• Role: Summer Intern
  • Location: London
  • University: LSE
  • Degree: BSc Actuarial Science
  • Organisation: Mercer

Ashleigh Harwood

Why did I choose to do an internship?

After meeting with the careers adviser at my 6th form, I was advised that a career as an actuary would most suit my personality and interests. Without much of an idea of what an actuary does on a day to day basis, but knowing that the skills would be very transferable, I applied for universities across the country that offered actuarial degrees. The main driver behind applying for an internship was to get a taste of ‘real’ actuarial work.

After completing some research on the different areas of actuarial practice, I looked for pensions consulting internships in particular. Simply because I liked the variety it offered; a combination of number crunching and engaging with clients.

Participating in the internship allowed me to apply some of the technical skills I was developing at university, whilst also giving exposure to the business world and first-hand experience in a fast paced office environment. I really enjoyed being given real responsibilities and challenging work, with the support of my ‘buddy’, this gave me a chance to see whether working as an actuary would be something I enjoyed.

The experience as a whole was very rewarding, and it was such a relief to be offered a place on the graduate programme at the end of the eight weeks – this meant in my last year of university, my only focus needed to be on study, rather than more applications!

What was the application process like, any advice?

The application process for Mercer was as follows:

1. Complete an application form
It’s really important to tailor application forms to the company you are apply; this isn’t as easy as quoting the values on their website! Really show you know what they do and what sets them apart from competitors. Also, don’t be afraid of showing you have personality, the admissions team will likely sieve through mounds of applications for that position and will want to see if you are capable of fitting in with the team.

2. Online tests
The key to success with online tests is experience, the more practise tests you complete the more likely you are to pass – I would also recommend completing them alone, I found completing them with other people wasted time due to arguments over the solutions.

3. Telephone interview/online interview
Make sure you have everything to hand, such as your CV and the completed application form. Having some competency questions planned will also help here – make sure you have plenty of examples lined up where you have demonstrated certain skills, for example problem solving/leadership skills.

4. Assessment centre & final round interviews
Perhaps the most intense part of the process, it’s really important to be fully prepared – it may be worth trying to complete some practise interviews. Reading around the industry can also be really useful; make sure you are aware of the current issues/hot topics.

What were the most important things you learnt from the internship and the highlights?

The key lessons I took home from my internship were:

  • The importance of good communication and being both comfortable and confident in speaking to a variety of different people, from different backgrounds and with different levels of experience in the office.
  • Time management and organisational skills are just as, if not more important than technical ability.
  • Never be afraid to ask questions – it demonstrates understanding and that you have a genuine interest.

One of my favourite parts of the internship was the social side; there were lots of fun networking events over the eight weeks including a summer BBQ, a rounders tournament and wine tasting! I’m still very close friends with the other actuarial interns, and kept in touch with some of the other people I worked with, which made returning to the office for the graduate job far less daunting.

I would recommend completing an internship to everyone; it offers great experience in the work place and can really set you up for a graduate position.

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