Jessica Elkin battles dull crisps and dry sandwiches as she searches for aspiring actuaries, and possibly a free umbrella, at the careers fair
If you're a helpful and conscientious sort, or if you like to skive work now and again, chances are you might have participated in the odd careers fair. This is where you take on responsibility for persuading the next generation that the actuarial profession is an alright gig with good pay and reasonable hours and so on. It's a tiring sort of day, but once you get into arranging your table/stand presentation with almost maternal pride, and also competing against opposing firms and companies to steal the best candidates, it can be quite absorbing.
My feelings of achievement and success after a long careers fair correlate strongly with what goodies it was possible to come away with - that is, which freebies you were able to nab from other companies at the end when they have too much left over. Pens and notebooks are obvious fodder, but I have also proudly obtained earphones and umbrellas in my time.
Food is another barometer. My favourite fair experience so far offered a proper cooked meal. No matter that standing up and talking charismatically was a five-hour shift, because what I really took away from that experience were fond memories of stuffed butternut squash and Eton mess.
Freebies and food aside, one of my favourite things about careers fairs is that they give me a chance to refresh my memory as to how good I have it. Actuaries have stable jobs, good pay and hours that are difficult
to fault. Those who know what we do seem to have quite a lot of respect for us, and the qualification is recognised worldwide. I recently met an actuary who has worked in Australia, Hong Kong and the US.
The Staple Inn Actuarial Society's social events are pretty good as well - roller discos and everything.
So when I'm explaining to hopefully interested parties the reasons they should consider actuarial work, my inner monologue is nodding vigorously and going, "Oh, yeah!" The same applies when pitching why my employer is great. I end up getting all moony. Don't get me wrong: I am still an enthusiastic and diligent profession-promoter, even when the sandwiches are a bit dry and they don't have any of the good crisp flavours. That being said, I sometimes feel that my actuarial fervour is close to being outshone by that of students eager for a foot in the door.
Bees to honey
At my first ever fair, I had quite a few students come up and give me business cards or list CV items at me. I felt slightly guilty that they clearly did not realise how unlikely I was to be able to get anyone a job, but also questioned the efficacy of approaching jobs in consulting with a box-ticking approach rather than being a bit more conversational. Still, I was impressed by their commitment to their future careers.
On the other side of the coin, I went to a secondary school recently and found that parents were much more enthusiastic listeners than their kids. At one point I had a circle of interested parents around me while their daughters cringed at each other. I took this in my stride and decided that if I could convince one side of the advantages of an actuarial career, it might persuade the other.
The real difficulty is explaining what actuaries do on a day-to-day basis. You'd think that doing it yourself every day would make this a bit easier, but packaging it up in a neat nutshell for the purpose of baiting bright young things is rather tricky. One father was told that actuaries are "like bookies" and asked me to explain why this was, but I didn't get too far with that one.
I suppose that if you want to get technical about it, the real success of an outing to a careers fair is really whether you or I persuade anyone to join our ranks. But since a measurement of that sort is difficult to find, I am happy to focus on stuffed butternut squash and earphones. Next time I'm angling for a Rubik's Cube.
And the answer is
As a follow-up to last month's riddle, I can now reveal that 100 blue-eyed people leave the island on the 100th night. If that makes no sense to you, start off by thinking about the island with only one blue-eyed person, then two of them, then three, and so on. I promise it makes sense. Eventually.