"Every so often I hear people talking about insurance, specifically selling insurance, as a fallback career. As if selling insurance is the only option left after numerous failed attempts in other professions. “They were trying so-and-so for a while, but now they are just selling insurance.” As if it is the job for a failure.I’m not sure where this idea comes from. Is there any truth to that “stereotype”, if that’s what you could call it? Is this industry full of people who never had success in other arenas so they somehow ended up working in an insurance agency?
That’s not my story. That’s not how I or my Dad, Uncle, Grandfather or Great-grandfather ended up working in insurance or for most people I know in the industry. Ever since my first job in insurance, interning at the AAA Insurance call center in OKC, I have met people who unintentionally ended up working in the insurance industry. Most of them were quite happy about it. Even so, many of those people had the same look on their face when I explained that I was intentionally pursuing a career in insurance, and even chose it as my major subject of study at UCO.
My experience is that this reaction is less common from people from other cities and states where university-level insurance education seems to be more available and widely known. While at SandRidge Energy, I got to work with some elite insurance professionals from global brokerage firms. Most of those individuals did not have that same reaction when hearing my background.
So, yes – I have met many people that never thought they would end up working in this industry. I know many people who started in this industry just because they had to accept the first job they were offered. Also, I have dealt with countless people in insurance that seemed to be dreadfully sick of their existence, or at least their job. That is an encounter that many are familiar with – I think most commonly people trying to file, settle or dispute a claim.
Still, I find myself feeling resentful when I hear comments made about others “failing” into insurance. Maybe it is a level of pride for this industry or my family's legacy. Maybe I’m too concerned that people think that about my friends in this industry or think that about me. Maybe I am worried that I somehow gave up a more glorious pursuit in order to work in insurance. (I wasn’t that good at cello, soccer or kicking a football.) My perception of most peoples’ thoughts on insurance is, “every year we give too much of our hard-earned money to an agent (company) to cover every possible loss that may or may not occur, only to have to fight for every penny after our world is turned upside-down by aforementioned loss.”
Ultimately, I try to not worry about it too much. There’s not a ton I can do to change the feeling everyone in the world has when they consider dealing with their insurance provider. Yet, there is a reason I decided to go down this path. I believe people have bad experiences with insurance and are taken advantage of. I’ve heard stories of people losing their most prized possessions then being treated like nothing but a policyholder. I’ve heard more stories about businesses shutting their doors because they had no insurance to cover them after one small mistake or accident or an overlooked risk.
Over the years I have felt different ways about capitalism and the economic factors that dictate how every-day, small town people can survive in this country. Right now, though, I see that I have an extraordinary opportunity to help people in this very specific way – help insurance make more sense to more people in the communities where my friends and family live, so that when an accident happens or a tragedy strikes, they are already one step closer to putting their world back together and can continue to make their community a better place.
That’s how I can help small businesses survive in this rapidly changing world. That’s how I can perpetuate my family’s story into the future of Oklahoma towns. That’s the best way for me to help make a difference in my community. That’s one way I can simultaneously provide for my family while giving love to my neighbors.
That’s why I think insurance is a great industry to work in."
Ryan W. Smith