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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Psychologically speaking

We have all been there — searching through the pass lists late on a Thursday night for our name on the Institute’s website. In July 2003, I read my name and felt a huge sense of relief followed by an overwhelming sense of anxiety. I was finally a fully qualified actuary, but with this came a whole new set of responsibilities.

Almost as soon as the celebratory hangover wore off, I was promoted to a role that included managing people. I found out very quickly that neither my actuarial education nor my work experience had taught me how to deal with the people side of the working world. Although my organisation was very supportive, after two years, I still felt that I did not have the necessary knowledge or skills to manage people effectively. I decided that occupational psychology would give me the in-depth knowledge I required.

The path to becoming a chartered occupational psychologist is similar to becoming an actuary, including having the entry requirements (an approved undergraduate degree in psychology or equivalent), gaining the basic knowledge and skills (on an approved Master’s course or through professional exams) and relevant work experience (usually around three years). In October 2005, I moved to a non-managerial role in another department and started on a part-time conversion diploma in psychology. In October last year, I started a full-time Master’s in occupational psychology.

Like actuarial science, occupational psychology is not a well-known profession. The British Psychological Society defines occupational psychology as “concerned with the performance of people at work and in training, how organisations function and how individuals and small groups behave at work”. Occupational psychology covers eight main areas: employee relations and motivation, training, performance appraisal and career development, organisational development and change, personnel selection and assessment, counselling and personal development, design of environments and work, and human-machine interaction. Many of these areas have direct relevance to managing people and have provided me with an extensive toolbox of knowledge and skills. In addition, I have gained invaluable insights into the way that people interact and react at work.

Personally, I do not know where my journey will take me, but I do know that my new knowledge and skills will help me on whichever path I decide to take.

Call for participants
As part of my Master’s degree studies, I am looking for actuarial students (working and studying simultaneously) who are willing to complete a survey for my dissertation on the impact of organisational culture on critical reflection.

If you are eligible and have 15 minutes to spare, simply go to the website below and complete the survey to be entered into a prize draw. The survey closes on 21 July 2009.
Website: http://www.psychologydissertation.co.uk/


Libraries can help you pass the exams
The article by Tim Birse in the April issue of The Actuary advised students to ‘work hard and read widely around the subjects, especially in the later stages of the examinations’. The Profession’s libraries can help students do just that but surprisingly few make use of those facilities.

The libraries at Maclaurin House, Napier House and Staple Inn stock a wide and regularly updated range of resources, including past exam papers, examiners’ reports, ActEd course notes, Core Reading and items suggested for additional reading for the CT and SA subjects. They also offer students a quiet and comfortable study space. The library catalogue, including 30,000 references to actuarially related books and papers, can be searched online. Many documents can be downloaded at no charge or photocopied and posted on request. Books are also posted out free of charge, which means that students can order and study additional reading at no cost to themselves or their employer, other than the cost of returning the material, irrespective of where they are based.

The libraries have recently introduced the opportunity for students to use a range of electronic resources directly from their PCs. To gain access to the portal, students should e-mail libraries@ actuaries.org.uk to set up an account. A list of journals accessible via the portal is available at: www.actuaries.org.uk/media_centre/news_stories/2009/march/athens_

The libraries are open between 9am and 5pm on weekdays, and are available to members or students of the Faculty or Institute of Actuaries, students or staff of actuarial science departments in UK universities and members of overseas actuarial bodies. While space is normally available, an e-mail to libraries@actuaries.org.uk will reserve a study desk for you.

Sally Grover