As an actuarial student who has been in two work placements, I feel that actuarial students need to know three important facts before they permanently move into the workforce.
During your time at university, there are often 12-16 hours of classes per week, equivalent to two days of work, which consequently mean five day weekends. Compare this to a 40 hour week when you work full time, plus the hours you need to study your difficult and time-consuming Part III exams.
My suggestion would be to do something that requires lots of time, whether it is a hobby, a skill or a goal. Whatever that is, university is probably your final chance to have a considerable amount of time to do the things that you want to do.
For me personally, I use my free time to play table tennis competitively and was fortunate enough to become the president of a society.
University is probably your final chance to have a considerable amount of time to do the things that you want to do.
Spend time building relationships. There are two aspects of the actuarial profession that I have discovered during my time at university and during my work placements:
1) the actuarial profession is extremely specialised; and
2) actuaries are relatively few in numbers.
With a 40 year career, it is very likely that you will bump into someone that you know. Knowing someone will make transitioning between jobs easier than it would have been if you did not know anyone.
During my work placement, I organised meet-ups with friends from other firms. Just the anticipation of meeting up with someone you haven’t seen for a while makes the day that little bit better.
Note that I did not use the word ‘networking’, as it can have a connotation of using someone to get a job. When I say to build relationships, I mean actually spend time to become their friends, find out what they like doing, see if they have the same holiday dreams as you. At the end of the day, your career is just a proportion of your life.
Marks alone won’t get you far, nor will it get you a job. People in the real world want to work with someone with a personality, who has interests outside of study, who can work in a team, and is able to express their thoughts.
While you are still a student, society involvement or volunteering is always a good place to begin developing soft skills, and I encourage beginning early. However, do not use these societies only to fill your resume. Join a society that you genuinely have an interest in.
By all means, get the marks you want or you feel necessary to get yourself an internship or graduate role, but do not spend countless hours doing only study. My advice is study smart and hard, and do not let studying drag out your day.
At the end of the day, university is only three to five years of your life. Make the most of it. Ask for people’s thoughts and experiences, be a part of the university life, enjoy other people’s company and do not let any temptation (such as scholarships and offers) get in the way of what you truly want to do with your life.
To all students, I hope this article has been insightful and I am happy to hear your thoughts.
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