Actuaries have a job that is consistently in demand. That being said, more and more schools are pumping out actuarial students and the competition is getting tougher. This makes it crucial to have not only the knowledge and understanding of what the career of an actuary entails, but to further enhance your skills and exam enthusiasm (I use the word “enthusiasm” here lightly!) to stand out to a potential employer. Most full-time opportunities require at least one exam, but any more than that will give you an edge over other applicants. Therefore, while in college I believe it is very important to make passing an exam a priority before graduation!
For students looking for internships, there are plenty of opportunities out there. Use the resources at your University to your full advantage (i.e. career fairs, meet and greets, networking events, application portals and alumni relations). Passing an exam is not always necessary for an internship; however, having sat for an exam is definitely considered a plus! Employers want students who are being proactive about their careers early on. Even just sitting for an exam demonstrates your dedication to the position. Potential employers also like to see your exam status on your résumé and my advice is to make it your “Objective”. If you have an exam date booked before an interview, add that date to you résumé, it shows proactivity.
Basic interview skills should be practiced beforehand. Look up the company you are interviewing for and take a few notes. You should know what the company does and what their values are. Ask yourself questions like, “Why would I be an asset with this company?” “How do their values match up with mine?” and “Why would I be proud to be an employee here?” These are all topics that could come up during your interview. Don’t forget to send a follow-up thank you! Remember, many internships are opportunities because companies are looking to hire students that will potentially become full-time employees. Consequently, any internship you get should be treated as an extended job interview.
Lots of interviewers won’t ask too many questions regarding technical skills for an internship position (you will learn many new skills while working at your internship). Interviewers typically will ask many questions about what makes you, well, you. They like to know what you do in your free time, what activities you’re involved in at school and why, what made you choose the career path as an actuary and anything else that could spark a conversation. Many people will choose applicants for interviews who look good on paper and then use the interview to gauge an understanding of the type of person you are and whether you are a good fit for company culture. So most importantly, relax and be yourself (while staying professional of course).
Now, I’ve already mentioned that an internship should be treated as an interview for a full-time position after graduation but remember, the company should impress you as well. You can use your time during your internship to gauge an understanding of what it would be like to work full-time there. Talk to co-workers about how they like they’re jobs and where they started with the company. Also, make sure your company provides encouragement for the actuarial exam process (i.e. paid study time, bonuses for passing exams, reimbursement, etc.). Many employers will offer their own version of compensation or rewards for students who are studying and it is important for them to have some form of this. After all, you want to make the right employer decision before you accept a job!
The interview process can be stressful and often times you will send out multiple applications at once. It is important to stay confident and enthusiastic going into each interview. The perfect opportunity may not arise right away, but hard work and dedication goes a long way. And, hopefully, you will have more than one offer to choose from. Best of luck!