Do you remember that part in the beginning of the movie “City Slickers” when Billy Crystal is at career day at his son’s school, and has to admit to the class that his job is, in it’s most practical form, “selling air?” (I can hear the thump of his son’s head hitting the desk.)

As an insurance professional, I’ve often faced similar conversations with my kids as I try to describe phrases from my day such as “underwriter,” or “program manager,” or “actuaries.” One look at their puzzled faces, and I too am left only with the description of “I sell promises.” I mean, I know that what I do is cool, and engaging, and important, but in the absence of video-gaming consoles, superhero capes, or movie-star encounters, it’s not really an attention grabber for kids.

So when asked to collaborate on Distinguished’s curriculum for ‘Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day’, I vowed to make it more than paper-shredding, coloring, and trying to explain how we don’t really just sell promises. If only we had something tangible to show them, something exciting to ponder—maybe then they’d skip back to school declaring that their Mom or Dad’s job is the coolest!

So with the help of my colleagues, we designed a day that touches on the following roles and tasks, in what I’m confident will be a pretty cool day for our kids. Even without bringing out the paper shredder!

1) We insure museums. So we’re trotting our little ducklings over to Madame Tussaud’s to talk about what things could be at risk if, say, a fire breaks out. We’ll send them with cameras to take pictures of cool stuff that they want to make sure stays safe, and we’ll talk about how we can do that.

2) We use cool technology, like Smartboards. While we suspect that the kids are likely better at using this device than most of us, we’re going to have them use the board to video chat with kids in other offices around the country. We’ll talk about the importance of speaking clearly, staying focused, and understanding technology.

Image- Blog- Dylan Murphy with Smartboard

3) We manage projects. These kids come home at least twice a month with some project that invokes fear and dread. We’ll use one of their school projects as an example, and talk about understanding our strengths and weaknesses in a group setting, and how to organize a project in a way that makes it less daunting.

4) We write interesting stuff. After interviewing their parents, and snapping a few “action shots,” the kids will put together a company newsletter—which we really will distribute—that articulates what they’ve learned about their parents. With our help, they’ll write and edit the whole newsletter, all the while keeping in mind how to write for a particular audience with a unique voice and point-of-view.

5) We talk in front of the room. At one point or another, most of our kids have said it: “I’m terrible at and/or afraid of public speaking.” Well, then, you’d better start practicing. We’ll work with the kids on some easy tips for presenting not only in school, but at the dinner table. Eye contact, body language, tone of voice: all skills that they’ll need and that we truly value at our company.

There’s more that we’re doing, but we’ll save that for next week’s post, where we’ll be sure to share the kid-generated newsletter, as well as some fun pics and videos. Stay tuned!

—Jamie Schraff, Vice President for Corporate Communications