There are a lot of misconceptions about working in the insurance industry—and that’s especially true among Millennials (defined as anyone born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s).
Carly Burnham is on a mission to change that one blog post at a time. The 29-year-old is a commercial underwriter at Erie Insurance and one of the bloggers behind the Insurance Nerds blog. Run in conjunction with a former colleague, the blog’s posts center on opportunities within the insurance industry and how to develop your career. Insurance Nerds puts a special emphasis on opportunities for Millennials, who now make up the biggest generation in the U.S. workforce
Since launching in November 2014, Insurance Nerds gets upwards of 5,000 views per post thanks to well-planned promotion through LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook®. Learn more about the blog, the benefits of working in the insurance industry and Carly in this Q&A.
How did you end up in the insurance industry?
I never set out to work in insurance—growing up, I actually wanted to be a novelist.
In high school, I got a job as an office assistant at an insurance agency in my hometown of Duluth, Minnesota. I worked there during college; during that time, I got licensed and was promoted to office manager.
When my then-boyfriend and I moved to Des Moines, Iowa, after college, I worked as a personal lines direct sales agent for Nationwide. I sold auto, home and life insurance in 26 states.
In 2014, we moved to Erie for my fiancé’s job. It had been my goal to become a commercial underwriter, so I entered ERIE’s three-month underwriting program. I had a great mentor who taught me a lot and really prepared me for this job.
How would you describe your job and what does a typical day look like?
As a commercial underwriter, I make million-dollar decisions for the company on a daily basis by working with businesses in a wide variety of industries. I approve or decline risks based on Erie Insurance’s risk appetite. I also advise our Agents on policies, coverage and pricing. My day-to-day work is interesting and challenging, and I am always learning new things!
In a typical day, you would find me on the phone with my Agents, talking about businesses they’ve visited, reviewing emails about risk information or claims history, reviewing applications and working on projects that will impact the future of our department. My favorite part of the job is the variety of information that I get to review.
Tell me more about how Insurance Nerds got started.
I met my writing partner, Tony Cañas, while I was working at Nationwide. We started a Gen Y Associate Resource Group there. While there, we used Yammer, a social networking site run by Microsoft for employees of specific companies. I wrote career advice on there. When Tony and I moved on to different jobs, we missed the writing. The blog has been great—we split the work, and it’s helpful to have an accountability partner.
We have had a really good working relationship since we are almost polar opposites. Tony comes up with the big ideas and pushes innovative approaches and growth, while I keep us grounded and make the pragmatic choices to make sure we accomplish our goals. It’s easy to work with those who are the same style as you, but exciting things can be accomplished when you partner with someone who has different strengths from yours.
Why do you think Millennials neglect to consider careers in insurance?
Historically, people don’t say, “I’m going to be a claims adjuster when I grow up.” There is a perception that insurance is boring. Or that selling insurance is like selling used cars. But our generation is continuously looking for the next challenge. We want to work somewhere where we are engaged, where we understand the potential for our career and where we can see that the contribution we are making to the company is significant. The insurance industry is starting to recognize this and is reaching out to high-school and college students through Insure My Path, InVest and company-based programs like the ERIE internship program.
What Millennials (and others) forget is that insurance provides a vital service that keeps our economy running smoothly after personal crises and catastrophes. The industry also does a lot for individuals, communities and charities.
Why should Millennials consider a career in insurance?
For starters, there is an incredible amount of opportunity. It’s estimated that one million insurance professionals will retire in the next 10 years—that’s 43 percent of the current workforce. Insurance is also a growing industry, with experts predicting that there will be an additional 400,000 insurance jobs in the next decade. These two developments mean Millennials are well poised for entry into and advancement within the industry.
Millennials also underestimate how interesting and varied an insurance career can be. There are many different jobs within the industry, and you have a lot of ownership over your career development path. There is always something new to learn.