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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Career management

The demise of the ‘job for life’ concept within the changing work environment, as a result of technology, legislation, and mergers and acquisitions, has meant that the requirement for adaptable employees with up-to-date and flexible skill sets is growing among all companies. As a result of these changes, the term ‘career management’ is the increasingly used mantra in the workplace.
In essence career management is all about individuals taking responsibility for their own future. A growing number of employers are beginning to realise that they have a role to play in enabling employees to think seriously about their continuing professional development, by setting career goals and facilitating open discussion to identify needs. Employees can also assist themselves by identifying a suitable role model or mentor for their career progression.
It sounds like a logical way of going about things, but, how many of you have set aside dedicated time in your schedules, with all the conflicting pressures of work and home life, to plan your career? Do you have the feeling that to a large extent the demands of the office, being in the right place at the right time, and the deadlines in your diary dictate your personal career path? Taking some time to practise career management disciplines is of benefit to all seeking to develop technical, people, or corporate skills within a flexible framework.
Personal development
In order to start taking responsibility for your personal development, be honest with yourself. Take the time to think about and identify your likes and dislikes people management, external client contact, getting involved in the technicalities of a problem, or delegating a project? It is the identification of these, together with your strengths and weaknesses, that enable individuals to understand how realistic their medium and long-term goals are and which if any objectives can be undertaken to achieve that goal. Your development plan will reflect your objectives and goals and assist the transition from a satisfying career to an exhilarating and stimulating career.
Getting into the habit of deliberately and regularly focusing on your development, you may identify that certain training programmes or educational options such as an MBA provide some of the answers.
Just as employers make demands of employees, career management can enable the employee to make demands of the employer. It should, after all, be beneficial to both parties for the individual, a sense of achievement and progress, and for the employer, the enhancement of that most precious commodity: a motivated, fulfilled, and focused employee.
Allied to a development plan, identifying a role model or mentor can play an important part in advancing your career. Mentors can come from various stages of your career your current company, a previous employer, or from the profession. Indeed, some companies allocate mentors to new joiners from a different part of the company so that the new joiner has someone to talk to about the things they should know but are not told when they join! Mentoring should also be part of a networking strategy so that you come into contact with as many people from different areas of the company or profession generally through professional and social functions.

A sensible revolution?
Career management could be a revolutionary concept for individuals and employers alike. It is still evolving, in many ways mirroring its actual purpose of developing the individual’s career. It is often stated that actuaries take responsibility for making financial sense of the future. After all the work you have put into your training, is the schedule really too cramped to allocate time to developing your own future?

Kevin Brown offers some advice on mentoring.
Identifying a mentor could be one of the most important factors in progressing in your career. Professionals who have mentors tend to progress more successfully and with less stress than those without. To identify mentors who best suit you, list ten people whom you admire within your profession or specialist area. Choose the people who hold positions you would like, the attitude you would like to have, the lifestyle you admire, the people who are regarded as highly as you would want to be regarded. These people can be with your current firm, contacts through professional associations, or people you have only heard of or read about. From this list identify the person you feel the most comfortable about asking to become your mentor and the one you feel least comfortable with then ask them both to fulfil the role.
To get them to agree you should clearly define what you would expect of them, and stress that you are approaching them because you admire them. Reassure them that the time commitment will be minimal and arrange to meet or talk on the phone occasionally. During each meeting you should seek your mentor’s experience or professional advice on career-related issues; occasionally you may wish to telephone to discuss a specific situation with them.
Mentoring should be part of an overall networking strategy as you come into contact with people in relevant parts of your organisation or industry generally through professional and social functions. When you meet someone interesting, go out of your way to meet them again make plans for lunch, coffee, or other activity that will enable you to build a professional relationship.