The COVID-19 Pandemic is potentially the single most transformational event to occur to the U. S. Economy since the Great Depression of the 20th Century. What that means for the job market and the property & casualty insurance industry remains unclear. The one certainty is that this event will change how we interact and conduct business for the foreseeable future and perhaps indefinitely.
Below you will find a quick summary of what Galecki Search Associates has seen in the job market since the beginning of the crisis. Also, you will see some recommendations on how to shore up your career, and more importantly, stay motivated to advance your career goals during a very stressful time.
What are companies doing?
Given that social distancing could become the norm for as long as it takes for a vaccine to be developed, and the most optimistic timelines put that at 12 to 18 months, companies will have to adapt to the new normal of a remote workforce. Some progressive companies were already reaping the benefits of workplace flexibility before the crisis, and it is those companies that are well-positioned to operate and compete in this new environment. The companies that cannot or will not adjust will be left in the lurch.
Companies are currently evaluating their options for internships this year. Most, if not all, have decided to push start dates out to the beginning of June. Of the companies interviewed for this article, all have decided to proceed with their internships, but with some modifications. The most discussed modification is compressing the internship to 6 to 8 weeks. Grappling with how to engage with their interns, some companies are considering reducing the hours to 20 or 25 per week. Overall, most companies have demonstrated a strong commitment to delivering the best possible internship experience given the current circumstances. Most reported that they are seeing widespread interest among executives to participate to help drive engagement.
For now, about half of the companies in the P&C industry are continuing to recruit, interview, and onboard new employees. The companies that are doing this well have served as a bright spot through the past month. We have observed that companies are either continuing to press forward on openings or pausing until social distancing guidelines have been lifted or relaxed. The companies that are continuing to hire are doing everything virtually, and as such have been able to move through the interview process extremely quickly. Galecki Search Associates has seen several hires made in under a week from start to finish.
In general, the economic outlook for the P&C industry is positive. Many companies are issuing rebates given there has been a dramatic decrease in automobile claims. While this will keep personal lines insurers on good footing for the medium term, we will see a decrease in demand for auto insurance like we did in 2008. Then the industry as a whole took a momentary hit, but recovered quickly. Given the COVID-19 crisis is developing daily, be prepared for many more twists and turns.
What can you do to adapt?
The good news is that companies are hiring. So what can you do to protect your career during this time of great uncertainty? Here are some recommendations to ensure that your career keeps its forward momentum and you stay motivated throughout the process.
The world just slowed down considerably, so this is an excellent time to stop and reflect on your career goals. Can your goals be realistically achieved in the short to medium term or do they need to be adapted to the current circumstances? Has there been a technical skill you have been putting off learning? This is an excellent opportunity to learn R or Python to set yourself apart from the competition in the tight job market to come.
Use this time to research companies where you may want to work. Get a deep understanding of the culture and the skills of those that they hired in the past. Find out who the hiring authorities are, and reach out to network. Read the news and look at ways companies and people are adapting, and apply those to your life where applicable. For an example outside of insurance, we can look to the restaurant industry. Restaurants that are closed for dine-in service have created numerous curbside options like “survival kits” by repackaging their unique access to the food supply chain in light of grocery store food shortages.
There perhaps has never been a better time to network than now. People are isolated and in need of human connection. Use LinkedIn to reach out to warm leads, that is people in your network that you may know already. Remember to approach people with an offer versus a request — maybe an article that you found interesting or an offer to make an introduction that might be valuable to them. Don’t ask for a job or work opportunity, and remember that networking is a long-term strategy to create connections. You are going to get three types of responses: no response, a negative response, or a positive response. If you do not get a response, follow up later by taking a different tact or by using a different channel. If you get a negative response, do not respond reactionarily but rather gracefully. For any positive responses, come up with a system to keep in touch (calendar, Google Sheet, task manager, etc.).
Consider Alternate Paths
Your career aspiration is your destination, and there are many ways to get there. This is a time to be creative, resilient, and most importantly, flexible. Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan ‘till they get punched in the mouth,” and Dwight D. Eisenhower is credited for saying, “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” Treat your plan as the living, evolving thing that it is. Update it to be more aligned with the current realities, and give yourself some grace. You’re probably not going to cross that finish line as fast as you originally thought, but the important thing is that you finish the race.
One of the best things you can do now is stay in the moment. As of this writing, there is no end date or timeline creating a lot of anxiety. Create a routine. Routines can anchor you to present and help build beneficial habits like working out or journaling. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation is the subject of an ever-growing body of scientific research that has almost universally endorsed the practice as overwhelmingly beneficial. The benefits include reduced stress, increased attention spans, improved memory, and better sleep. Meditation is a great practice regardless of the circumstances. Practice gratitude. Whatever is going on in the world and in your life, you always have something to be grateful for. Keep a gratitude journal, and jot down a few things you are grateful everyday. This will help you focus on the positives in your life rather than the negatives.
Overall, I recommend that you not take yourself too seriously and remember that bumps in the road happen. Do what you can to remain positive and keep forward momentum in your career. You will get through this and be stronger for it in the end.
Originally written for and published on the Casualty Actuarial Society‘s CAS Student Central Future Focus Blog. Reproduced here with permission.