A recent survey of women in insurance by Liberty Mutual and Safeco Insurance found that more than half of frontline staff between the ages of 23 and 49 said they are interested in becoming a partner in their agency.
I always knew I wanted to own my own business, but my path to being owner and president of Mountain State Agency Alliance (MSAA) was a long one. I started my career in insurance as an intern when I was still in high school. After graduating college, I took a job at MSAA, where I was lucky enough to work under Mary Kerns, a wonderful leader who became my mentor.
Kerns helped me create a strategy to work toward agency ownership and helped me continue growing my career as I went through big life changes and balanced work and family life. Then, in the fall of 2020, my dream of ownership became a reality when I purchased MSAA from my partners.
A recent survey of women in insurance by Liberty Mutual and Safeco Insurance found that I'm not alone in my ownership ambitions. More than half of frontline staff between the ages of 23 and 49 said they are interested in becoming a partner in their agency.
To those women, and any others who are looking to grow their careers in insurance, my No. 1 piece of advice is to find a female mentor. While any sort of mentorship will be beneficial to your career, a female mentor will be better able to understand the unique challenges you may face in an industry that is still largely male-dominated.
Here are three of the main things to look for in a mentor:
1) Someone who can help you reach your goals. Do you want to run a company? Improve your sales skills? Make a career transition? Identify your goals, then look for a mentor who has the expertise to help you get there.
Your mentor doesn't have to come from your company or even the insurance industry. Work your network. Make a list of female leaders you know and admire. Ask for recommendations for people who have the type of skills you want to learn.
2) Someone who values learning and teaching. A good mentor will be excited to share her knowledge with you, provide encouragement and offer feedback. She will also be excited about the possibility of learning from you as well.
The best mentors value life-long learning and recognize that they don't have all the answers. Look for a mentor who will admit their limits and help point you in the right direction.
3) Someone you can be honest with. While your mentor should be someone you respect and admire, they also need to be someone with whom you can be completely transparent about your efforts, your successes and your failures.
Find someone that you feel comfortable enough to talk openly with, as well as someone who will be honest with you.
I would not be where I am today without the help of female mentors who encouraged me, challenged me, gave me great advice and offered me opportunities. I believe it's important for everyone to find great mentors to help them along in their career.
Kristin Garlow is the owner and president of Mountain State Agency Alliance, a regional company of SIAA. She's also the president of the Safeco Insurance National Agency Advisory Council and the winner of the 2021 Agent for the FutureTM Outstanding Female Agency Principal award.