5 Tips for Starting your Actuarial Career
The CAS University Engagement Committee contacted DW Simpson, and invited them to write a blog post to provide you with information and tips to help you with your search for an actuarial position. We thank DW Simpson’s Adam Noreen, Actuarial Recruiter, for writing this post to share with members of CAS Student Central.
Over the past three years working as an actuarial recruiter, I have successfully assisted numerous entry-level actuaries in securing their first full-time positions. Here are my five tips for successfully making you a more marketable candidate:
1. Pass at least one actuarial exam
This may be obvious to many, but your first barrier to entering the actuarial field will be completing at least one actuarial exam. Just about every full-time actuarial opportunity is going to require a minimum of one exam passed, and you will be even more marketable with 2-3 under your belt.
In the United States, companies tend to want a good balance of actuarial exams and hands-on experience, so I do not suggest passing more than three exams, prior to securing your first full-time position. after three exams, it can sometimes pose a challenge for hiring teams as far as how they can fit you into their compensation structure, which is often organized around a balance of exams and experience.
2. Seek actuarial internships
Regardless of being a current student, new college graduate, or career changer, actuarial internship experience will be a valuable addition to your background. I recognize that most internships are offered to current college students. However, on several occasions, I have worked with career changers who have been able to secure internships, even 10+ years out of college. While many internship descriptions may list “must be a current college student,” this is not always the case; it is still worth putting in an internship application, if you have the time, as you never know when a company may have flexibility. Keep in mind that most actuarial internships will also require at least one actuarial exam passed.
3. Sharpen your technical skills
Just about every actuarial job description that you review is going to include a combination of programming/computer skills. While Excel tends to be the number one utilized computer skill in the actuarial field, basic Excel skills are not really going to cut it anymore, if you want to be competitive. In addition to Excel, there tends to be quite a bit of demand for the following skills: Access, Visual Basic/VBA, SQL, SAS, C++, and R.
If you are a current college student, it may be worth including some Computer Science courses as electives, so that you can gain a bit more programming knowledge. On the flip side, if you are fresh out of school (or a career changer), and you feel that your technical skillset is not up to par, I suggest taking the time to gain a basic working knowledge of as many as the above skills as possible. You do not necessarily need to be an expert with each of these skills, but it will be quite valuable to have a foundational knowledge of each skill. Doing some basic internet searches will yield many free and paid resources.
4. Tailor your resume and cover letters
It is quite common for job seekers to write a cover letter template, switch out the company name and position title, and click “submit.” This is a missed opportunity to explain your specific interest in the company and role, and hiring teams may see this as a lack of effort and interest. Do some research, and explain why this company and position make sense for you, long term.
In terms of resume formatting, I suggest keeping it clean and simple. Flashy fonts and colors may distract the individual who is reviewing your resume. Rather than spending time on creative formatting, put your efforts into including as much specific information as possible, in your resume, about your actuarial exams, computer skills, education, actuarial or related work experience, etc. I also strongly suggest including any work experience that you may feel is “irrelevant.” Perhaps you are working at a coffee shop or as a tutor. Either way, adding this information serves two purposes: it shows that you can multitask (especially if you are working during school and taking exams at the same time), and it also fills out any potential employment gaps that would otherwise be there if the experience was not outlined.
5. Prepare to interview
One of the most common reasons that candidates do not move forward after an initial phone interview is that they did not appear to be knowledgeable about the company and position they are interviewing for. Make sure to thoroughly review the company’s website days before your interview, and print out a copy of the job description to have handy for your interviews. Take the time to draw parallels between your background (academics, work experience, technical skills, etc.), and the role you are applying to. It may also be helpful to write out a list that answers “Why am I interested in this specific company and role?” and also “Why am I a good fit?” Make sure to know the lines of business that the company works with.
Prior to the interview, I suggest searching the internet to see if there has been any recent news about the company you are speaking with. If there is anything particularly positive (recent awards, new exciting products, financial successes, etc.), it is always impressive to be able to cite the recent news as a reason to why you are very interested in the company. The key is to really do your homework on each company you interview for.
Adam Noreen is an Actuarial Recruiter at DW Simpson. He has been assisting entry-level candidates and career changers for approximately three years, in securing their first actuarial and analytics positions. Contact Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org