Jessica Elkin has successfully qualified as an actuary so what comes next for her, and who will become our new student editor?
Over the years, Hollywood has provided ample education on the advantages of a happy ending as a fulfilling outcome. The beneficiaries beam, the bad guys sulk, some people probably kiss, and all problems are solved and tied up in a neat bow. With a happy ending, you feel that everything has not only worked out for the best, but that going forward there will be nothing too much to worry about. What's not to like?
My happy ending came in December, when I passed my final exam to qualify as an actuary. People have since asked about how this felt, and truth be told I struggle to answer this question. It was a surreal moment. 'Pleased' pretty much covers it, I tell people.
I felt very pleased. Then I went straight back to bed, as it was 5am in Australia where I was staying.
The trouble is, it's hard to have a truly happy ending when you have the spectre of work-based skills lurking over you, black, dementor-ish. I suffered additional anguish when three years of learning logs disappeared into the ether, having borrowed my sister's laptop to write them. I had saved them in a folder on the desktop and the beast deleted the lot. "Oh, yeah, I forgot that it does that," my sister said. Ouch. Call it karma for leaving so much until the very end.
Damsel in distress
My programmer brother couldn't retrieve them without downloading £80 software, and they definitely weren't worth that, unless you're working in terms of charge-out rate, which I tend not to do in my spare time, so I re-wrote them and finished everything by Christmas Eve. So that could have been the happy ending, right? Except that I still had to discuss them with my supervisor, sign them off, submit them, and make any required edits.
I should also mention that, being 10,000 miles away from colleagues and actuarial friends, meant I couldn't truly celebrate until January. My family is wonderful but just doesn't understand the trials and tribulations of actuarial exams. One person kept telling people I'd "finished university".
So where's the happy ending?
Once I sign everything off and am actually allowed to put the letters after my name, perhaps. Or when I've completed the CERA seminar. Or is it when I get to a stage at work where I feel I really know everything? (I'll notify you if THAT ever happens.)
I think to some extent when we're students we see passing the exams as the ultimate salve, the career maker, the be-all and end-all. But there is always something extra, that next step towards the final destination that we will never quite reach. The truth is that qualification is merely a milestone, and we can't just put a stop to effort when we reach it.
To misquote Albus Dumbledore: to the well organised mind, it is but the next great adventure.
This might not be what any student wants to hear, seeing as the route there is so laborious. The good news is that what comes next is so much more within your control, in terms of your learning and development.
Rather than following syllabi to the letter, you can choose the areas you prefer, and pick the path to follow. I've had many people tell me that it's all worth it. At least, I'll certainly be smug when it comes to April. Finally an Easter weekend I can enjoy!
I'll miss the camaraderie that comes with taking exams, the 'isn't this awful' bonding with fellow sufferers. And I'm going to have to start making time to go to the bank/dentist/chiropractor on working days instead. Oh the humanity! But it feels like a small price to pay for whatever happens next. Any ideas?
The thought might have occurred to you that a student editor should really be a student, and you would be right. That being the case, I will soon leave a student-shaped hole in this magazine that needs to be filled.
I've extolled the virtues of volunteering in past pages. It's certainly a great way to network, have fun, and learn about areas in which you don't have any experience. I've had a ball - and who knows, you might see me writing some actual actuarial content at some point. Though I sense it would need to be a bit more cerebral.
If you have any interest in taking on the student mantle, please do get in touch!
I am happy to answer any enquiries and questions.