There was a time when choice meant something very different from the way we interpret the word now. There have always been options, but real choice comes when quality and value are part of the decision.
Once upon a time, electricity, gas, telephones and a whole lot else came from one supplier for each product or service. Choice of groceries was largely made by the local shopkeeper in deciding which brands and products to stock.
Choice of take-away food was down to whether to have fish and chips or not bother. Choice of car might have been made between competing British Leyland models. Choice of which film to see had been made by the local cinema in deciding which film to feature.
Now we have everybody trying to sell everybody else's products and services. Utility companies will sell you gas and electricity, and even water, depending on which part of the country you're in. Telecom companies are still sprouting.
Supermarkets will offer a wide range of previously unheard of items. Every cuisine on the planet is now available in little foil or polystyrene cartons. There are car manufacturers all over the world wanting to make you a car that won't break down too often. Multiplex cinemas can offer 12 different films and as many types of ice cream.
Consumerism arrived from America, flourished, and hasn't looked back since. We haven't quite got as many flavors, sorry flavours, of ice-cream or cable TV channels yet but things haven't stopped changing. Competition can only become more intense. And insurance has gone the same way.
The choice of which insurance to buy was largely left in the hands of the high street insurance broker. Loyal customers would happily leave all the decision-making to one person and then simply ask how much the bill came to. Often the insurer for the next year would be the same one as last year.
Now we can buy insurance from the high street broker, or by telephone or the internet. We can buy at seemingly any time of the day. Supermarkets, car dealers, water companies, almost everyone it seems, will sell you insurance. Business changes hands between insurers, brokers, even by method of buying, regularly enough to keep prices under constant pressure.
So what does all this mean for those of us who exist only to support the main industry itself? What about the recruitment and training companies? Are there messages here for them too? There is one fact which shouldn't be overlooked.
That is that insurers, brokers, loss adjusters, in fact everyone in the industry, are also consumers. They have choices of their own. In the same way that policyholders have become more demanding, so should insurance-based businesses demand more of their suppliers.
Those supplying support services, including training and recruitment, should be prepared to compete on quality and price in the same way that the industry itself has to. If the demands made on employers in the industry are greater, then so should the demands on recruiters. And choice is becoming greater here also.
The choice of traditional recruiter or internet service will be not unlike the choice of broker or direct insurer for the public. The early internet entrants, such as Just Insurance Jobs and Search Direct, are already here. ScratchJobs.com offers a whole new dimension in web-based recruitment, even to employers who are not on the internet.
Traditional providers of recruitment services should take note and ensure that the quality and value demanded of the whole industry is reflected in their services. We all have to raise our game to ensure the industry continues to meet the public's expectations.
And what of the personal aspects of careers and aspirations? Will individuals benefit from any widening of options and possibilities? Should we, as candidates, expect more from recruiters?
The answer, of course, is yes. Just as employers now have to sell themselves to candidates, candidates can choose between the best of personal attention from traditional recruiters, or the convenience of the internet. In future, looking for an interesting vacancy will be as easy as browsing round a supermarket but done from a website.
The choices will be there. But love the changes or hate them, the only choice missing will be whether to have to change or not. We have no choice but to change.