By Lynn Simon-Thomas
Manager, Diversity Engagement
For some people, making professional connections can be a rather challenging and intimidating task. Then, when you throw in extraordinary times like those in which we’re currently living, the fear factor goes from, “What if I blow this because I say something silly?” to “What if I blow this because I look a mess on camera?” I know, I get it. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.
One thing to keep in mind when you’re networking, whether virtually or in person, is that the other person is just that: a person. Just like you, they are a human being who has dreams and goals, family and friends, strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and, of course, quirks and idiosyncrasies that make them unique and interesting. Who knows? You may have something in common, but you’ll never know if you don’t accept the invite, phone call or email to connect.
Once you’ve made a new connection, it’s important to stay connected, even when you are unable to do it face-to-face. It’s no secret we’ve all had to get used to having more Zoom conversations than we care to count and learning how to “show up” in a virtual environment is an art in and of itself. But just about anything is possible when you focus and commit adequate time and effort.
If you stop to think about it, everyone (yes, even you) has a network. Starting with family and friends, you probably have people you can count on to help guide you with sound advice, as well as those who may periodically seek your advice. Professional networks are no different. They’re just as, if not more, important than personal ones, as they can impact the trajectory of your career path. And just like any living thing, they need to be fed and nurtured to remain healthy. As a Diversity Recruiting Manager, I regularly share articles or just send a note to my connections to say, “Hello.”
In 2021 we started a program called Just Coffee at Travelers to help facilitate network building. The goal was to connect several passive candidates with leaders at Travelers for an informal, yet professional, conversation via Zoom. To ensure both parties remained at ease, we reminded them that the conversation was not an interview, but really an opportunity to make a new connection and build their respective networks. Just Coffee has been well-received by both candidates and Travelers’ leaders, which has shown me that many people are still open to the idea of spending 30 minutes with another human, simply for the sake of getting to know someone new. That’s networking at its finest.
Networking is an art that must be practiced regularly. Below I’ve included a few tips to help you improve your networking skills.
Lynn’s Top 4 Networking Tips:
Lynn Simon-Thomas is Manager, Diversity Engagement within Talent Acquisition. Lynn has over 15 years of experience in recruiting and diversity engagement. She serves as the diversity and inclusion subject matter expert focused on the execution of targeted diverse talent sourcing strategies.
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.
By Hansford Johnson
Assistant Vice President, Human Resources
Enterprise Diversity & Inclusion, Talent Management & Talent Acquisition
Managing your career can be an arduous task, but a very necessary one. While managing one’s career is a priority, I find that many people will exhale after landing a job, settle into it and then stay in that job even after years of frustration or doubts about their career path. Who says you have to stop pursuing a “career” that is meaningful, gratifying and has some semblance of what you dreamed of or dressed up as during Career Day in elementary school?
There is something powerful about transferring what is in your head, what you dream about and what you envision, to what is on a piece of paper. A study done by Dominican University psychology professor, Dr. Gail Matthews, shows that those who write out their goals are 42% more likely to achieve their goals. You know what is even more powerful than writing down your goals? Following through with them. And it all starts with how you see and manage the 50 or so hours you spend working each week. I don’t have the exact answer because we are all uniquely different, but I hope these three principles can serve as maintenance or help you start managing you career – I call them The Three P’s of career navigation.
Passion is what gets you going. It is that “thing” you do until your brain hurts. It keeps you up at night, and then you wake up only to do it again. Steve Jobs famously said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” The best way to accomplish this is by starting with your passion. Otherwise, you will waste a lot of time trying to find it.
Now you are probably asking yourself, “How do I find it?” Again, I do not have a “one size fits all” answer, but you can start with these questions:
Often, we hear the words “passion” and “purpose” used synonymously. However, I like to think of passion as the catalyst and purpose as the totality. If passion is what gets you started, then purpose is what keeps you going. If we organize our life around our passion, we can turn our passion into our story, and then turn our story into something bigger – something that matters and is purposeful. The concept of purpose can be difficult, however here are some building blocks to figure it out:
The Roman philosopher Seneca said, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” If passion is your “what” and purpose is your “why,” then preparation is your “how.”
