Career advice from 6 Arrowhead women on how to advance through the ranks

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Women in the workplace: Ways you can boost your insurance career


Having an adept workplace mentor is invaluable – not only to coach you through sticky situations, but also to help you seek new opportunities and strengthen your insurance career path. Since today is International Women’s Day, we’ve gathered some great advice from female leaders across the Arrowhead family plus other thought leaders, to help you be a better co-worker, supervisor and leader. Their tips just may help propel you into the next stage in your insurance career.

1. Purposefully plan your career path. Don’t stay in the same spot because it’s comfortable – it can become a rut. Be willing to learn and not be scared to take chances. Step outside your comfort zone, says Jamie Cox, commercial lines service manager of Arrowhead Aftermarket in Overland Park, Kansas.

2. Know your strengths and play to your strengths. Focus on the things you do very well, and seek to improve those traits, rather than focusing on your weaknesses. Studies show that improving your strengths is much more productive than working to improve your weaknesses. That doesn’t mean ignore your weaknesses; obtain the knowledge you need to grow, but also consider hiring an employee whose strengths match your weaknesses. For instance, if spreadsheets and analytics aren’t your cup of tea, make sure someone on your team can provide those analyses for you.

3. Stop being your own worst critic. As Dr. Brene Brown, Ted Talk speaker and research professor at University of Houston’s Graduate College of Social Work says, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”  You cannot attain perfection in everything you do, so relax a bit. Every time you don’t see the success you wanted, learn from that episode – don’t waste a single setback or a failure along your insurance career path.

4. Happiness starts with yourself. You choose it; don’t allow the day and its circumstances to choose it for you. “If you get discouraged, don’t give up, sometimes you just have to step away for minute,” says Colleen Miller, underwriting manager in Carlsbad, California. “Show up as you are, do the very best you can with no apologies, and leave with a smile on your face. Lean into the situation and then escape with your integrity…and your skin still intact,” added Stacie Pirrone, our third party administrator, ACM’s director of operations.

5. Set priorities and non-negotiables. Jamie Cox says she always tries to focus on her team: are her decisions and actions helping or hurting? “My job is to look at the bigger picture, to ensure my team has everything they need to do their jobs, that communication is flowing and transparency is evident. As my team becomes increasingly busy, am I taking care of them?”

Related: How important is employee appreciation for your insurance agency?

6. Being a leader doesn’t necessarily mean becoming hardened and calloused. Yes, leaders must make the tough calls. Yes, that often means someone isn’t happy (perhaps the entire team). However, “when I learned that the vulnerable and compassionate side of my personality could be a strength instead of a weakness, I became more comfortable in my own skin,” said Becky Pinto, Arrowhead’s president of Workers’ Compensation. “This helped me to begin to understand others’ needs, their strengths and areas where they could grow and improve. We all have inherent traits that we often consider to be a weakness, when in truth they could be your greatest strength.”

Related: Top tips for managing a remote workforce

7.  Get into the trenches with your team – consistently – to earn respect. They need to see you in the trenches, when times are tough and everyone else is getting fired upon, says Jamie Cox. No armchair quarterbacking. Take more than your share of the blame and take less of the credit.

8. Take advantage of learning opportunities. Cheryl Haas, underwriter 1 in Workers’ Compensation, readily admits that when she started at Arrowhead, she had zero knowledge of insurance, except for her own personal coverage. Jumpstarting her insurance education with the Insurance 123 class, she moved from a personal lines data processor to a commercial lines CSR (customer service representative). To further her insurance career, she took two AU classes, received her AU designation and has been promoted several times, working in personal lines, commercial auto, general liability and now workers’ compensation. “Honestly, my on-the-job training taught me just as much or more than the classes – and that made studying for and passing them a lot easier,” she added. “Arrowhead has given me so many great opportunities, not only by being able to take classes, but also with such great mentors.”

9. Be real and transparent. “I am not the best, I am not the smartest, I do not have all the answers and I am a fully flawed human being who makes a lot of mistakes,” says Deirdre Gonzalez, president of ACM Workers’ Compensation. “I am, however, strong, confident and have the ability to influence, inspire and motivate people by being vulnerable and authentic. I believe that is why I am trusted with the honor of helping others through leadership.”

10. Stand out. Be visible, vocal and valuable, says coach and trainer Pattie Grimm. Being visible means tooting your own horn when you and your team have accomplished a significant goal. Develop mastery of your skill set. Earn the right to “sit at the table.” As Marie Curie said, “Quiet women never change history.”

11. Master the language of power. Speak in terms of big picture, long-range financial and strategic goals, said Kelly Lockwood Primus on Insurance Journal TV. The SVP of Strategic Client Solutions at Leading Women, Kelly added that women seeking a greater role need to demonstrate their honed business acumen: “Get out of your functional comfort zone. Take on a strategic role. Ask to be part of a key project. Make yourself known – and valued – to the c-suite.”

12. Pay it forward. “Women, it’s imperative that we support and encourage each other to be authentic and steadfast in our determination to elevate commendable, qualified women into influential roles,” said Becky Pinto. “None of us made it to where we are in our insurance career without the help of others; it’s our turn to mentor and support younger women entering the workforce. They’re bringing new ideas and great technological advancements – let’s embrace them.” Coach Pattie Grimm agrees: “Find a mentor: someone several levels above you; at the same time, BE a mentor to young women. Train them to be risk takers, not perfectionists. Help other women succeed and congratulate them.” On Insurance Journal TV, Kim Reynolds, Iowa’s lieutenant governor put it succinctly: “Stay at the table. And invite more women into the room.”

Now it’s your turn: How have you launched yourself out of a career rut, or broken through the glass ceiling? What advice can you share?

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