Receiving and Succeeding in Your First Actuarial Position!

Bill Marella, CEO, ACTEX Learning interviews Cameron Repmann, a young actuarial Professional about getting his first actuarial position. 

Bill Marella: Welcome! My name is Bill Marella. I'm the CEO of Actex learning and today's topic is getting and succeeding in your first actuarial position. I'm very pleased to have Cameron Repmann joining me today. He is a newly hired actuarial student at a major corporation and he's been working now for around three to four months in the field. Welcome Cameron!

Cameron Repmann: It's great to be here!

BM: So for other students that are watching this video, who might still be at university, tell me and tell them a little bit about your job search and how you went about it.

CR: So the main driver of my job search was going to actuarial conventions, in particular I went to the ASNA convention. There I was able to meet a lot of employers looking to hire actuarial co-ops or interns, and that's where I landed my first and second internships. From there I was able to interview for full time positions within those companies, and eventually get a job at an entry level full time position.

Another thing that I used to search for jobs was LinkedIn. LinkedIn has a feature where you can search for particular companies or particular roles. So I’d have anything that said “actuarial” or “actuary” or “co-op” within the filter and it would notify me every so often. That was really helpful, to just know what was out there and be able to see job descriptions, what they were looking for. Then try to fill my resume towards that goal of being able to achieve those job requirements.

BM: It sounds like you were very thorough, so you're a good interviewee. What about on campus recruiting? Tell me what role did that play?

CR: So we had companies come to our school and tell us about their company, what it's like to be an intern, what they offer students, if they pay for exams or pay for exam materials. So those were really helpful, just to get to know the life of working at that company and see if it would be a good fit for you.

They also would tell you when you should apply, like what month to expect applications to open. So that was really helpful if you were interested in those companies that visited. I will say that they were less interested in hiring at the campus. Actuarial conventions seemed more like they want to hire you in that realm and get interviewers from there. The university visits I’d say were more just getting you to know about the company, but they definitely were really helpful and informative.

BM: So depending on the venue, they're either doing in person interviewing right there, and then sometimes it's just more informational. What did you notice about the decision criteria that these employers were using? Then maybe, specifically about yourself, what do you think jumped out to them? What made them attracted to you as a candidate?

CR: When I was at these conventions, I'd say they paid most attention to people who had at least one exam under their belt. I think that really makes you stand out because there's a lot of people who don't have exams, and only some that do, so it's a really easy way to focus on a certain group of people. It just shows you're really interested in the career path and you took the time and effort to study for an exam and pass it. So it was really helpful having an exam done for the convention.

And next I'd say they really like to see extracurriculars on your resume. Being involved, showing leadership skills or any other types of skills, and even past experience is a great thing to have. I'd say past work experience in particular, and any way that you can translate skills that would be useful for their company, they can appreciate. But I'd say the main thing is having one extra exam or more, that really helps you to get your first internship.

BM: And once you have that internship it puts you further along the path to getting your first full time job. Also, just sort of piggybacking on what you were saying, they are essentially looking for future leaders at their company, people that are going to rise up the ranks, take on a management position, etc. So if you can demonstrate communication skills, leadership skills, or at least the potential for it, I think that that's really important. Were you fortunate enough to have multiple offers to pick between? How did the end game kind of come out for you?

CR: When it came to my internships I did have multiple offers. The way that the Convention worked was you met with the companies on Friday and then you’d hear back and find out if you had gotten an interview by Saturday morning. Then you'd be doing interviews all day Saturday. So I interviewed with quite a few companies and got quite a few offers. That was overwhelming, but I guess it's good to have more than none.

BM: Exactly. Alright, so you've been employed for about three to four months now. Tell us about your typical day.

CR: A typical day? I feel like a lot of people agree with me that there's nothing necessarily too routine-like. It's not the same thing every day. It's usually not repetitive, but I'd say mainly you're having a meeting discussing what needs to be done for the upcoming week or upcoming months on the projects you're working on. So usually you have a meeting a few times a week, and then a lot of the time I'm using Microsoft Excel. Excel is widely used at my company and understanding it and understanding how to use different functions and formulas is really helpful. 

