Are you tech start-up enough?

Actuarial students wanting to join the ranks at entry-level, whether it be with an insurance company, consulting firm, or an investment manager, need to have passed some exams – that is a given. The optimal number of passed exams for entry is arguably at least two, while we may speculate it is going to be three or more on the horizon. Suppose you have met that mark, you are sitting on your throne (i.e. Office Depot office chair from a mad, money-saving sale), and you feel cool as a cucumber clicking your way through the applications e-highway. What else could you possibly need to demonstrate to potential employers? unnamed

Employers want to get the sense that you are a whole candidate. That is, a candidate with the resilience to navigate the exam process while also possessing some other notable attributes. Think of your doting high school counselor that always stressed the importance of being well rounded. Join a club, play a sport, work a job, or learn some life skills outside school, as they might say. Well, they were right. Actuarial managers all want to see something extra. What that is may vary by the manager, but the attributes that are most generally agreed upon are as follows:

  • Participate in your school’s actuarial club.

If your school does not have one, try to start one (leadership brownie points) or at least seek out some other related club, such as one in business, economics, finance, math, or statistics.

  • Contribute to your community.

Volunteer at your local food kitchen, nursing home, shelter etc. (wherever you feel most comfortable and motivated to put forth some effort). Showing that you have compassion for others and want to build up your community is a trait that employers like to see and expect you to transfer to the workplace.

  • Develop your technical skills.

This is a critical component of your wholeness. Think of Microsoft Excel as your baby; figure out as much as you can about how your baby (MS Excel) works so you two can get along well. Add on other packages, too, whether they be SAS, R, Matlab, or others, and try to document your experience using them in some way. For example, create a webpage where employers can download your code and run a script that you wrote in SAS. SQL and VBA for Microsoft Office are also great things to start reading about and getting a sense for how to apply later.

Services like edX, Datacamp, and many others online are a good resource for expanding your tech skills beyond what you find within your school curriculum. Employers will teach you a lot once you are on board, but they want to see you making some small strides on your own first.

Once you have your whole self in order, be sure to document them in your resume or cover letter somehow. Show your potential employer not only how many exams you have passed and your education & work experience, but also what essentially makes you the all-around candidate. With your club and community contributions and most certainly, your technical skills, you can make a more significant first impression.

Share your own addition to this article and attribute list in the discussion below.

  • Was there something else from your job search that you think got you in the door?
  • What other attributes do actuarial managers consider? How did you or would you develop those attributes?
  • What attributes or skills did you first become aware of from an interview question that you then started to develop?