Building-blocks

Everyone leaves university with a degree – what else have you got?

I saw this question on a poster in my university halls in first year and it has stayed with me ever since. Getting the job you want is all about working out how to differentiate yourself from the competition, demonstrating you are everything the company wants and making sure you are remembered.

There are two main strands to this:

  1. Make yourself seem interesting and good to work with. Think carefully about things you are involved in outside of your degree; these are the things that will make employers see you as a person, rather than just another graduate.
  2. Don’t slip up on the basics.

2. The Basics

Where to start

Research the profession as a whole. It’s easy to think that all actuarial jobs will be very similar, but there are actually significant differences between jobs, and it will be to your advantage if you can recognise what the company you have applied to specialises in. Actuaries work in a variety of industries, such as insurance, pensions and investment, and once you have a lot of experience in one area in can be difficult to switch to another. There are also differences in terms of the amount of technical work versus consultancy work each role entails.

Study the study

Research the qualification. Exams are part and parcel of the actuarial career, and employers want to be sure that you know what you are letting yourself in for. They do not want to spend a lot of time and money training someone who isn’t willing to put the work in. You will need to pass (or be exempted from) 15 exams to qualify, and this generally takes a minimum of three years but is often longer. Detailed information about the exams is available on page X of this guide and on the Profession’s website (www.actuaries.org.uk).

So what do you do?

Research the company. Which industry do they specialise in? How big/small is the company and why does this appeal to you? Where are they based? You will not be expected to know the names of all the partners or the details of their financial statements, but you will be expected to be able to explain why you think you are suited to this particular company. This could be because of the industry, testimonials you have read or employees you have met. This is not a trick question – companies want to know because they want employees who will be happy and will continue to work for them well into the future.

So you’ve got the basics down, to discover how to make yourself stand out from all the other graduates check out ‘Getting the Job – Part 1’.

About the Author

  • Organisation: Punter Southall
  • About Helen Skinner: Helen Skinner graduated from the University of Bristol in 2012 with a degree in Chemistry. She joined Punter Southall as a graduate actuarial trainee in September 2012 after completing an internship with them the summer before.

Helen Skinner

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