However you define success, and whichever ladder you choose to climb, it’s inevitable that you will face some adversity and setbacks in your professional pursuits, but it should not be for a lack of preparation. Here are a few tools that have helped me along the way:
Put your career in the right perspective. Breaking your career plan down into small action steps will keep your focus on your passion and your goals. Your career is a journey with many inflection points. Put pen to paper, begin with an end in mind, and start by figuring out your what (Passion), why (Purpose) and how (Preparation).
Here are a few more resources to help you figure out your what, why and how:
Hansford Johnson is Assistant Vice President, Human Resources for Enterprise Diversity & Inclusion, Talent Management & Talent Acquisition. Hansford has over 15 years of experience in human capital management and higher education leadership. He serves as the diversity and inclusion subject matter expert focused on the execution of targeted enterprise-wide diverse talent sourcing strategies.
“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.
Whether it be working on team projects with bottom-line impact, networking with senior leadership, or experiencing professional development workshops and events, there are many opportunities to take advantage of as a Travelers intern. We sat down with three interns who are spending their summer with us. Read on to hear about their first-hand experience under the umbrella.
Myron Adamson of Boston, Mass. is participating in a Bond & Specialty Insurance internship at Travelers this summer.
Adamson is currently studying Mathematics at Bunker Hill Community College. When it came to an internship at Travelers, Adamson says it was, “the perfect timing of the perfect opportunity.”
“I was ready to take the next step in my insurance career—earn an internship for growth and development at a prospective employer in the P&C sector, get a feel for their work culture, and develop relationships there,” Adamson says.
Adamson came across Travelers while networking at the 2019 CPCU annual conference, where he met a representative from the company who mentioned opportunities for the Underwriting Professional Development Program (UPDP) internship program. He kept an eye out for the position opening, applied, and is now working on the Commercial Surety team.
Although his role involves learning the insurance products offered, familiarizing himself with the enterprise, and delivering on individual and team projects throughout the summer, Adamson says his personal goal is to use these experiences to better himself as an underwriter.
“To this end, I deem this internship a professional evaluation experience that continues to make me more aware of who I am now while also indicating who I need to become, and how I may make those changes,” Adamson says.
A few years after moving from Dhaka, Bangladesh to Manchester, Conn. in 2014, Rubaiya Sultana attended Eastern Connecticut State University where she is currently studying Labor Relations and Human Resource Management.
This summer, Sultana is working with Travelers’ Talent Acquisition team, learning about the full cycle recruitment process. She came across the internship opportunity after attending an information session hosted by a member of the University Relations team.
“I always heard great things about Travelers from its current employees and former interns, but when I did my own research about the company, I just fell in love with their corporate ethics, employee benefits and the Travelers Promise – the commitment to take care of our customers, communities and employees.”
Sultana says her goal this summer is not only to learn about the recruitment process, but also to network with individuals from the company to, “add knowledge and value to the work that I do and enhance my growth as an aspiring HR professional.”
Travelers Risk Control intern Bach Tran grew up in Vietnam, attended Virginia Tech to earn a BS in Civil Engineering, and now currently attends Roger Williams University studying Construction Management.
While searching for a summer internship, Tran connected with a Travelers representative online to learn more about the company. After applying, he landed a spot as an intern in the Risk Control organization.
Tran says the opportunity to explore the insurance industry was exciting. “I had no experience in that field and was very curious,” Tran says, “The opportunity to learn more about construction risk exposures and how contractors can improve their safety plan really interested me to apply.”
This summer, Tran’s goal is to gain a better understanding of the different types of construction insurance coverages, learn how Travelers Risk Control consultants communicate with construction contractors, and understand the various risk exposures and ways to improve site management.
“One of my projects is assisting consultants in categorizing on-site observations into different types of risk exposures,” Tran says, “I am learning a lot by having conversations with other Risk Control consultants, Claim professionals, and members of the Underwriting organization.”
Former Travelers EDGE scholar, Kate McCollam, sat down with our team to discuss how the program affected her education, her career and ultimately her life here at Travelers.
Kate is an FMLDP participant currently supporting Corporate Audit in St. Paul, MN. She became a Travelers EDGE scholar during her second year in college and has now been working at Travelers for 2 years and 7 months. Read more below to learn about Kate’s EDGE journey.
How long have you been at Travelers?
Two years and seven months.
How did you get involved with Travelers EDGE?
In my second year at college, I became a Travelers EDGE scholar. At the time, I was looking for qualifying scholarships and being a first-generation college student in the U.S. presented the opportunity to apply and become an EDGE scholar.
