer. Based in Milwaukee, Northwestern Mutual offers a variety of financial products and has roughly 2,000 openings for financial representatives and 2,500 internships per year. “We do this type of aggressive hiring just about every year,” says Gregory Jones, the company’s chief diversity officer.
The industry offers a variety of positions including insurance investigators, who handle questionable and fraudulent personal and business claims; auto damage appraisers, who inspect vehicular incidents; management analysts, who assess risks faced by insurers; underwriters, who evaluate applications to determine risk; and sales agents. An undergraduate degree is required for entry into the field. The good news is that most insurers provide position-specific and ongoing training. Agents selling financial products must meet state licensing requirements and pass the Series 6 or Series 7 licensing exam offered through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (www.finra.org).
Whether you’re applying for an internship or financial rep position, Jones says that his company looks for certain characteristics over career specifics. “We take applicants from all sorts of majors. We’ve had success with former engineers and lawyers. To be successful, our reps and interns have to be disciplined, good listeners, entrepreneurial minded, and able to build good relationships.”