My name is Will Matney, I started my internship at HAWK Advisers in September 2020 through the Blue Ridge Fellows after receiving my bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Virginia Tech. This program is one of many transitional initiatives in the United States that seeks to provide professional, academic, and spiritual experiences for the purpose of assimilating recent college graduates into the “real world.” When I started my nine-month internship program at HAWK Advisers, I wrote a blog post about what got me interested in the insurance industry, you can find that here.

As I take time to reflect on the past nine months at HAWK Advisers, I find myself grateful for the experience that has equipped me with wisdom that will undoubtedly benefit my future self, but it also helped me realize the three life lessons I have taken away from this experience.

Lesson #1: The importance of diversifying my methods of learning.

My primary goal for this year was to gain a deeper understanding of the world of insurance. In order to achieve this, I have found great benefits in repetitive reading, online lectures, and seeking professional wisdom from those around me. As I began studying for the Property & Casualty insurance exam to obtain my license, I was given a study guide that provided me with information regarding basic concepts, insurable risks, and coverages. After looking over the initial chapters, it didn’t take long for me to realize that a complete understanding would require more than a quick glance. As I read (and re-read) each chapter, I progressively retained more of the information at hand. In an effort to build on this knowledge, I also started watching online lectures in which a third-party would parse out many of the concepts and elaborate on the topics that were less self-explanatory. While the repetitive reading and online lectures were helpful from a descriptive viewpoint, talking with my coworkers about how this information could be applied in the process of selling insurance is where I saw it begin to come to life. Without their input, the collective information I have learned would be nothing more than words from a page. Despite having inherent value within themselves, the collection of these three ways of learning has proven to be the most effective and efficient way to understand the intricacies of insurance.

Lesson #2: There is a continual need to trust the process.

Even as I have sought the most beneficial ways to learn the insurance business, I would be lying if I said that there have been no hiccups or difficulties along the way. There were some days that I felt like a sponge – constantly soaking and retaining new information – and other days that caused me to question if I was retaining anything at all. In an effort to cope with this, I have had to come to terms with the fact that a more complete understanding of any “new thing” is a product of time. I have had to recognize that insurance is learned through experience and what I know today will be far less than what I will know three years from now. I have had to recognize a need to broaden my evaluation of myself from what was once a “narrow lens.” In my attempts to analyze my progress day to day, I have left myself susceptible to subtle disappointment. When, however, I attempted to evaluate my professional development over the span of three-or-six-month increments, I found myself appreciating the long-term upward trend that has taken place. This slow-growing disposition to trust the process has ultimately given me the ability and desire to show an extended level of patience to myself.

Lesson #3: Great benefits come with a selfless and considerate work culture.

I have discovered the collective benefits that come from being in a workplace in which the needs of others are prioritized and tended to. From the start of my time at HAWK Advisers, my coworkers have willingly implemented an open-door policy with me. Any time I have needed assistance on a project or assignment, they have expressed a desire to come alongside me and help me get past those various roadblocks. This open-door policy has also expressed a shared willingness to take a break from current tasks in order to give full and complete attention to the help that was needed on my end. Seeing this work culture on display, I have recognized that selflessness only breeds more selflessness. When my coworkers have generously met my needs, I have noticed a growing inclination to do the same for them. Such a policy has seemed to simultaneously make me feel seen, supported, and cared for in my work here at HAWK; and in many ways, this way of business has spoken more clearly than words are even capable of articulating. As I transition out of Roanoke and back to my hometown of Virginia Beach, I can and will walk into my next workplace knowing the power that lies within an “others first” mindset.