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August 09, 2004

Actuarial agenda for success

As an actuary you rely on data to create an educated analysis of what a particular item is worth or what you expect it to do. The same is true to marketing yourself to a group of actuaries looking to hire. You, as an actuary, should put your time and effort to three things to ensure a position in the working world after graduation: networking, completing an internship, and passing actuarial exams.

The first question you will be asked by most companies is how many actuarial exams have you passed. If the answer is zero, this will probably be the last question they ask. The harsh reality of being a student actuary is that your expected future performance to an actuarial firm or insurance company comes down to three numbers: exams passed, GPA and years of experience. As new applications of actuarial science are discovered and there is a steady increase in demand for actuaries, the field is limitless, but this does not in any way reflect a companies' willingness to take on an unproven actuary.

The first step is taking exams. Sitting for an exam and not passing is okay if you learn from your mistakes. Studying longer or in a better atmosphere, set a weekly study schedule, sign up for a seminar or start a study group, these are all ways to improve your study habits that can work. The fact is that most people fail the first attempt. The majority of them do alright on the calculus and bomb the probability section. After this November, there will not be a calculus cushion for the handicapped, so it might be in your best interest to buckle down now. Focus on your weaknesses and create flash cards (you learn best when you make your own study materials) separated into your strengths (say calculus) and weaknesses (say probability and Integration by parts). A well planned out study routine, thorough understanding of all topics on the exam syllabus and practicing to improve speed is a great start for passing actuarial exams.

Getting internships and doing your human networking can be done at the same time. Utilize your on campus events such as speakers, on campus interviewers and job fairs. Getting face time with potential employers is a must. If you have the opportunity to meet with a company, do it. This builds a relationship that in the future, with the proper qualifications, can give you the edge over the competition for a position as a student actuary. The monster.com's of the world are also a good resource. A good trick to these websites is to give the company a call and ask to speak with the person listed as the company contact. After establishing a friendly conversation about yourself and the company, thank them for their time and let them know you have an email heading their way. Cold calls are not easy and take a little practice, but as you will find, they create a relationship that makes an emailed resume stand out from the bunch and a little harder to just overlook on a busy day.

There are many tools available to put yourself on the market. Search the web and familiarize yourself with what is out there and what employers are looking for. The best advice is to start early, and the simple truth is, no matter how great you are, no one is going to get a job for you except you.

Posted by Tom Troceen


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