As an actuarial student, it may seem that the path to success (employment, credentials, and more) is solely based on academic achievement. Students are often under the assumption that if they pass X exams and have Y GPA, they will be able to score a coveted actuarial internship or entry-level position. Through my experiences, I can tell you that just being an exam and homework machine is simply not enough; instead, one should consider some or all of these 9 tips below to develop themselves as a holistic actuary.
- Communication – Interpersonal and intrapersonal communication are essential in this field. Once someone understands a complex actuarial concept, it is then their duty to be able to communicate these results and conjectures to their coworkers, managers, and other departments. To develop this skill, I recommend just getting out there and talking to people. If an opportunity to teach a class or give a presentation arises, jump on it- practice makes perfect!
- Do Your Research – What is an actuary, and why do you want to be one? Do you know the differences and similarities between consulting and industry? Investigating this information through speaking to professors and people currently in the industry is a great way to figure things like this out. Additionally, there are online resources like CAS Student Central, Actuarial Outpost, BeAnActuary and other forums dedicated just to educating you.
- Study Smart – By collaborating with peers, studying becomes a lot more beneficial. Locking yourself away in a silent cubicle can lead to a lot of frustration and misunderstandings. Working through problems with peers and discussing difficult concepts often leads to a better understanding for all parties. Additionally, check out online study tools like Coaching Actuaries and The Infinite Actuary to optimize your exam preparation techniques.
- Network – If you’re in school, and your school has an Actuarial Science Club, join it. Your peers are going through similar triumphs and struggles, and this comradery can offer a great support system. Additionally, attending recruitment or informational conferences, company presentations, and even meeting digitally (i.e. LinkedIn or forums) can lead to interpersonal connections in which you can leave a lasting impression on a recruiter and learn about what they do. Sometimes, who you know becomes more important than what you know.
- Programming – If there is an opportunity to learn more information about programming or data, take advantage of it. For example, this semester, I heard about a business class at my school teaching information about data analytics, IT, and a brief introduction to Super interesting! Often, similar opportunities exist in our lives but may not be mandatory or well-known—find them, and try them. There are also many online resources for programming; just hop on your favorite search engine.
- Time Management – Think critically about the best way for you to manage your time. Some people may utilize an online calendar and scheduling tool, but keeping a physical planner or calendar might work best for you. When studying for exams, know when the next sitting is and be sure to sign up far in advance to get your ideal time slot and location. Studying for an exam takes a lot of dedication and time management, especially when done in conjunction with work and/or school.
- Diversity – Our world is a very diverse place, and you will work with people of different races, genders, sexual orientations, ability statuses, religions, nationalities, and ethnicities than you. Knowledge about inclusion and social identity goes a long way, especially when you’re able to integrate your knowledge into your everyday interactions. Working with a diverse group of people brings forth a mélange of new ideas and can propel your work to a new level.
- Know How to Use Prometric-Permitted Exam Calculators – Having to calculate a bond yield or the present value of an annuity on a TI-30 can be emotionally and physically exhausting. When you have access to a BA-II Plus, calculating these values becomes a lot easier. However, you have to know the right sequence of buttons to press and more. I suggest using only Prometric-permitted exam calculators when studying for actuarial exams. If you find that financial calculators are difficult to navigate, YouTube has great tutorials for the BA-II Plus!
- Have Fun! – While we have a long road ahead of us, it is important to take some time to be a human. Spending a night with friends after a long week can be a great way to recharge and take care of yourself. Joining a fun club, community organization, or volunteering can give you some time to relax, reflect, and do good.
Overall, I’d just like to stress that becoming an actuary is more than just “number-crunching” (although, a fascination with numbers certainly helps). To become a holistic actuary, one must consider the above points while also staying motivated. This is a process that we are all working towards (perhaps, reaching this perfectly holistic level is unattainable), but we just have to keep trying!