Finding your first job or internship can seem like a huge, overwhelming task – almost as daunting as studying for FM. When I was just starting out, I had no idea what I wanted and almost accepted my first offer before even hearing back from other companies I’d interviewed with. Over time, though, I learned that I not only had to hope companies liked me, but make sure I liked the companies as well. Every company is different, so finding a place where you fit well is easier said than done. Here are some important things to look out for when you’re sorting it all out:
This one is easy. Don’t like snow? Don’t work in Minneapolis. Hate huge cities? Don’t work in NYC. Figure out what you’re willing to live with and what you’re not, and narrow your search from there.
This ties into the infamous “work/life balance.” Usually people talk about this in relation to insurance vs. consulting. Having worked in both, I can safely say that which one you’ll fit better in depends on who you are. If you like working on fewer long-term projects, knowing what hours you’re going to work and what you’ll be working on most days, insurance is probably for you. If you like juggling multiple shorter-term projects, working on different things every day and you’re ok with the idea of a busy season, consulting might be for you. One isn’t better than the other –it’s all about which environment is best suited for you.
Exams and Study Time
Some companies tend to put more emphasis on passing exams than others. Insurance companies generally will be more proactive about making sure you get your study time, whereas consulting companies tend to leave it to you to make sure you get your study time (although they also tend to be more forgiving if you fail).You can definitely pass quickly in either environment, so figure out what you want and definitely ask about a company’s exam program in an interview or info session if that’s important to you.
The Actual Work
This one’s kind of important too. This definitely depends on the company, but in general consulting projects will involve more interpersonal interaction (especially with non-technical people) and insurance projects will generally involve more in-depth analyses. You won’t really know what you like until you do it, and getting variety at the beginning is a great way to figure that out. If that’s important to you, ask about rotation programs or what kind of variety new hires are exposed to in their projects.
The only way to really figure this one out is to talk to people who work at the company. If you know someone who interned there, ask them what their experience was like. Interviews are great for this too – ask your interviewer what a typical day is like or what kinds of things they’re involved with at their company outside of their actuarial work. Interviews at the company headquarters are even better because you’ll get to experience the company’s culture firsthand – if you get the chance to tour the building, PAY ATTENTION!
This is just my list. Follow your heart and your head --- Figure out what’s important to you and do as much as you can to go after what you want. Internships are the best way to figure out what kind of work suits you best, so start as early as you can. Best of luck!
Sarah Manuel is a double major in actuarial sciences and economics at the University of Illinois and president of the Actuarial Science Club. She will start work this summer as a full-time Actuary Analyst in the Human Capital Group of Deloitte Consulting, LLP. The graduating senior spent the past three summers interning for the State Farm Research and Development Center, CNA Insurance and Deloitte.