Attracting the Next Generation

Nikole McMyler , Elizabeth Foste


November 1, 2013


The insurance industry is facing a crisis. One-fifth of the insurance workforce is near retirement age, compared to only 15% of the broader financial services workforce. By 2018, the proportion of the insurance workforce at or near retirement age will climb to 25%. With baby boomers retiring in record numbers, it is more imperative than ever before to be proactive in attracting young talent. However, many companies are not doing enough.

This discrepancy represents a significant opportunity to improve the image of the industry and get a leg up on the competition for highly qualified college graduates. These four simple steps can keep your company competitive in the college-recruiting scene.

Identify Target Schools
To identify business programs in your area, first tap into your personal network. Find out if anyone you know has connections with or employs college students. You may also want to check university, business school or program rankings such as Bloomberg Businessweek’s Best Undergraduate Business Schools.

After identifying your target schools, bypass the Career Center (for the time being) and go directly to the students. Use school websites to find student club contact information. Within a few clicks, you can be connected with student leaders and club presidents. Some keywords to search are “insurance,” “risk management,” “actuarial” and “Gamma Iota Sigma” (the insurance fraternity). Also consider the finance club or women in business organizations if your targeted school does not have a specific insurance program.

Participate in an On-Campus Event
Many professionals are under the mistaken impression that participating in club events is far too time-consuming. In fact, the student club typically handles all the details of the visit, and your obligation is simply to attend and share information. Types of events include employer presentations, university-sponsored golf outings, networking events and mentorship programs.

Hire an Intern
While your primary objective may be attracting top full-time talent, there are many immediate and lasting benefits of having an internship program alongside your new-hire program. Internships are a great way to test out potential new full-time hires. Additionally, benefits are not typically extended to interns, making internships a fairly inexpensive proposition. Competitive pay for insurance student internships ranges from $12 to $19 per hour, depending on the type of work performed and the geographic location.

Many schools also encourage unpaid internships in which the student receives course credit instead of wages. This can be a great alternative if your company is willing to put in the additional effort needed to qualify. This includes reporting back to the university with information outlining the student’s responsibilities and describing the learning opportunities during the internship.

Develop Your Student Network
We all know “it’s not what you know, but who you know.” The adage also holds true when trying to attract the next generation of insurance industry leaders. When you connect with students from your local college or alma mater, give them your business card and encourage a follow-up. Offer to be a resource if they have questions about your career or the insurance industry. It’s the personal connections that will give you the inside track when top students enter the job market.

Many employers mistakenly believe that contact with students ends when the presentation is over. But companies that maintain communication and network with students are the ones that will stand out. Remember, students talk with each other about the companies they like and want to work for, and a positive reputation travels quickly on campus.

Recruiting and attracting young talent is a long-term effort. The hardest work is done upfront, but once you’ve established yourself initially, these steps become increasingly easier to maintain. Additionally, once you have young talent working in your company, they can assist in your recruiting processes. With the groundwork in place, your company will begin to enjoy name recognition, get attention from top students and cultivate a talented workforce.
Nikole McMyler is a consultant for Wipfli's insurance practice.
Elizabeth Foste is the director of outreach and co-curricular learning for the actuarial science and risk management and insurance program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.