Vrishti Goel reflects on the range of non-technical skills an actuarial student should develop to set themselves up for success
Gone are the days when actuarial openings were limited to life, non-life or pensions. Today, with more widespread understanding of how the actuarial skillset can spur companies’ success, new teams and roles are being created – from transformation actuaries to data scientists. Whether you want to specialise in a particular sector, develop a business idea or create a portfolio career, the possibilities are endless. And with increasing demand in the job market, now is the right time to build the career of your dreams.
Nowadays, recruiters don’t just hire candidates who fit the job description – they want people who are passionate about the role. A lot of employers offer rotation programmes, which is a great way for students to get a taste of what different teams do without the pressure of choosing the perfect role at the start of their career.
However, navigating such a competitive environment is no easy feat – so we have to take matters into our own hands and upskill ourselves. In the words of Milton Berle: “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”
Exams play an important role in growth, but are they enough? Is it the end of the world if you are unable to clear your exams as fast as your peers? These questions often plague the minds of student actuaries. While exams prepare us for the technical aspects of our work, we will also need the right balance of technological and soft skills if we are to excel. Interpersonal, leadership and creative skills prepare us for a future in which the purely technical and factual portions of our job will be automated. In this scenario, the human aspects of analysis and communication will be least vulnerable – and as risk professionals, it would be prudent for us to be prepared.
Actuarial bodies offer multiple assessments so you can see where you stand and work on an improvement plan. Participating in clubs such as Toastmasters or university societies will work wonders for your public speaking and communication skills. All skills are transferable, and choosing an actuarial career doesn’t mean you have to put an end to your other passions. You would be surprised at how helpful hobbies such as theatre or stand-up comedy can be in honing your presentation skills.
If we look at geniuses from history, we find many polymaths – from Leonardo da Vinci to Alan Turing, these people made contributions in diverse fields, and this helped them to unleash their potential.
Volunteering with the IFoA is another way to get hands-on experience in different areas and to upskill for the future. These vacancies provide opportunities in research, modelling, writing and examinations and so on. In addition to enhancing your CV, working with people from different organisations and backgrounds helps greatly in expanding your network. My own experience of working as a student editor has opened doors to a plethora of opportunities, and has always piqued the interest of recruiters.
Another key element is networking. Websites such as LinkedIn make it easier than ever to trace the steps that industry leaders took in reaching their position. People are now easily approachable, and you can form valuable connections by reading their articles and having discussions with them on topics of interest. However, it is advisable to make career decisions based on your own reasons, not on the success stories of others.
All this being said, it is also important to set aside time to relax and enjoy yourself. Trying to be productive all the time can often lead to burnout and a feeling of resentment. Sacrificing everything that brings you joy is not a sustainable way to live – so effective time management is key to success as an actuary!
Vrishti Goel is student editor