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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

General interest: Net working

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know that counts." In a profession where we spend years studying exams, this sounds unfair and unacceptable at first glance, but lets look at it from another perspective: if you are a very talented and knowledgeable individual, but no one knows about your skills, who is going to help you maximise your potential? Is it possible to reach the top without the leverage of others?

In today’s age of the ‘information revolution’, working in loose partnerships to achieve common goals is more important than ever. Knowing the right people and having the ability to develop and maintain a broad network of ‘support friendships’ is a critical skill for every career professional. People with strong networks get things done more effectively; they learn from others with different knowledge or experience and are able to use their network as they seek to move on in their careers.

When it comes to our personal lives, most people actively develop and maintain their network of friends and family. They enjoy the social interaction and the support that such relationships can provide. Facebook has improved our options dramatically on a social front. The same principles hold true at work, yet we’re often reserved about actively networking: perhaps we are daunted by the prospect of having to ‘work’ a room full of strangers at a conference or worried fellow colleagues might think we have a political agenda.

The good news is that networking doesn’t need to be difficult or a chore - it can be an enjoyable and rewarding part of your professional development. Networking is a life skill which has many applications: it’s a matter of recognising the mutual benefits and building from there. Networking means getting to know other people and their abilities and interests, and doing so in the expectation that this may provide mutual benefit. By creating a lasting impression with others, they will think of you positively when an opportunity arises.

ActuarialBook.com aims to make the networking process easier for actuaries. It is the first online networking site specifically for this profession. Possible benefits of being an ActuarialBook.com member:
>> Raise your profile
>> Source new project opportunities
>> Strengthen relationships with stakeholders in your niche area of work
>> Exchange best practice knowledge
>> Learn new methods
>> Source inspiration for an issue
>> Benchmark performance or even find a new job
>> Stay abreast of latest business news
>> Do your own talent spotting
>> Locate information or contacts to help a colleague.

There is no need to work a room to find people with similar interests. The profile fields automatically group people with similar profiles. Creating and inviting people to ‘groups’ further enhances the power of networking by bringing like-minded people together on specific topics. The leader of a group has full control over who can visit, join and comment on the group. Gathering opinions is as simple as setting up your own poll which will show up in your friends’ news feeds. There is a live online chat facility, a discussion forum and an internal mailing system. If you want to share personal thoughts and news with others, create a blog. To invite your current contacts on your Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo or AOL account to join the site, use the contact importer.

The site is administered by actuaries which means it is flexible to add or change functionality as the profession develops and members’ needs change. Networking is about mutual gain and it is long-term. It takes time to develop a two-way dialogue and truly understand the needs of others. Results do not happen overnight, but the return over time is exponential! The sooner you start to build your network, the sooner you start to reap the rewards.

Johan Strydom is a contracting GI pricing actuary and entrepreneur.