2016 Outstanding CSR of the Year National Winner
Kelly McGowan, CISR Elite
NBT–Mang Insurance Agency
Norwich, New York
Many in the industry came into insurance by chance but have built a career by choice. For some, their roots were placed by friends or relatives in the business. For many others—such as me—the roots weren’t in place until well after the job offer was on the table. As college drew to a close, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do, and ended up being hired as an insurance CSR. I took the job so I could pay my bills…and here I am, 15 years later. I could speak for hours on money or flexibility, but the reasons I have turned insurance into a career are simple: challenge, people, opportunity, and necessity.
Loving a good change is the first reason I have made insurance a career. If someone ever doubted me, I’d find a way to not only prove them wrong, but also to exceed any expectations they had. In our line of work, we deal with an extremely diverse range of personalities and situations, and no two days are the same. We encounter irate clients—the figurative fires that need water as we’re walking out the door, and the logistical nightmares that can leave us close to tears. I will do all of this and more with a smile on my face, knowing full well that this inevitably leads to satisfaction in a job well done at the end of the day. The challenges will never cease, but as my experience grows, neither will my ability to rise to the occasion of every challenge that is put in my path.
People are my second reason, because they account for some of the most challenging situations we encounter every day. However, with the right mindset they can quickly become the most rewarding. Knowing my clients and selling them the appropriate products, based on their needs, is a very powerful tool. Knowing which one of their kids just graduated college and having a conversation about that, with a focus on their life, rather than on their insurance coverage, is powerful beyond measure. We are in the people business. We have to know our people and we have to commit to them on every level. Their trust and respect for me, as their CSR, is built not only on my knowledge, but also on my compassion for them as a person.
The third reason for my career choice is opportunity. Learning about our clients and their needs presents us with more than just a chance to hold a dialogue. Insurance is filled with opportunities to better oneself—to grow exponentially. We have the ability to learn anything we wish, as long as we can embrace the potential each opportunity holds. The first opportunity I had was to become a licensed insurance agent. In taking this step, I inadvertently stoked the fire I have deep inside for learning, and I can keep that fire going every day through numerous opportunities. Knowing which opportunities to look at and which to put back on the shelf for another day is half the battle, but the fulfillment that accompanies an opportunity discovered and conquered is a feeling unparalleled.
Necessity is the final reason I have made insurance a career. Necessity is not about money, fancy clothes, or expensive cars. It’s not even about putting food on the table. I can get those things working anywhere. Instead, it’s about turning yourself into a necessity. It’s a good feeling to know that you are needed, that your skill set is valued, and your above-and-beyond approach is irreplaceable. We come to work every day to do our jobs, to perform the functions of our job descriptions. Becoming a necessity is something that we should all strive for. Only then will you know you’re exactly where you’re meant to be.
In closing. I want to mention the word “choice.” I’ve come into insurance by chance, and turned it into a career by choice. The challenges, people, opportunities, and feeling of necessity are the reasons I have transitioned my choice from job to career. But within each of those reasons, lie choices as well. We can choose to rise to the challenge, or shun it. I rise to it. We can choose to embrace people or stay at arm’s length. I embrace it. We can choose to search for opportunity or remain stagnant. I search for it. And we can choose to become the necessity or treat our job as the necessity. I am the necessity.