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claims adjusting career

I recently participated in an interview with OnlineCollege.Org, a resource for students interested in pursuing their education online.  I’m reprising it here as it may be of interest to prospective adjusters weighing a new career in claims.  Here it is:

Q.       Why did you decide to pursue this career field?

A.  A couple of things, in particular, attracted me to independent claims adjusting.  First, I liked the idea of a position where every day was different and brought on a new set of challenges.   Every claim really is unique – each its own puzzle to be pieced together.  Discovering and retelling the loss narrative is a story I wanted to tell.  Second, I’ve always wanted to be paid for my results, not my time.  While salaried positions certainly do exist, independent adjusters are frequently compensated based upon production – typically the number of claims closed.  The harder you work and more importantly, the smarter you work, the more money you make.

Q.       What type of preparation did you do to get into this field, such as educational experience and work experience?

A. I was fortunate enough to learn from a great mentor and go on a number of “ride-alongs” on real claims before taking any on myself.  Learning how to do things quickly and correctly from the get-go was critical for me.  Prior to that, I had gone through the rigors of a Texas Adjuster Pre-licensing Course and had some Xactimate training so I was at least basically familiar with policy interpretation and manipulation of the most widely used estimatics software.

Q.       How did your education help you in your career?

A. I was an English major at a liberal arts college and a career in insurance, let alone claims, just wasn’t on my radar at the time.  However, as I reflect on it, I would say my education was enormously important.  If I could learn how to read Dante, I could surely learn to read an insurance policy.  And being able to articulate in written-form the results of critical thinking prepared me well for re-telling the loss narrative.  Finally, learning how to communicate with other students in class in a civil way was good practice for dealing politely and calmly with claimants.  I’m a little biased, but I think a liberal arts education is about the best kind for just about anything you could end up doing.  You can learn the technical details of your profession when the time comes – but having a habit of critical thinking and clear communication takes time to develop.

Q.       What was your career path like in this field? For example, did you begin in one position and advance through others to reach where you are now?

A.  I began as an independent claims adjuster handling catastrophe claims.  From there I worked my way into the training and certification side and began focusing much of my time on state adjuster licensing rules and regulations.  I thought it was such a fantastic career opportunity and I wanted to create a business that helped others make a strong start.

Q.       What types of skills is someone required to have to work in your position?

A.  I think there are 5 areas in particular about which you should feel comfortable.  First is people skills – you don’t have to be Dale Carnegie, but you do need to be able to establish rapport with claimants, listen empathetically, and communicate clearly.  Second would be an ability to read and interpret insurance policy.  Pretty simply, this requires good reading and critical interpretation skills.  Third, you should be moderately tech-savvy.  The days of hand-writing estimates are over.  Particularly on the independent side, the better you are with the available technologies the faster you’ll rise, the more money you’ll make, and the more invaluable you’ll become to the company you work for.  Fourth, you ought to feel comfortable with the prospective property you’ll be working with.  If you are going to be doing residential property adjusting, having some familiarity with the way a house is put together will obviously be fundamental to doing your job well.  Last but not least, you need to be able to handle adversity and have a knack for getting things done.  There are nearly an infinite number of reasons a claim can be delayed, drawn out, re-assessed.  Your job is to get it done quickly and efficiently and this is almost entirely attitudinal.

Q.       What do you do on a typical work day?

A.  A typical day on the road working catastrophe claims would have me up between 5am and 6am to begin scheduling my route of inspections and then physically traveling to each loss site to conduct the “scope” of the loss.  By late afternoon, after thoroughly inspecting as many properties as possible, I would return to my hotel room and begin transferring all the information from the day into a claims writing software that would then generate a cost-estimate for each claim.  Finalizing those estimates, organizing each into a complete claims file, and submitting them to file review would often take me to 10 or 11pm of an evening.  If you work hard in this way and are efficient, you can very easily make over $1,000 a day handling cat claims.

Q.       Do you plan to advance to another position within your career field? If so, to what position and why?

A.  I’ll never close the door on any opportunity!

Q.       What type of person do you think is best suited for a job in your field?

A.  I think a person that is a natural problem solver, possesses good people skills, and is of sound character can excel in this field.  As in life, your attitude is really of paramount importance to enduring success.

Q.   Do you have any advice for those who are looking to launch a career in your field?

A.  Go for it!  This industry to me offers one of the most outrageously favorable risk to reward investment opportunities around.  For a few thousand (or even hundred in some cases) dollars and a couple of months’ time, you can step into a six-figure earnings bracket.  Is it easy?  No, of course it isn’t.  But with solid training and the right attitude, it can be done – I’m living proof!

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