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New Year’s Resolutions for Aspiring Actuaries

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As the calendar turns to January and the holiday festivities end, perhaps you will raise a toast to 2019 and, like many of us, make resolutions for the New Year. Sure, like many others you may resolve to eat healthier and exercise more, but what about some resolutions for your actuarial career?

When I was taking exams, the beginning of a new year meant getting back into the study habit that I put on temporary hiatus through the holidays. Here are some resolutions for 2019 and beyond you can use as you progress through exams and build your career.

    1. Build good study habits –The hardest thing for me to learn while transitioning from a college student to a full-time employee was learning how to study for actuarial exams. In college, you juggle class schedules, assignments, academic and social clubs, and possibly your part-time job. Once you enter the “real-world,” you have to find time to balance a full-time job, studying for exams, and having a family and a social life. Determine what works for you. It took me about three years and many exam failures before I developed a good study routine. Once I found what worked for me, I enjoyed a much more successful journey through the exams.
    2. Study to learn the material, not to pass the exam – There are two ways you can approach actuarial exams: One way is to do what you need to pass the exam; the other way is to see each exam as an opportunity to learn new material. Many of the candidates that approach an exam with the intent just to learn how to answer questions will ultimately fail. Those who approach an exam to learn the material will have a much better chance at being successful on an exam and in their actuarial careers. Learning the material takes more time than studying to pass, but it is ultimately worth the extra time and effort.
    3. Develop your communication skills – You may develop some of the greatest actuarial work ever, but if you cannot explain it to different audiences, what good is it? Keep in mind that good communication skills do not always mean standing in front of 20 people and reading a PowerPoint presentation. Communicating the results of your analysis to your peer, your boss, or a non-technical person requires different types of communication. Most actuarial communication is either one-to-one or one-to-a-few. Actuaries often have to communicate unpopular recommendations - having the skill to do this with different audiences will go a long way in developing your career.
    4. Be curious – If you chose a career as an actuary, you likely find satisfaction in solving problems. Do not be afraid to dig deeper. When you start an analysis, ask yourself what you expect the outcome to be. If you are doing an analysis and a number does not look like you expect it to, find out why. Is there an error in your worksheet? Is something going on with the data? Did a process that is influencing your numbers change? Find out who to ask and hunt down the answer. Some of the best actuaries I know have a bit of Sherlock Holmes in them.
    5. Keep track of your industry – We are fortunate within our industry to have many different daily, weekly, and monthly digital newsletters and magazines. Subscribe to one or more of these. It is much easier to do an actuarial analysis if you understand the product you are analyzing. The more you know about your industry, the better actuary you will become.

I wish each of you a Happy New year and the best of luck in 2019!

Blog written by Ken Williams.

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