How Much Can We Do With Our Skills?

Written by Nana Coleman:Untitled

A retired actuary I met early in my college career once told me, “If you don’t choose what you want to do with your career, your company will have no problem choosing for you.” He noted that this was particularly true if you showed that you adeptly handled the work you had been given in the early part of your career. He then said something that was very profound and has stayed with me to this day. He said that if he could do it again, he might have tried to have more input in molding his career rather than allowing his career path to be laid before him.

I had known far prior to entering college that I wanted to study actuarial science, but for the longest time I didn’t really know what I wanted to do specifically. I knew I could work for insurance companies or consulting firms, but I knew I wanted to get to a point in my career where I was doing something innovative, and something that I found truly fulfilling, something perhaps even revolutionary (I know…it was ambitious).

I had heard about microinsurance prior to entering college and that was something that quickly caught my eye. It’s fairly young and one of its objectives which resonated strongly with me, is to use risk management tools to move the people it serves from the developing world’s informal financial sectors to formal financial sectors effectively obsolete itself. This quickly became something I knew wanted to have some involvement in because of the potential impact it could have on global economic parity, particularly down the road in my career after I have developed both expertise and credibility, whether it was on a part-time consulting/research basis, or potentially even a full-time basis running my own microfinance institution.

I suppose my interest in microinsurance further grew after a conversation I had with a professor my first year in college. He said something to the effect of, “Anywhere there’s a need for risk mitigation, particularly financial risk mitigation, actuarial expertise can be drawn upon.” I had read an article about this exact topic and asked to discuss it with him. The article called on actuaries to offer expertise on risk and its financial implications in various areas (climate change, the search for renewable resources, public policy, counterterrorism strategy, etc.). It got me wondering how much both actuarial professionals and students stretch ourselves and consequently, our professions.

I think many of us get comfortable with the type of work we’re doing, or the opportunities we’re typically offered. They generally provide enough of a challenge that we don’t ask ourselves, ‘Where or how else can I provide value?’ I’m not saying that there’s a particular problem with that, but I would suggest that there’s probably a way we can have an impact on something we’re particularly passionate about just by leveraging the expertise we’re developing/have developed as students and professionals. And on a broader level, we’d raise the notoriety of the profession as our skills could have far reaching impacts in areas we’d never thought of. Just food for thought…