How did Travelers EDGE affect your education?
I obtained an Accounting Degree in 3 years due to the support of Travelers EDGE.
When I began to pursue my accounting degree, I started at a community college. It was more affordable; I was able to work during the day and attend classes in the evening to ensure that I was making payments towards my education and would not have to address a big debt after college.
The moment I became a scholar, I was fortunate to receive financial support that gave me the freedom to take classes at the pace that I was able to address rather than at the pace I was able to afford.
How did Travelers EDGE affect your career?
Being an EDGE scholar and utilizing the internship experience and connections that I built, helped me obtain an amazing job here at Travelers. Travelers is a driving leader in the insurance industry and to be part of that is powerful.
Tell us about your current role.
I am a Financial Management Leadership Development Program (FMLDP) participant. The FMLDP is a 3-year rotational program that offers a diverse set of assignments in financial planning and analysis, internal auditing, international finance, and corporate accounting. For my current assignment, I am working within our internal auditing function where I have the chance to work with a dynamic team of talented professionals and learn about Travelers’ control environment, governance and risk management processes.
Is there anything else you wish to share?
It feels great to be part of such a vibrant community. Working at Travelers is not simply doing your job, but rather a continuous promise to be your best self and leverage the available resources to keep getting better. It is being continuously challenged, but always having a friendly resource to ensure you feel supported. It is a place where hard work, enthusiasm and professional ethic are the key drivers of the culture and I truly appreciate that.
Company Release – 2/25/2019 2:41 PM ET
HARTFORD, Conn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)– The Travelers Companies, Inc. (NYSE: TRV) has announced an innovative new benefit for its employees that takes the tough choice out of paying down student debt or saving for retirement.
With The Travelers Paying It Forward Savings Program, payments by eligible U.S. employees toward their student loans will qualify for the company’s 401(k) Plan “matching” program.
The new program will help tackle two of the biggest financial challenges Americans face today: getting out from under the burden of student loan debt and building healthy savings for retirement.
“We have the most talented workforce in our industry and benefit immeasurably from the education and expertise they bring to their work,” said Alan Schnitzer, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Travelers. “Yet many of our colleagues all too often struggle to save for retirement because student loans weigh so heavily on their finances. Investing in their education shouldn’t stop our employees from investing in their future. We are promoting a standard of employee care that enables them to do both.”
According to the Federal Reserve, student loan debt in the United States reached more than $1.5 trillion at the end of 2018. Starting to save early is key to a healthy retirement fund, yet the Fed’s latest Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households noted that 41 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds said they had no retirement savings. The report also highlighted that 42 percent of those who attended college, representing 30 percent of all adults, have incurred at least some debt for their education.
As part of its leading benefits package, Travelers currently has a “matching” program for employee contributions to 401(k) accounts. Beginning in January 2020, when The Travelers Paying It Forward Savings Program takes effect, student loan payments will also be taken into account when determining the company’s 401(k) contribution.
Employees, including those who are not in a position to contribute at all to their 401(k) accounts because of student loans, who participate in the new program could accumulate tens of thousands of dollars in their 401(k) accounts over a decade, which could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars at retirement. That demonstrates the importance of starting to save for retirement early in order to realize the benefit of compounding returns over time.
Travelers hires thousands of employees each year under the age of 35, most of whom have college degrees and many of whom have advanced degrees.
“This program is truly life changing for those of us who are chipping away at our debt and still trying to build for our futures,” said Sasha Kashalapov, a user experience designer who joined Travelers in 2018 with a degree in visual communication design. “It speaks volumes about how a company that cares about its employees invests in their personal well-being and success.”
Blake Perry, a claim manager at Travelers, said, “In a long list of initiatives I’ve seen Travelers implement to support and invest in employees during my nine years with the organization, I believe this is among the most impactful of them all. I look forward to participating fully!” Blake joined Travelers in 2010 and has a degree in political science as well as an advanced degree in law.
The Travelers Companies, Inc. (NYSE: TRV) is a leading provider of property casualty insurance for auto, home and business. A component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Travelers has approximately 30,000 employees and generated revenues of approximately $30 billion in 2018. For more information, visit www.travelers.com.
View source version on businesswire.com: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20190225005944/en/
Matt Bordonaro, 860-277-7014
Source: The Travelers Companies, Inc.