Then another program that my company uses is GGY axis or Moody's axis. So that's used by a lot of life insurance companies and is a pretty complicated program. I'd say you can't learn it on your own, really. I think you can download it on your own, but you kind of learn that on the job and you've got to really practice with it and read whatever notes there are on it. And hope your team can help you, I'd say.

BM: So looking back to somebody that's still at the university, is there any advice that you would give to those preparing? Now that you've had the benefit of obtaining and working full time as an insurer?

CR: Yeah, so one thing I would definitely say is try to pass an actuary exam. Like I said, that really helps you get an internship or co-op position. Then start applying for co-op or internship positions. Those are really helpful in getting you a full time position. It really shows you have some experience and some skills and it can get your foot in the door at that company. If you perform well and they like you, I think you have a good shot at going from a co-op position to a full time position at a company. That's definitely a really good way to get an entry level or full time position once you graduate.

As for some skills you could work on: Excel. Whether you're learning from some courses online or just any resource, any type of practice will help. Even taking courses at your university that might involve Excel. I think that's pretty helpful because it's so used in a lot of companies.

And then try to get involved in extracurriculars in any way. Show your leadership and communication skills in any way by getting involved. I think employers really like to see a well-rounded individual. That means doing well academically, like a high GPA, being involved in extracurricular activities, even work experience outside of internships or even the actuarial field. It doesn't have to be actuarial if it can be translated in a positive way. I think that's really important. A well-rounded resume is really helpful. Just being really good academically might not be enough. Just having multiple extracurriculars might not be enough. Having a good balance is really necessary.

BM: Are there, in terms of the technical skills you mentioned, specific functions you need to know in Excel? Is it VBA? Can you tell me on a daily basis what you use? What skills should people focus on specifically within the Excel universe?

CR: I don't personally use VBA, but I know some people do. I have used it for other internship roles in the past, but currently I don't really use it. So it may benefit you to learn it, it may not. I'd say more, it's just the functions within Excel. I wouldn't say you have to memorize every function and formula that Excel has, but be aware of what Excel is capable of and have an idea of how to use it. You have the Internet at your fingertips, so maybe research and look up how to solve something so you know in the future. If you understand even a little bit of how it works, that's a great way to have a head start. So even some functions like H-look up, X-look up, V-look up. Index and match. Pivot tables are pretty important. I’d say work with pivot tables a lot because you're manipulating data. You also want to be able to present data well, if you're presenting to actuaries, you're going to want to turn some data into graphs, and you want them to look nice. You want them to be clear and concise and labeled correctly so that it’s as easy to understand as possible. So I’d say Data Visualization in Excel is pretty helpful and probably one of the main things.

BM: And as you move forward, something that also comes up a lot is being able to explain very technical data to less technical individuals within a company, and that's a real skill. You're not always going to be talking actuary to actuary. Is there any final advice you might have for students before we sign off?

CR: If you're in university right now and you want to get a full time position, say you have a specific company or role already in mind, start looking at the application now and see what they're looking for. What are the job requirements? Maybe they're looking for at least two exams. Maybe they're looking for some leadership skills and Excel skills. So it's two years, three years, or however many years before you might actually apply for that job. But now you have an idea of what they'd be looking for. So when you are ready to apply, you have built your resume to be what they want. That definitely helped me, because the first time I started applying for internships I was applying for summer ones, so it was around the springtime when I was applying. I wasn't really getting anything because I hadn’t taken any actuarial exams and I was seeing that all they wanted were actuarial exams and it was too late. It's not like you can just take them the next week. So have it planned in advance. Start looking now at the jobs you may want in a year or two from now and then that will definitely get you a better footing to be able to get in and make your resume better and interview better and hopefully get the job.

BM: That's outstanding advice. I think we'll probably have to end it there. Cameron, I can't thank you enough for coming on and sharing this with other actuarial students. It's going to be available here on YouTube and I think a lot of students are really going to benefit. Thank you very much!

CR: No problem!

Check out the ACTEX YouTube video below.