Proactive Career Management
Why this Web Site?
Many of you may
know that I was a practicing Risk Manager for the 9 years immediately
before the founding of Harvard Aimes Group.
Since 1984, I've earned my living helping
companies find good people to manage their Risk Management programs. I
consciously chose to operate in a very narrow niche. I believe we are
the ONLY Executive Search firm in the world that accepts
assignment ONLY in the area of CORPORATE risk management
(including the sub-specialties of Safety and Claims management). We do
not accept assignments Brokers, Carriers, or Vendors to the buyer
community. And we work ONLY on an Employer-retained
I developed this
site because of an abiding (self-) interest in Risk Management as a
career / a craft / and a profession.
(and your contributions) are greatly appreciated.
What have you done for me
Over the years,
we've always tried to be accessible to people who have a personal
interest in Risk Management as a career. Many times folks ask about the
general subject of career management. More often, however, the caller
wants advice or help in making an immediate job change. The biggest
recurring frustration I've had in the years since founding Harvard Aimes
Group is my inability to do anything more than to give good advice to
good people when what they really need is 'a new job'. The following is
some of the "free advice" I've dispensed over the years - you may take
it for what it's worth.
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At the risk of
sounding cryptic, it is painfully obvious that the days of corporate
"cradle-to-grave" (if they ever existed) are certainly over.
Furthermore, the pace of change shows no sign of slowing down. That in
mind, it should be obvious that today's middle manager needs to take a
more proactive approach to career management.
You are totally responsible
for your future!
A good friend observed
some time ago, that "you 'headhunters' are a lot like bankers". While
business was pretty good at the time, I didn't quite understand the
characterization. He continued, only partly in jest, that his banker
"was always happy to lend money when I didn't need it". I got it - and
(unfortunately) there's more than a bit of truth to his
Like your banker,
the time to develop a "relationship" with a
recruiter/headhunter/executive search consultant (which moniker is
applied doesn't matter to ME) is when you don't NEED one.
never a bad idea to be plugged in.
All search firms
(whether an employment agency working on a contingency fee basis or an
employer-retained practice - such as ours) are paid by the CLIENT and --
YOU aren't the client!
Our charter is to help the firms we represent
(they pay our fee) find the near perfect combination of background,
experience, and chemistry or "fit" which matches their needs at the
given moment. When considered against a background of
budget/salary/industry and location considerations, the likelihood that
'all the stars can perfectly align' for your benefit at the exact moment
that you have a 'need' is, frankly, remote.
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The Five-Year Chunk
I've long advocated that
folks look at their career in five-year "chunks". Beyond your first
couple job assignments (which should be looked at as post-graduate
education), the middle manager needs to form a mindset in which a job is
undertaken on the basis of a Five-Year option.
Such an approach
will require that one:
- Get your ticket
punched - that is - acquire the
degrees and professional designations appropriate to your chosen
current on state-of-the-art in
- Stay active and
in your field
- Each of these points is
The investment in
your own human capital will benefit your present employer making you
more valuable to them.
is power. Knowledge of the
marketplace will keep you abreast of your own value in the
If, at the end of
your five year "option" period, you still find yourself excited, fairly
compensated, and your employer continues to provide a thriving
environment - GREAT! But it is naive to expect it.
you find your, then current, assignment less than stimulating you may
consider to exercising your "option" elsewhere. Certainly, the angst
often associated with making a change should be somewhat reduced because
it was - "part of the plan".
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I had a
discussion with a colleague some years ago, regarding a scandal that had
been exposed in the Wall Street Journal. This was a front-page general
business item that was eventually discussed by all the business
magazines and, in fact, directly affected his specific industry.
Clearly, my friend had NO knowledge of the subject. He volunteered that
he hadn't read anything about it because, "if his company wouldn't get
him the Journal he wasn't going to pay for it" - What a stupid,
While my friend
might have considered his company's educational reimbursement policy
cheap and shortsighted - such a policy should have been the most
compelling reason for him to invest in himself. He spitefully chose not
to invest in advanced academics, professional designations or targeted
networking of any type. (He was also an anti-computer Luddite.) Alas, he
is out of the Risk Management business today -- Sadly, the market passed
WHAT ARE YOU
There are so many general
business related resources available that you could spend your every
waking hour reading. Obviously, one has to pick one's spots. At a
minimum, you should be reading:
- Business Week also provides a
good reflective perspective
- Fortune frequent entertaining
articles - certainly a wonderful way to keep abreast of
"flavor-of-the-month" management theories and trends
- Business Insurance -
IMPORTANT - The Journal of your
sure you get the most respected one in your business
(ie Restaurant News for the restaurant industry). You need to
be able to speak the language spoken in your industry (and that isn't
YOUR TICKET PUNCHED
There are a number of
practical (cynical?) reasons to get your ARM (Associate in Risk
Management) sooner than later.
While it does not
teach you how to be a Risk Manager, it does give a nice overview. You
might actually learn something.
