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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

So, you want to work overseas

Actuarial skills do travel well there is no doubt about it. However, the current job market is tight in many countries around the world and it is no longer as easy to sell your actuarial skills overseas. So, where do you start and what do you need to know?

– Research your chosen destination carefully
You cannot start this too early, because you need to know how to improve your marketability to that location. The demand for each type of work experience varies from place to place. For example, insurance actuaries are in higher demand than pensions actuaries in most of the Asia-Pacific region. The level of qualification demand also varies. Employers will nearly always source junior candidates locally, so it is vital to progress well with the exams. Companies tend to look for overseas candidates in the nearly qualified to ten years’ post-qualification range.
Non-technical skills are important too. In the current tight global markets, employers are looking for actuaries who are dynamic, commercially orientated business people, and to find these actuaries, they may need to look overseas. You must be able to demonstrate the successful development and use of these skills through your working experience. The earlier you start creating opportunities in your current role to develop and hone these skills, the better. Gaining local language skills will also definitely count in your favour!

– Formulate an application strategy
At this stage, you need to keep a broad strategy in mind, whether this is mass marketing or selective targeting or a bit of both. A recruitment agency should help you think through your decisions on overall strategy and effective marketing to potential employers. They should have a good knowledge of, and access to, your chosen market. Select an agency that will provide you with honest advice, even if it is not what you want to hear!

– The interview
International interviews can pose some difficulties. Telephone and video conferencing can be used for initial interviews, but are of limited use. Companies like to meet candidates face to face. Thus, to increase the number of opportunities open to you, and also to demonstrate your commitment to relocating, you should visit the country at your own expense for interviews. At the more senior levels, companies may fund your travel expenses, but do not rely on this and remember the benefits of funding your own trip.

– A plethora of offers!
Hopefully, you will need to negotiate your way though one or more offers. Your agency will advise and assist you on this, but there are key points to remember. Generally, the best policy is to be open and upfront with any potential employers, rather than indulging in power plays. Remember that in the current markets there is not a lot of room for manoeuvre in negotiating higher salaries. Companies are keen to see candidates who are more interested in the position than the salary. However, it is important to know when you should request the company to come to the table with a higher offer.

New experiences
For most considering an overseas move, new experiences are more important than salaries. The initial salary may not be what you had hoped, but differences in the cost of living and taxation regimes may leave you better off. Once you have gained region-specific knowledge and language skills, you are likely to command a higher salary. Do not expect your new employer to fund your relocation or provide an expatriate package it is your choice to relocate, so think of a relocation benefit as an unexpected bonus.
From the moment you first conceive the idea of working overseas, you will be excited. However, once the reality of accepting an offer overseas dawns on you, your excitement may start becoming overshadowed with a little healthy fear of the unknown. Stepping out of the comfort zone is never easy, but rest assured, the rewards will far outweigh the difficulties.
The most important advice is to keep an open mind in everything that you do. Think carefully before dismissing potential opportunities at an early stage. Get rid of all your preconceived ideas before you start looking. Once you arrive in your new country, continue to keep an open mind. There will always be difficult times in the first few months. Sometimes you will feel that you have done the wrong thing. Yes, things are done quite differently; some things you will find better than at home and some things you will find worse, but only you can ensure that the whole experience has a positive effect on your life and your career!