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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Leveraging your career 2

know you have become successful? I once
saw a thought-provoking poster which read
‘Success is a journey not a destination’.
You take a journey by knowing where you are,
where you are going, and how you will get there.
Reaching a destination relies on the ongoing success
of the journey. Your career is not as tangible as a physical
journey but it will have similar features. Twists
and turns, peaks and troughs, crossroads, obstacles,
pit stops for maintenance/refuelling, etc, and a map.
Every career has these features, but the most successful
people have a map of their own!
Most successful people define for themselves what it
is they want to achieve.. They set goals, objectives,
and strategies, then map them out for themselves in
order to know exactly where they are when an opportunity
presents itself, motivating them to move their
career forward and maximise their total rewards along
the way. They then prepare thoroughly to extract
maximum advantage from career progress meetings
appraisals and interviews.
Set SMART career goals, objectives, and
It helps to draw a military analogy here.
Goals are like generals. They look at the big picture.
Goals show us what our career will look like after the
achievement of the objectives. Goals are broad and
inclusive. Goals meet SMART criteria: they are specific,
measurable, achievable, realistic, and timebound.
Objectives are like sergeants. They take their directions
from generals (goals). Each objective exists solely
in support of the goal. Successfully achieving each
objective measures progress towards each goal.
Action strategies are the foot soldiers. Action strategies
are the specific steps/actions which need to happen
to complete each objective and eventually
achieve the goal.
By setting SMART goals for yourself, you define
what success means to you personally (this is the only
definition that matters); you will know when you
have become successful by the achievement of each
goal. Continued success means setting more goals to
achieve, but it does not mean you have to be at the
top of the career ladder with nowhere else to climb.
Defining SMART goals in your personal life is just as
important, and essential to a healthy work / life balance.
Your personal success will be noticed by others
but do not let colleagues, your peer group, or friends’
expectations drive or influence you beyond your personal
goals. It is part of human nature to build someone
up, then gloat at their ‘failure’ to meet someone
else’s expectations.
Motivation is an important factor in career progression.
You are already in one of the highest paid professions
and it is human nature to be risk averse, staying
within the comfort and familiarity of what is known,
but frequently it is at the expense of career advancement.
Stretching, growing, and moving ahead into the
unfamiliar cause a sense of unease in us all. Converting
nervous energy into motivated energy to take on
fresh challenges is what sets successful people apart.
The opportunities certainly exist within the actuarial
profession, yet annual movement remains at around
10% compared to a norm of 25-30% in other professions.
This creates fierce competition for talent and
therefore additional leverage for those motivated to
consider an alternative opportunity.
Maximise your career rewards
Long-term search industry studies reveal that motivated
people who proactively leverage their career in
maximising appraisal opportunities and making
timely career moves achieve around 40% more compensation
throughout the course of their career.
Employers set these generally as progress meetings
geared to performance against set criteria, competencies,
and as a tool for career development, motivation,
and staff retention/issues. Methods vary but
revolve around set questionnaires. Prepare for each
appraisal thoroughly and take every opportunity to
introduce your personal action strategies and objectives
into the process. One of the most powerful techniques
to get the most from appraisals is to prepare
case studies illustrating your progress, application of
skills and attributes. If you are able to quantify and
illustrate how each case has added value to the organisation,
directly or indirectly, you will have a powerful
leverage when it comes to annual compensation
‘In my experience, the most successful people in life
are not necessarily the smartest or hardest working,
though that never hurts, they are the ones who are
the most adept at leveraging their career,
recognising an opportunity when it presents itself
and making a timely career move.’ Steven Finkel,
career leverage expert Practise interview questions beforehand prior to
your interview, try to practise the types of questions
and answers you may be asked. Even if you
do not anticipate all of the questions, the process
of thinking them through will help you feel less
stressed and more prepared during the meeting
Know how to respond to tough questions the
majority of questions that you will be asked can be
anticipated. There are usually those exceptional
ones tailored to catch you unaware to see how you
perform under pressure. Your best strategy is to be
prepared for awkward questions, stay calm, collect
your thoughts, and respond as clearly as possible.
Practise stress-reduction techniques formal
interviews are not natural everyday encounters and
can be stressful. There are many stress-reducing
techniques used by public speakers that can certainly
assist the interview process. Practise relaxation
methods, such as taking slow, deep breaths to
calm you down. The more you can relax, the more
comfortable you will feel and the more confident
you will appear.
Be sure to ask questions be prepared to ask questions
relevant to the company and the potential
role. Elicit information to help you make a decision
as well as demonstrate your interest, intelligence,
and attributes. •
The following tips supplement interviewing skills (see
‘Headhunters: tips for the profession’, The Actuary
January/February 2000):
Take extra copies of your CV to the interview
demonstrates professionalism, preparedness, and
Be aware of your body language look alert, energetic,
and focused on the interviewer. Make eye contact
this communicates that you are interested.
First/last impressions count the first and last few
minutes of the meeting are the most important. A
positive start and finish will make up for any areas
in the middle where you do not represent your true
The purpose of an interview is a job offer provided
you are interested after the first meeting, it is
better to get an offer, even if you turn it down after
careful consideration, as you are more likely to
leave the door open in the future, as circumstances
Understand employers’ needs present yourself as
someone who can add value to an organisation.
Prove you can contribute to profitability through
productivity, efficiency, problem-solving, and creativity,
for revenue generation or overhead reduction.
If you can deliver a combination of profitability
measures you will constantly be in demand!
Be likeable and enthusiastic people like to
employ individuals who are easy to get on with and
who are excited about their company. Be professional,
yet demonstrate your interest and energy.
Market your strengths it is important to market
yourself, including your technical qualifications,
general skills, and experiences, as well as personal
traits. Recruiters care about your credentials and
personality. Can you perform, based on past experience,
and will you fit in with the corporate culture?
Talk about your positive personality traits and
give examples through case studies.
Give definitive answers and specific results with
case studies whenever you make a claim of your
accomplishments and achievements, it will be better
illustrated if you cite specific examples to support
them. Explain business situations where you
applied these skills and elaborate on the outcome.
Be specific. Case studies will overcome any reluctance
to ‘sell yourself’ or fear that you may appear
arrogant. They become an explanation of real
events, where applied skills, attributes and abilities
will come across more naturally, making you both
interesting and interested.