It will separate
you from more than 60% of the folks you may compete with in the job
market; especially at the near-entry level.
preparation/review classes are excellent networking
It is a
relatively easy professional designation to obtain. Only three
It is tangible
evidence of a commitment to professional
Some things to think about
when you plan your continuing formal education. The CPCU is the "gold
standard" professional/technical designation for the insurance
professional. Anyone holding the key ought to be proud of his or her
accomplishment. Nonetheless, those planning a career in the corporate
world (and not already committed to the 10-exam CPCU process) ought to
- CPCU is, in fact, an
- MBA is a general
business designation and is likely to have more credibility and
currency within the corporate organization.
- In the real world, where
the Risk Manager is seldom seen as a mainstream manager (because of
the language he/she speaks), why not stack the cards in your favor by
having the same ticket your peer level managers have?
When considering the
pantheon of professional educational opportunities, many (Risk) Managers
would be better served by the Dale Carnegie or Toastmasters regimen than
by the 8 CPCU classes.
There are only so many
hours in the day. Few employers relish the thought of their managers
participating in every possible industry group.
I've always been an
advocate of professional involvement with RIMS. For most practitioners,
it's the only opportunity to network with peers on a regular basis. It's
accessible. The ability to pick up the phone and "brainstorm" with a
colleague you've met through RIMS, who doesn't have an ax to grind, is
incalculable. All things considered, if you're depending exclusively on
your broker for risk management advice and counsel you run a serious
"lack of perspective" risk.
INDUSTRY SPECIFIC RISK
Most industries have
formal or informal focus groups. While one needs to be somewhat
circumspect regarding anti-trust issues, these can be some of the most
worthwhile organizations to be involved with. The likes of the National
Restaurant Association, the Food Marketing Institute and the American
Bankers Association do a fine and focused job with their risk management
One wonderful organization
I discovered some time ago is Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and
Innovation (MAPI). This
Washington DC based group has a very
broad charter to affect legislation and enhance the environment for
business. They educate government but they also have a mission to
enhance the skills their members. They have a CEO group, a General
Counsel's group, Treasurer's, Human Resources, and a Risk Manager's
group. Typically, these specialty focus groups meet twice yearly (at
pretty nice digs). The unique MAPI
twist is a requirement on individual members to participate by and
delivering a paper every 3 years. The work product delivered at the
meeting is mostly practical and excellent.
conversations over the years with top executives, I can report that
involvement with MAPI has enormous
currency in the corporate hierarchy. Because your boss and his/her boss
have been exposed to MAPI, they know
that when you go to a MAPI meeting
that you're going to work and you're going to learn. That is not always
the perception held of the annual RIMS conference.
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The ONE decision
you can make to improve your career opportunities by a factor of
offers a series of trade-offs. You should consider that you might be
creating your own glass ceiling by refusing to consider
opportunities outside your present geographic comfort zone.
Immutable laws of supply and demand prove that those willing to relocate
(at some point) during their career are usually able to CHOOSE from a
greater selection of opportunities.
Why Risk Managers
DON'T Get Fired
There was a very
thoughtful article in Institutional Investor some years ago entitled
"Why Risk Managers Get Fired" (by Neil Osborne). It reported several
technically related snafus that contributed to the ouster of the Risk
Manager. It mentioned the RM's failure to place separate insurance on
the corporate jet for a flight to
Mexico (resulting in a temporary
impoundment to the exquisite irritation of the CEO/passenger). It
further detailed other screw-ups relating to co-insurance shortfalls,
gaps and lapses and failure to understand/anticipate how the insuring
agreement would apply (too late) after the loss.
The common thread
was a failure to execute the technical fundamentals of the
Since I've been
in business I've often been cast in the role of the Undertaker (NOT the
executioner). I can't recall one case where the incumbent has been
ousted solely because of shortcomings in the technical aspects of one's
Insurance/Excess Insurance program. People DON'T get fired because of
they are not good insurance technicians.
I've yet to hear
of a CFO comparing manuscript policies with his peers or competitors
resulting in anyone's demise. Similarly, I've never heard of a Risk
Manager being fired because his loss conversion factor was a point above
a similar company down the block. It just doesn't happen!
Does this mean
that you don't have to watch the details? Of course not - That's your
job! Just don't expect a lot of appreciation for the nuance of your
craft. You are expected demonstrate "seamless competence" in the routine
execution of your job.
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The one book I
The ONE book I
recommend for ANY middle or upper management aspirant or purchaser of
search services: Rites
of Passage at $100,000 -- by John Lucht. Updated in 2014 (and
available via Kindle), this book is loaded with insider information
about career leverage and how the entire job changing process works. If
I can't do anything for you other than recommend this book, I may have
done you an enormous favor.
Why Risk Managers do get
apologies to Cool Hand Luke - "What we have here is a failure to
communicate" - It's (almost) always a failure to communicate. That's the
short answer. ... Stay tuned for the longer
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Proactive Career Management - Prospective Client Information
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