02 October 2008

XL Layoffs: Canary in a Coal Mine?

For a while now I've been thinking about the XL layoffs, and what it means for Bermuda and Bermudians thinking about their careers. I have thought about the most constructive way of expressing my opinion, and I believe it is this:

Bermudians who go to work in the (re-)insurance sector and who desire long-term success and stability need to evaluate their opportunities very carefully, and be willing to go above and beyond their employers' expectations.

What do I mean by this? The insurance industry has been touted as a gateway to success for many Bermudians, with promises of training and pathways to advancement within the industry. One of the premises is that you can start at the bottom and work your way up, even if you have no special insurance skills.

For example, you can start by working in IT, accounting, claims processing, or other jobs that support the industry but aren't at its core. And in fact, I would speculate that the vast majority of Bermudians are in these areas, and at a relatively low-level (since corporations are generally hierarchical).

And that's to be expected: you have to start somewhere, right? But the irony is that by definition, those jobs that are most accessible to Joe and Jamahl Bermudian without any experience are in fact the first jobs to be outsourced. Because they rely the least on deep experience and connections within the industry, they are the most accessible to Bermudians, and also the easiest with which to get someone in India or Halifax up to speed.

What does this mean for you, the average entry-level Bermudian Insurance Worker?

I don't claim many special skills in my advice-giving, and will probably come across as santimonious here, but I would suggest something along these lines (and I hope readers will chip in). But the general idea is to differentiate yourself and become the kind of person that is, literally, irreplaceable:
  • Find out everything you can about getting training from work.
  • Make sure you know your career path. I know that not everyone is the ambitious corporate type, but if you're not going forward, you're going backwards or will be left behind.
  • If your boss promises you advancement, make sure you get objective criteria for obtaining that advancement, and keep track of how you stack up against that criteria.
  • Don't be an a role-player, be the protagonist. That is, don't just do your job by fulfilling all the basic requirements & checking the boxes. Instead, think about your business, come up with ideas, suggest things to your boss, and generally be proactive.
  • Become an expert at something in your firm. Then find someone else to do it, and become an expert at the next thing...
  • If you are in a bad work situation, address it, it may mean moving companies.

1 comment:

Denis Pitcher said...

You've partially outlined the flaws with the Term Limits legislation. It encourages the on-shoring of the very entry level jobs Bermudians rely on.