Insurance Professionals: Stop Sitting on Your Hands and Start Mentoring Young Talent

By: | March 5, 2020

James Curbeam, CPCU, ARM, AIC, is the director of risk management for the Las Vegas Valley Water District. He holds a B.S. in finance from Creighton University and an executive MBA from the University of Nebraska Omaha. James has served in the following industry leadership roles: President, Nevada Chapter of RIMS; President, Nebraska Chapter of RIMS; and President of the Las Vegas CPCU Society. James is also a founding member of the American Association of Water Distribution & Management, which was formed as a Thought Leadership Lab for risk management in the water industry. He also was named the 2019 PRIMA Risk Manager of the Year. James can be reached at [email protected]

In today’s world, the mentality is “more for less.”

This is especially true with our expectations of our new industry level professionals. We place more demands on our young professionals with less training.

Looking at all the statistics that are published relative to the industry, there is going to be a significant talent loss in the next 5 to 10 years.

For the most part, we are not giving these professionals the same formal corporate training many of us seasoned professionals were fortunate enough to benefit from. With that being said, we must ask ourselves what are we doing as industry professionals to give back and help develop the eager youth to become proficient and effective contributors to this amazing industry.

I’ve been in the insurance industry almost 30 years. Starting out as a claims adjuster for Liberty Mutual in 1991, I got hired as a multi-line claims adjuster in their Des Moines, Iowa office straight out of college.

At that time, I had never been exposed to the risk management and insurance industry.

At that time, Liberty did not care what your degree was in as long as you had one.

Prior to reporting to the Des Moines office, Liberty sent me to six weeks of intense adjuster training — three weeks of book work and three weeks of field training. During that training, I learned things that I still remember and utilize to this day. I actually still have and reference my two training binders I received.

Thinking back, I was pretty blessed to have received such a formal training entering the industry. This training helped establish a strong foundation for my career and is one of the reasons I have chosen to mentor other young professionals.

One of my mentees is Laila Lee a rising Risk Professional with our Nevada RIMS Chapter.

Below she shares how having a mentor has helped her in the early stages of her career:

“I truly believe having a mentor is life changing. A good mentor sees your potential and ambition, then helps direct you on the path you may not see for yourself. One recommendation I received while in college is to not be shy and reach out to someone you look up to. You never know who could walk into your life and be a positive influence,” she said.

“Originally, I was on the path of finance, thinking being a charted financial analyst was my calling, but I found my love of finance fade in my last semester. Thankfully, I enrolled into an insurance/risk management course where my future mentor had already come to speak to our class. It was that day I saw his enthusiasm and love for the industry that I wanted to learn more from him.

For Lee, my mentorship helped her find her footing as she graduated college and started looking for a place to start her career. She encourages others to seek out mentorship opportunities as well.

“I now have a well-respected and beyond knowledgeable mentor who I reached out to in my last semester of college who has introduced me to people I would’ve never met myself this quickly into my career,” she said.

“This is why I encourage everyone to reach out and connect. Find your mentor so that you can become the best version of yourself. Being new to an industry can be overwhelming and scary, but if you set yourself up for success with a mentor you will be amazed at how much stress is relieved. The impact this individual has had on my professional/personal career is why I go speak at a local university on the importance of mentors and networking. I hope after reading this you are encouraged to seek your mentor or to be a mentor for someone else.”

Just imagine if everyone who reads this article decides to become a mentor to someone in the industry or seeks mentorship. What amazing things could happen. &

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