The actuarial skillset is incredibly versatile, says Bruno Bodega heres how you can leverage it to further your career trajectory
Not long ago, it was common for a professional to spend virtually their entire career at a single employer. In most parts of the world, those days are now gone. Although the increasing uncertainty around career paths and mobility may sound off-putting, I believe actuaries are well positioned to use this new paradigm to our advantage. Our skillset is highly transferable, putting us in a great position to continue making contributions to the corporate and public-service arenas, as well as to wider society.
Your hard skills can help to tackle business issues in a variety of different professional areas, such as quantitative aspects of risk and liability management, investments, and wealth and retirement management. Your soft skills, meanwhile - such as attention to detail, structured thinking and psychological resilience (developed through a rigorous curriculum) - are essential for working out those other challenges that we have not been specifically trained to tackle, and for successfully moving into non-traditional career paths.
The 101 of career development
For aspiring actuaries, the university campus is a great place to learn about career options, whether that's through career fairs, company presentations or informational interviews. Those already at work may tap into other resources, from online reading to networking. The latter can be as simple as connecting with your acquaintances and developing relationships over a coffee. There are not many rules to networking beyond doing your best to be genuine in your conversations. A successful interaction will often lead to an introduction to another contact, who may be closer to your area of interest. Last but not least, reciprocate and follow up, as time is everyone's scarcest resource.
Once you have a clear view of your desired career path, it is time to make a lateral transition. This involves applying for a job in which your background is still directly relevant, even if it is not an industry that actuaries typically work in. Nonetheless, you now understand how to lever on your skillset to tackle new issues. This search process can be particularly straightforward for actuaries who deal with diverse challenges or stakeholders, such as actuarial consultants, but it also works for other actuaries who wish to get into less explored fields, such as asset management, or financial risk management at an insurance company, pension fund or bank.
Climbing up the ladder
Have you ever been surprised to see graduates in non-quantitative disciplines such as history or law achieve the highest ranks at companies that run highly quantitative businesses? You shouldn't. The hard skills that are critical to a successful career can be acquired within years - but over time, you also develop soft skills in consistence with your unique personality traits. Learning to communicate effectively and honing constructive relationships can only take you further in building your own brand.
With the professional landscape constantly evolving, continuing education and training is essential if you want to take advantage of opportunities. These opportunities could be promotions to managerial roles, transitions to other industries, or simply remaining highly employable during an economic downturn.
The way you want to be perceived in the jobs market and your ultimate career aspirations will determine the preparation required to take sound steps as a senior professional. While continuing training can boost your CV, your may gain an edge and round out your profile by learning a language or pursuing management education, for example. Based on your personal circumstances and ambitions, specialised risk management or actuarial certifications, or general business studies such as a MBA, could help open the right doors - whether it's getting a senior management role, making a 180º career change or setting up your own business.
As an actuary, you have an incredibly powerful skillset and a proven amount of intellectual stamina. These are invaluable assets when it comes to exploring fulfilling career opportunities beyond your comfort zone. Discover what you are passionate about, establish your long-term goals and, if need be, identify and work on skills you may need to develop. Your network will help you connect the dots. While this may feel daunting, set specific milestones to crystallise small victories as you go on your own career marathon. In the end, it is all about the same grit that made you an actuary.
Bruno Bodega is an investor and partner of Credit Solutions at Cleon Capital