Words of advice/encouragement from a long-time FSA

Written by Don Lyons, Chief Financial Officer, Sammons Financial Group:image001

Getting through the exams can be a long, tough road – don’t get discouraged! I’m sure you are aware of students who flew through the exams without failure – keep in mind those are the exceptions, not the rule. On-the-job performance is far more important than how quickly you get through the exams. Also, speed through exams is not necessarily an indicator how far you will go in the profession. It took me approx. 8 years to get through the exams (which I believe is closer to the average) and I have had a very successful, rewarding career.

As an actuarial student, it’s beneficial to get a broad range of experience. You will be more well-rounded and valuable to your current (or future) employer if, for example, you are well versed in product development as well as valuation and ALM (or vice versa). Some companies offer formal rotation programs and it’s worthwhile to take advantage of those when available. If not, reach out to your manager to come up with creative ways to gain experience in other areas. For example, if you are involved in product development, perhaps you could assist in setting up and testing new products on your company’s valuation or cash flow testing software.

If you feel stuck in your current role, don’t be afraid to do something about it. I’ve been through job situations where I felt like I was no longer growing in my role. While we all may feel that way from time to time, if you’re finding that is the rule rather than the exception, then there are steps you can take to help alleviate the situation. As a start, I’d recommend having a talk with your manager – they may not be aware of your frustrations and a simple conversation may be all it takes to improve things. Keep in mind, change takes time and may not take place overnight so try to be patient.

If after a reasonable amount of time things don’t improve, you may want to consider a change of scenery. I had an experience early in my career where I felt like I needed a change so I took a job with another company. After making the move, I soon realized the culture at the new company was not a good fit. After a two year stint, I went back to my prior company, albeit in a different role. Despite ending back at the same company, the time away was good in that it gave me additional experience and new perspectives and I ultimately ended up in a better position.