Actuarial career advice to make you stand out.

Bill Marella: Hi and welcome. My name is Bill Marella, I'm the CEO of Actex learning and today I'm joined by Roy Ju. Roy is an FSA and an actuary at a Fortune 500 company and he’s spent his entire career at these Fortune 500 companies. Welcome, Roy.

Roy Ju: Thanks Bill, it's great to be here.

BM: Nice to have you. This is our third interview and I really appreciate you taking the time.

Today we're going to talk about career advancement and career advice that you might have. Now I know there's a lot of career advice out there, and I recommend that actuarial students solicit it from professors or their Career Center if they're still in university. Even at internships, talk to as many people as you can. Even in your first time position. But you've been in the industry for quite some time, and you have some unique wisdom that you'd like to share. So, take it away.

RJ: There are a lot of different directions I could take this, so I'll share a couple of different career tidbits I've found useful in my own career. 

Tidbit #1

The first is building your track record early on. What I mean by that is within corporate America, particularly if you're early on in your career, you're going to be meeting a lot of new faces. Everybody wants to impress, but it's not always obvious to everybody what it means to impress. The first mistake I see a lot of new hires make is trying to just churn out more and more work. While there certainly is a baseline level of work you want to do, I think many would be surprised to learn that if your premier focus is on quality and doing work in an accurate fashion, that will trump the amount of work being done any day of the week. I find that giving counsel to folks to slow down and really focus on quality and accuracy, that is what builds a track record of dependability. I think that's the first key piece to any kind of successful career: having a track record of being reliable with execution and certainly being detail oriented and not making mistakes. That's probably the first tidbit, I think. 

Tidbit #2

The second, lesser known tidbit–which is becoming increasingly important in a more virtual world where many companies are moving towards hybrid–is finding ways to improve your visibility. I don't mean just raising your hand and trying to inorganically put yourself into different levels of work with different teams. The way I think of this is more informal relationships, more “water cooler dynamic”, where you reach out to somebody just to learn what they do, what function they lead, what section they work in, and what kind of work they do. One, that builds a broader network of people who are familiar with you. Two, is the very broad amount of information that you’ll learn. You'll find that you're going to be able to piece together and connect the dots more when you're able to reach out to different functional areas and learn about them.

Tidbit #3

That leads me to my last piece, which is seeking to understand the bigger picture is just as important as doing the work. Whenever you're doing the work, it's important to always ask yourself why. Why am I doing this? Who is my end customer? What is the purpose of this process? How does it fit into the bigger picture? And as I just mentioned, reaching out to folks in different functional areas will allow you to have a more comprehensive understanding of how functions work together and how work plays into each other. I think connecting the dots and seeing the bigger picture are some competencies that will impress a lot of managers early on in your career and give you that aptitude to be able to succeed in higher levels of responsibility. 

BM: I think the nice thing about these points is it really doesn't matter where you work. It could be a Fortune 500 company, smaller company, consulting firm, insurance or regulator. It really doesn't matter. The networking piece as well. It's not only internal but externally as well, and that can create more opportunities for you too. Is there anything else that you want to share before we sign off? 

RJ: Just on a more general note, within actuarial careers, exams are paramount and we all know that. But I think it's easy within the exam process to lose sight of the importance of work experience. Don’t forget about internships in college and work experience post graduation. I want to remind everyone that exam progress is important to career success, but what's equally important is having that work experience. I want folks to remember that getting through exams is great, but make sure that you have a commensurate amount of experience along the way to help you bring the exam material into context. And again, internship experiences and things like that are important for even full-time employers as they're thinking about who they're going to be hiring.

BM: I describe that as building your personal brand, which you also do overtime with your exam progress. Employers are looking to hire future leaders, and they need to see those skill sets in you. So as you pass your exams and broaden your skill sets, whether they be communication skills or technical skills, you become more valuable. A capable set of hands, right? Somebody who's reliable and accurate can lead to new steps being achieved in a company, which can in turn help you progress through your career. Roy, again, I cannot thank you enough and I know our viewers are super appreciative of your advice.


RJ: Thanks Bill. It's been a pleasure.

Watch Bill Marella's interview with Roy Ju below: