A career pause for family obligations, military commitments, or relocation can be challenging to overcome, even for the most qualified and experienced professional.
When faced with this very issue after two career breaks, Ginny Brzezinski found herself ready to reboot her career but was unsure how to do so, especially at the age of 52. Ginny reached out to her sister-in-law, MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski, founder of the women’s empowerment community, Know Your Value. The two dug deep into the topic and, in January 2020, published “Comeback Careers: Rethink, Refresh, Reinvent Your Success – At 40, 50, and Beyond.”
Crafting Your Comeback: An Interview with Ginny Brzezinski, moderated by Joan Woodward, President of the Travelers Institute, was featured on the Wednesdays With Woodward Travelers Institute Webinar Series.
Joined by Comeback Careers co-author Mika Brzezinski and Ashley Wilson, creator of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s “Women Taking the Lead,” the team shared insights from their research and job market trends for professionals thinking about revaluating, reinventing, or relaunching their careers.
The three women shared a wealth of career advice to empower the job-seeker, even amidst a pandemic. Key points focused on personal assessments, updating social media accounts, reaching out to former colleagues to up your network game and adapting to the new norm – video meetings and interviews.
Watch the full webinar to learn more about Ginny and how her career and life experiences encouraged her to educate and inspire women and men looking to relaunch their careers.
Wednesdays With Woodward Travelers Institute Webinar Series interviews thought leaders about topics that impact us both personally and professionally. Travelers created the Travelers Institute to engage in public policy dialogue on issues relevant to the insurance market.
2020 CIO 100 Award
From a field of more than 400 nominations, Travelers made the 2020 CIO 100 Award honorees list for an innovation that is especially relevant today, the Wildfire Loss Detector (WLD), which uses high-resolution geospatial imagery and a deep-learning model to quickly identify properties that are total losses.
As a result of this tool, this year alone, Travelers has helped many of our customers in California and Oregon begin the recovery process before returning home following wildfire events.
Mojgan Lefebvre, EVP, Chief Technology and Operations Officer, was interviewed about WLD during a breakout session at the CIO 100 Virtual Symposium, Conference & Awards entitled “How Travelers Uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to Accelerate Wildfire Damage Assessment and Claims.” She spoke about the positive business outcomes that AI-driven technologies can deliver directly to customers.
“By using AI – along with existing and emerging technologies – we can accelerate the transformation of our data into actionable insights that enhance the experience for our customers while allowing us to better manage risk,” Mojgan said. “And while advanced analytics have always been utilized in the insurance and financial services industry, the use of AI is amplifying that usage and giving it greater momentum.”
In addition to securing the CIO 100 Award for WLD, the solution also earned a Gartner Eye on Innovation Award in 2019.
2020 Gartner Eye on Innovation Award
For the second consecutive year, Travelers made the list of finalists for the Gartner Eye on Innovation Award for Financial Services – this time, for the AI Roof Shape Model.
This Personal Insurance (PI) innovation was named one of the top nine finalists out of more than 220 global nominations for the award, which recognizes innovative use of digital technology-enabled capabilities, products or services for financial services in the Americas.
The model can identify a roof’s shape with high accuracy using aerial imagery and machine learning. This provides rating consistency and pricing accuracy and improves the customer experience.
Mano Mannoochahr, SVP, Chief Data and Analytics Officer, says, “The AI roof shape work has led to several other imagery-based automations, including solar panel identification and roof condition assessment. It’s also helping us reduce friction from the underwriting process while improving risk segmentation and pricing.”
Read more about our 2019 Gartner Eye on Innovation Award.
For the past ten years, more than 200 Travelers employees have upheld the Travelers Promise to take care of our customers, our community and each other by mentoring veterans through American Corporate Partners (ACP).
ACP is a nonprofit organization that focuses on helping transitioning veterans and active-duty spouses find civilian careers by matching them with mentors from a broad range of industries. Travelers Community Relations signed on with ACP as its thirteenth corporate partner in 2010 as a way to expand leaders’ and managers’ mentoring options.
Since 2010, more than 200 Travelers employees have engaged in about 600 mentoring relationships with veterans, transitioning military members and active duty military spouses through ACP. To celebrate the partnership’s 10-year milestone, read the first-hand experiences of seven Travelers employees who accepted the mentoring challenge.
Hina, Senior Director, B.I. Technology Analytics, St. Paul, MN
“I’m working with my fifth protégé. One of those protégés served 20 years in the U.S. Army and already had an MBA. During his transition, I helped him gain knowledge about skills he could acquire for the current job market in his field. He was very driven and rapidly was Certified as a Scrum Master and received his Scaled Agile (SAFe) certification. Within six months, he was offered a program management position at a Fortune 500 technology company in Seattle. I get immense satisfaction from sharing my knowledge and experience with others. I help my mentees translate and map their skills from their military background – organizing and executing, dealing with conflicts, evaluating risks, etc. – to the corporate world. I take them through the journey of writing effective resumes and preparing them for interviews. I’ve become a big advocate of hiring veterans. They’re resilient, strong, rigorous and in some ways, I learn from them as much as they learn from me. It’s a truly rewarding experience.”
Daniel, Field Director, BI Construction Risk Control, Chicago, IL
“Having 13 U.S. Marines in my family – including my younger brother – compels me to help veterans. I’ve completed five mentoring relationships through ACP. What all my protégés have had in common is a feeling of uncertainty that their transition to civilian life is really happening. I put myself in their shoes and do a lot of listening. The greatest barrier they learn to work through is adapting to a civilian world that can be ambiguous and full of uncertainty. Their military careers were more ‘black and white’ and involved receiving and following orders. Once they figure that part out, the rest is easier.
I focus on building trust and a personal connection before progressing to giving advice or developing action plans. There’s no better opportunity to give back to the military. It’s very meaningful and provides
opportunities for me to learn something from them.”
Al, Associate Group General Counsel, Hartford CT
“I never served, so this provides me an opportunity to give back to the military. I’ve mentored three protégés so far. I bring them plenty of luck, with two out of the three securing jobs within months. The ACP pairs me with veterans who are interested in attending law school or seeking legal careers. I help with their resumes, letters of intent, how to study in law school, career options and preparing for the bar exam.
I’ve learned it’s helpful to research before meeting with my protégés to understand what they’ve done in the military that can contribute to a successful transition. Helping a military member transition is very satisfying; you’re doing a good deed for someone who has sacrificed so much for our country. Given veterans’ discipline and attributes, you know they’re likely to succeed in whatever career they choose.”
Rob, CAT Team Unit Manager, Denver, CO; U.S. Army & Army National Guard Veteran
“When I got out of the military, I had to assimilate how I acted and how I led others and I also needed to learn a whole new vernacular. It took me a while to adjust to civilian work, so I understand how to help vets, which allows me to continue my contribution to the military.
One of my protégés was a Command Sergeant Major. He had multiple Bronze Stars, but he was fearful about getting out of the military. I helped him build confidence and understand how his resourcefulness, knowledge and experience would serve him. He ended up getting a job in his hometown as the head of recreational tourism.
I invite each of my protégés to be a part of the process, which helps them gain a broader perspective about their own development while transitioning. ACP has been a great way for me to help veterans and to be a part of something bigger.”
Chris, BI Middle Market Business Architect, Hartford, CT; U.S. Air Force Veteran
“ACP’s ‘secret sauce’ is their hands-on engagement; they stay engaged, so that
mentors get as much, or more, out of the experience than protégés do. I’ve mentored at least ten protégés, who have had a wide range of skills and needs. One protégé was an Air Force Academy graduate who was attending the University of Chicago School of Business. I helped him evaluate several offers for summer internships, including one at a large retail chain. I helped him to think about the company behind the scenes, that any large corporation is about data and analytics. It opened his eyes to how many possibilities exist behind the company and job title.
Mentoring has also helped me grow in my career. As I’ve learned more about how large organizations work, I’ve become more confident in understanding what other companies might be looking for in candidates.”
Lisa, Senior Paralegal, Law Office of William J. Ferren & Assoc., Blue Bell, PA
“I’ve mentored eight ACP protégés since 2013. My most memorable was in the military for eight years. She had ‘Ivy League intelligence,’ but still needed encouragement to learn not to settle, to stop doubting herself and to understand her first job didn’t have to be her last. She took that advice and has succeeded in many ways. She earned a scholarship and went on to work on her doctorate. Another protégé had 20 years in the Navy but had never experienced civilian work. She was used to being given and acting on orders. Through mentoring, she learned an enormous amount about herself and how to find a setting that fit her mindset and task-orientation. As a mentor, I listen first and speak second. I try to understand where they are coming from, then guide them into the civilian world in a way that makes sense to them.”
Eric, PI Cloud Architect, Hartford, CT; U.S. Navy Veteran
“I wish ACP had been available when I got out of the military in 1998. I’m currently engaged in my fourth mentorship. My first protégé was a fascinating guy. He came out of the Army and was working on a Ph.D. in computer science. I was able to help him out personally and professionally.
My second protégé needed more help when he got out of the Navy. We did a lot of mock interviews, and I threw him curveball questions. He moved along to a position in computer science support. As a mentor, I’ve also learned things, like the importance of setting ground rules during the initial meeting. ACP is a fantastic program and lets me give back. It’s a good feeling. I’d advise anyone interested in mentoring to go for it.”
“Tell me about yourself.”
“What is your biggest strength? Biggest weakness?”
“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
At one point or another, we have all prepared ourselves to answer the cliché interview questions. However, with company cultures shifting and technologies evolving, the interview process is changing every day.
As hiring efforts continue at Travelers, we sat down with some of our senior recruiters to ask what advice they would give to jobseekers looking for opportunities under the umbrella.
Read below to learn their tips for: virtual interviewing, knowing yourself, resume best practices and remembering the basics.
With most companies interviewing candidates virtually, Erik suggests that preparation and follow up are key. Communication with the interviewer, before and after the interview, is especially important in a remote work environment. He also reminds jobseekers to not only mentally prepare for their interview, but to make sure their physical space is set up, too.
“Treat these interviews as if they were in person interviews making sure that you dress professionally and that you have a quiet place to be able to interview from,” Erik explains. For more tips, read our article on Preparing For a Video Interview
In order for our interviewers to get to know you, you have to get to know yourself. “The interviewers want to know who you are,” Lynn says.
Lynn advises candidates to know their skillset and make sure to ask questions during the interview to learn if they are a good fit for the job. Be authentic!
When applying for a job, your resume is the hiring team’s first impression of you. Rather than listing your previous work experience and respective duties, Nathan suggests building your resume using your experiences and accomplishments.
“That sets you apart before you even get started on your job hunt,” Nathan says. “As a side benefit, it may provide a nice little roadmap during your interview as well.”
In all the hustle and bustle of new interviewing methods, don’t forget the basics. Ruth reminds our jobseekers to be prepared for technical and behavioral questions, and to make sure to show up with questions of their own. For more tips, check out our infographic on Behavioral Interviewing.
Our claim professionals are continuing to deliver on the Travelers Promise, to take care of our customers, communities and each other, which has become increasingly important during the upheaval and uncertainty caused by COVID-19.
Just before daybreak on a Monday in mid-April, a severe windstorm swept through Charlotte, North Carolina, damaging properties across the region. After the storm passed, Erin Karaffa packed up her drone and her personal protective gear, ready to start conducting property inspections and helping our customers recover.
Within a few hours, Erin, a Property Claim professional in our Virginia-Carolina Claim Center, had spoken to a customer whose home was damaged by a large falling tree. Because of the extent of damage to the attic, Erin couldn’t conduct a virtual inspection, so she set up an in-person inspection for the following day and arrived on site in protective gear, following social distancing guidelines.
“I like to give customers a heads-up and call from the driveway to say, ‘I’m here. Are you comfortable with me coming in? I have a mask and gloves on,’” Erin explained. “I want to make sure they’re prepared. Even though you see a lot of people wearing masks, it can still be intimidating.”
In addition to inspecting the interior damage, Erin used a drone to assess the damage to the roof and then issued the customer’s claim payment via ePay, Travelers’ secure electronic payment system. “The tree impacted a pipe that came out of her roof,” Erin stated, “and it shattered all the way into the attic and down into the crawlspace, so she needed to get a plumber in there right away. ePay helped her do that.”
