Teaching job provides launching pad for benefits career

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Joe McGinty was a teacher before shifting into the benefits industry, but far from being a wholesale shift that required a complete new set of skills, his master’s degree in curriculum development and experience teaching third graders provided a good foundation for his current career, he says.

He taught in an inclusion class room — which included some children with disabilities — so the aptitude to explain complicated ideas was crucial. In fact, it wasn’t just a matter of explaining, but also determining another person’s ability to absorb information and altering your approach accordingly.

“It was important to relay the information in different ways so they could all understand it,” says McGinty, one of Employee Benefit Adviser’s 2019 Rising Stars.

After a few years of teaching, though, he grew bored in the summer months.

Also see: Former history teacher ‘accidentally’ becomes benefits adviser

In his free time, he started to find interest in the benefits offered to him and his colleagues by the school system. After a couple conversations with reps from the benefits company, he signed on to work for them to make some extra money in the summer months. He started the day after school let out for the year, and by August, he officially quit his teaching post and became a full-time benefits pro.

That was eight years ago, and now McGinty, 32, is president of the firm he started, Ideal Benefits Group. The Rising Stars list is designed to recognize and highlight some of the young advisers in the industry and their professional accomplishments.

One reason the benefits industry spoke to him, he says, was the potential to parlay his honed educational skills, even if his friends and family didn’t immediately see the connection. “People would ask me, ‘Is it disappointing you don’t get to use your degree?’” But they didn’t understand that his underlying communication skills were a big part of his job, he adds.

“I did it for 8- and 9-year-olds, now I just do it for employees and for employers,” he says.

When describing the best part of his job, he narrowed it to two points.

One, for employees, is telling someone that a check is on the way. A big check at a crucial time in life can be the difference of losing or keeping their car, or even their house, he says.

The other, for employers, is finally solving an efficiency issue in a new, creative way. “It’s always something different, not a cookie cutter approach,” he says.

One of the challenges he sees in the industry is the outdated way some people perceive benefits, and generally not keeping up with advances.

In the past, you filled out a form for everything, but those days are gone, he says. Or they should be. Today, there are apps for everything: health and dental benefits, mobile enrollment systems, videos. “Whenever I see forms, I think, ‘What are you guys doing?’ It’s just an old-school way of doing business,” he says.

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