A couple of tips for the actuarial job hunter

Sometimes college students and other job seekers wander by these parts, so I’d like to pass along a promising site for how to network your way to a job.

The blogger is a sports reporter, one of the tougher industries to get into. Her tips make sense. My favorite concerns using business cards at a conference:

Take notes. I’m about to share with you one of the best tips anyone ever game me. Take notes on the back of people’s business cards so you’ll remember them and your conversation later. If it’s someone you know (a popular broadcaster or someone you follow on Twitter perhaps), then the note can be what you talked about. Maybe you met my friend Maury Brown and he told you he digs Les Paul guitars. Simply write “Les Paul” on the back of his card. Then when you follow up with him down the road (which, as I said before, is coming in a later post) you have something that might trigger his memory of your conversation.

If you’ve met a complete stranger, slightly more detailed notes are required. Last year I met a student I was really impressed by. On the back of his card I wrote, “Tall, blonde hair, interned for Mets.” That was enough that when he contacted me later and I didn’t recognize his name, a quick look at his business card (which you should have after reading this post) reminded me of our conversation.

You’re not always going to have time to do this immediately after the conversation. If you can sneak a second and do it great, otherwise do it as soon as you leave for the night. You may think you’ll remember every detail of the conversation, but when you meet people every night for four or five nights at Winter Meetings or get busy with life and don’t get a chance to follow up with people for weeks, you’ll find value in this exercise.

When you’re able to follow up with people and reference a portion of the conversation you had with them, they’re far more likely to remember you and a personal connection will be born. It’s a nice touch that lets them know they weren’t just one of many people you chatted up at the event.

Her advice about attending conferences is particularly good for mid-career actuaries. I’ve hit two big consulting engagements from contacts I made at conferences. Don’t know so much about hitting the hotel bar for contacts. I’ve never tried it, though the recruiting firms often sponsor happy hours, so it probably has some value.

As for budding actuaries, I’d add this – pass the exams! Having one or two shows you’re serious about the profession. That’s important, because for the first couple years, an actuary often gets a full-time salary for (basically) ¾-time work, with the expectation that she or he will supplement the employer’s study time with about 15 hours a week of his or her own time. That’s a risky investment – tens of thousands a year, between the work time lost, exam registrations and the cost of prep classes – from the employer’s POV. Having an exam or two shows you mean business.

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