The customer was so pleased with Erin’s prompt, professional response despite the challenges posed by COVID-19 that she sent a heartfelt letter of thanks. “You had a caring demeanor and were very thorough, professional, diligent and knowledgeable about what to do,” the customer wrote to Erin. “Travelers is fortunate to have an employee like you, especially during this pandemic that our world is dealing with.”
Video interviewing is becoming more common in the hiring process. Advanced technology and the accessibility of video chat apps and programs give job seekers and employers face-to-face interaction without having to meet in person.
Although your job interview may take place in a casual atmosphere, that doesn’t mean you should have a casual attitude about it. It is still a job interview, with the same implications as an in-person office meeting.
Preparation and set up for the video interview is crucial. Consider this advice as you set up, dress up and take on your next video interview.
Set the stage: Choose a quiet space where you can control the surroundings. If you can, try to avoid public places or spots with background activity. Ensure that your backdrop is simple, clean and well-lit. Face a window to take advantage of natural light or set up a lamp behind your camera. Facing the light will help eliminate distracting shadows from your face and background.
Avoid distractions by cleaning off your desk and keeping a glass of water, a pen and paper and a copy of your resume handy. Close applications that may be running on your computer or phone and set all notifications to “do not disturb.”
Tech check: Find out beforehand what app or video platform the employer would like to use and download if need be. Test the application with your internet, audio and video connections, to ensure its stability. It is a great idea to test with a friend to ensure that everything works properly.
Set up your camera at eye level, leaving 10-20% of the screen above your head empty. If your computer is too low, use books to prop it up. If using your phone or tablet, you can also use books or something stable to prop it up.
Using headphones will help prevent echos in the audio and a microphone will help your voice come through clearly.
Dress the part: You may be in your bedroom or kitchen, but you still need to look like a professional. Wear what you would wear to an in-person interview at the company, from head to toe. You will feel and act more professionally if you look the part.
Steer clear of very bright, distracting colors or prints, like stripes, that may cause a visual glitch on camera. Avoid jewelry that makes noise or causes a glare.
During the interview: Similar to an office interview, you want to convey optimism and positive body language. Maintain good posture with your feet on the floor and your back straight, with arms rested on your desk or lap.
Eye contact is essential. When you are talking, make sure you are looking at the camera and not the screen. When listening, smile and nod to show you are engaged. Use hand gestures when it feels appropriate, keeping your movements small and close to your body. Avoid fidgeting, touching your face or looking away from your device.
At the end of the interview, be sure to thank the interviewer for their time and follow up the next day with a thank you email.
If things don’t go to plan: Make sure you have a secondary way to contact your interviewer. If you lose audio, video, or internet connection, call your interviewer and see if you can continue by phone or reschedule.
If an unexpected noise or disruption occurs, simply apologize for the interruption, ask for a moment to step away, or wait for the noise to subside. Mute your microphone and secure the space before beginning the interview again.
With these tips, along with your traditional interview prep, you will be well on your way to making a great first impression.
Many of the duties you performed in the service have a civilian counterpart in business and industry, including here at Travelers. Still, the job search process can be challenging. That’s why we want to help you along the way, with practical resume and interview advice that can make your transition from the military easier and more successful.
The goal of your resume is to obtain an interview. It should give potential employers an overview of your background, while highlighting your accomplishments. You want to stand out among your peers. At a minimum, your resume should include your professional experience in a themed or chronological order, as well as your education, achievements and volunteer interests.
Your resume is your chance to make a good first impression. But, the interview is where the job is won!
This is your chance to set the tone with a sort, interesting introduction.
“I grew up in ___. I decided to join the [military branch] because____. I had a great experience including___, and learned ___, ___ and ____. That brings me here today to learn more about [company] and your opportunity for [position].”
“Based on my visit and discussions today, I am very interested in joining [company]. I believe my ___, ___, and ___ skills position me well to both learn from and contribute to the success of the organization. Is there anything more that I can tell you about my experience, or are there areas where you feel I am lacking?”
Chances are, interviews and boards that you have participated in throughout your military care have adequately prepared you to take on an interview in the civilian corporate world. Still, it’s always helpful to have a toolkit for reference. For additional interview tips, read our post about Behavioral Interviewing.