If I had a dollar for every time an industry professional reacted to my choice of college major with, “Risk Management and Insurance?  I didn’t know you could major in that,” I would be a rich man.

From what I see, many people who make up the industry did not set out with the intention of working in insurance or employee benefits. So why would a young professional just entering the job market choose employee benefits? The answer is much broader than me or my reasons for choosing my career.

The answers are characteristic of my generation and while I tread lightly using the term millennial for fear of evoking negative connotations, I am by definition a millennial. While being a member of this generation often carries the aforementioned negative stereotypes, it has also engrained in me certain qualities that make the complex and evolving landscape of health care a natural place to make my career.

My generation is politically-driven and health and welfare benefits have been at the epicenter of many politically-driven discussions over the past five years. The Affordable Care Act was the most significant piece of health care legislation since Medicare was signed in 1965. As a college student, I watched as the headlines debated the validity of the law. This drove many discussions in my classes. These debates forced me to examine and define my own values and beliefs. Simply put, I was captivated. Whether you agree with the ACA or not, it had a significant impact on the future of health care, and that piqued my interest.

My generation wants to be challenged and given an opportunity to drive innovation. I can’t think of anything more challenging than new legislation with more than 20,000 pages of associated regulations. Rising health care costs coupled with health care reform have created a demand for young professionals and innovation. And now, more than ever, the industry needs innovation.

Idealistic and happy about it

My generation wants to work on something that affects people’s lives. I’m fully aware that I sound like an idealistic 20-something. But that’s alright. Because I am a bit idealistic and I happen to be 20-something. I was born into a middle-class family with five children, including myself. My entire family was on my mother’s benefit plan. She worked for the school district was a member of the teachers’ union. The generosity of that unionized plan went a long way in my family. We scrapped and skimped on some things, but health care was not one of those things. The opportunity to work on benefit plans does have a real effect on people’s lives, and I’d like to be a part of that.

So why should millennials take a good, hard look at a career in employee benefits? I like to think that we are bred to succeed in this industry. We believe in the value of collaboration and teamwork. We are multi-taskers extraordinaire and hold the title of most connected generation yet. We take part in politically-driven conversations and want an opportunity to affect change in people’s lives. But most importantly, it’s about innovation. Rising health care costs and reform has led to a reevaluation of the way health care is delivered in the U.S. What happens now will affect our children and our children’s children — and that is worth being a part of.

Murphy is a senior at Temple University, majoring in Risk Management and Insurance.

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