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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries
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Stairway to heaven

W e all have an idea of what a career is
as we grow up we consider being fire-
men, nurses, footballers, or actresses. Then, suddenly, we’re sitting in an office with FFA or FIA after our name.
So, having chosen this career, how can you climb the ladder and justify the hours of studying it took to get to where you are? To get you started, consider these tips on managing your actuarial career.

1 Know your strengths
If you are going to invest time, effort, and money in your career progression, you need to know what is right for you otherwise you may find that investment unsustainable. What do you want from life? What values are important to you?
People who climb the career ladder play to their strengths and responsibly delegate other tasks. Use your strengths to the full and results will come more easily.

2 Know where you’re going
It’s no good climbing the ladder only to find it’s leaning against the wrong wall. Take time to determine what your ideal career would look like. People rarely meander their way to success: knowing where you are going is a vital part of a successful career.

3 Are you fit to succeed?
It’s a terrible waste to see a promising career falter because of burnout or stress. Remember that a successful career takes energy and that a career isn’t everything in life. Keep your work and life in balance, eat well, and keep fit.

4 Know the market
Read trade journals and the financial press to understand what is happening within the industry and the wider world. Look for trends: will there be another pensions review, or a similar opportunity?

5 Know your stuff
Your main asset is between your ears. Keep learning about your profession, even after you qualify, but also look for other skills that you’ll need higher up the ladder: interpersonal, personal effectiveness, or leadership skills. Within the global trading environment, how would a second language (beyond ordering a beer) help your career?

6 Know the right people
Whatever your profession, networking is essential for career success. You need to network within your organisation, within your professional body, and with others in the industry to develop a range of links and contacts who will keep you informed of new opportunities. They could help you get your foot in the door at your next job and raise others’ awareness of your expertise as you move around the job market.

7 Know your options
Very few executives join a company as trainees and progress to the top. Most people move around, gain experience, build knowledge, and develop a broader background. Remember your options are broader than you think why not consider a stint overseas, or within a different area of the industry?

8 Know when you reach your ‘best before’ date
Strike a balance between being too flighty, and stagnating in your career. Once you have started to master your current role and can demonstrate your effectiveness, begin looking for the next step. Less than two years in one place suggests a speedy exit; more than five years and you may be viewed as part of the furniture. How long have you been on your current shelf?

9 Know your value
Research the job market thoroughly to determine the market price for your skills, and be confident to ask for it. If you have delivered value to your current employer, get the numbers. Having numbers like that on your CV will help boost your salary.

10 Know the rules
There are many, but these are particularly important.
– You reap what you sow. This is great if you build relationships, respect others, and act with integrity. It’s bad if you trample over others to get to the top.
– Take the highs and lows with equal dignity.

Take no chances
Success in your career is too big a prize to leave to chance, especially when you can be sure that others around you will be actively managing their careers. Armed with these tips, what steps can you take this month to get your career on the track you want?

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