Networking at a small school

Written by Sarah Knuth: Sarah Knuth

Attending a smaller college presents a bit of a challenge when it comes to making connections. While a small college offers great perks in terms of class size and personal attention from professors, companies don’t usually recruit on campus or come to speak with aspiring actuaries. To counteract that, you as the student need to take initiative. That led to Northwestern College’s Actuarial Science Club taking a trip to Des Moines about a month ago. Those of us in charge of the club were concerned that companies wouldn’t be interested in meeting with such a small group of students from a college that wasn’t actively recruited. But we did not find that to be the case. All the companies we contacted were very accommodating and eager to have us visit.

While in Des Moines, we visited The Principal Financial Group and Nationwide Insurance. Visiting these two insurance companies provided an amazing opportunity for the aspiring actuaries in our club to see what working at a large insurance company would be like and what exactly an actuary does on a daily basis. It also was beneficial for our college’s program because it was a way for us to get our names out there.

We started our day at The Principal, which also happens to be where I am interning this summer. While there, we were able to meet a large number of the individuals on the recruiting committee. This experience was quite helpful for the younger students in particular. Our time there was quite similar to the interview process, just without the actual interview. We took a tour of the buildings, listened to a presentation on the company, and were able to ask some of the actuaries questions. This gave the students a chance to see what it will be like in the future when they are interviewing for internships. When I was interviewing, I hadn’t ever been on a company visit like this before, so it was very intimidating and a bit overwhelming. Taking this trip gave the younger students a glimpse of what it will be like for them so they can be better prepared.

Our second stop of the day was at Nationwide Insurance. At Nationwide, we also went on a tour and listened to a recruiting presentation. Perhaps the most beneficial part of our time at Nationwide was a presentation on an actuary’s job there. A trainer walked us through the process an actuary would go through when working on indications. This was something most of the students hadn’t ever seen before. This was a great learning experience for the students.

After the insurance companies, we had the opportunity to tour SALT Solutions. In particular, we were interested in learning more about Coaching Actuaries, as Dr. Huffman is the academic advisor for all the members of our club and helped sponsor our trip though his contributions to Northwestern College. This part of the trip offered students the chance to see other career options that are out there. We really enjoyed meeting the people who write questions for and upkeep the Coaching Actuaries site. We were able to see just how much work goes in to making the solution and teaching videos. We all loved our time with the Coaching Actuaries team.

Our trip gave us the opportunity to learn so much about the career path we have chosen. Because we had such a great experience, we are already thinking about a trip for next year. The takeaway message from this post is this: if you go to a smaller school or haven’t really visited companies before, do it. Take the initiative to set something up. Not only will it benefit you, but it will help the other students around you.