President's Column - How can Mentoring Open Doors to Career Development?

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Institute President Jenny Lyon gives some insight into the benefits of the Institute's Mentoring Program and just how mentoring arrangements can help to develop young actuaries' networks and career.

I had the pleasure of spending time celebrating with some of our newly qualified Fellows the other night.  The topic of conversation with one group was the mentoring program which the Institute has run over the last few years and there were some interesting comments.

“I do have a mentor but it’s not part of the Actuaries Institute program”. This actuary had attended the initial briefing about the program, had some concerns about how onerous it might be to find a mentor but at the meeting had connected with one of the potential mentors and then set up a private arrangement.  So, while there was no formal link with the Actuaries Institute program, it had initiated conversation and the result was a successful mentoring arrangement.  This is not unusual and the program is probably as successful in generating informal mentoring arrangements as more formal ones. 

When the program was established we felt it was important that members looking for a mentor should be active in the process.  This process helps to ensure the best outcomes and includes:

  • Thinking about what you want to achieve from a mentor relationship;
  • identifying the best sort of person to help you in the process;
  • finding and approaching potential mentors; and
  • being proactive about the ongoing relationship – ensuring meetings happen; doing any ‘homework’ and making sure you get the most out of the meetings.

What do mentors have to offer?

One thing that new graduates and actuaries often talk to me about is their desire to work with other more experienced actuaries.  This is particularly the case for those working in less traditional roles or organisations where there are few other actuaries employed.  As a profession, we have encouraged our members to step out of the traditional fields and take their skills into new areas.  My observation is that our younger members are keen to embrace these new opportunities, but are also keen to retain their “actuarial link” and understand their professional responsibilities.  Therefore a mentor working in an actuarial role might be ideal to sound out your new ideas or learn alternative ways of thinking.  It is the judgement and thinking processes which experienced actuaries bring rather than specific technical knowledge that is usually of benefit.

Importantly mentors bring experience.  Early in your career you are by definition limited in your exposure to different situations. For example, you may never have lived through a period of high inflation or seen a market crash and it would be useful to discuss different risk factors and mitigations. Discussing the emotional and behavioural impacts on people in real life situations can be very different from the theory. See Actuaries Digital article 'War Stories from Life Insurance Actuaries' as a good example. 

Mentors can be useful at all stages of your career and for various reasons, for example:

  • You’re considering a change of career and need to understand a new field;
  • you want to understand how things are done in a different industry to broaden your thinking;
  • as a manager for the first time you recognise you need new skills;
  • you are seeking to enhance your career options and are seeking advice on how to do that;
  • if you are faced with professional challenges you may be keen to get some advice from outside your organisation; and,
  • a mentor can be a great source of networking – they know lots of people in the industry and can potentially introduce you to others who can help you.

Why do we have a Mentoring Program within the Institute?

Being a mentor brings it’s own rewards and benefits. As well as helping someone at a key point in their working life you will also have the opportunity to understand the motivations and challenges faced by the younger members of your team better, find out what is being learned at university and in the professional exams and gain some insight into your own ability to listen and communicate effectively on a wide range of issues. You don’t have to have extensive experience, a new graduate looking for a mentor will be interested in a recently qualified actuary who has faced the challenge of being new to the work force and combining this with study.

Both mentors and mentees stand to gain professional development and opportunities for networking, while simultaneously fostering a sense of community within the profession. The Institute's Mentoring program offers an excellent starting point and provides a helpful framework and another environment to make these connections within the actuarial community outside the workplace.

Members who work in small organisations may have only a small group of actuaries/managers internally from who to seek advice.  While your manager may be a good mentor you may also be looking for an external influence.

Many of our members are keen to stay closely associated with the profession and keen to support others; others are new to Australia and this is a good way to start building a network.

So, while I am supportive of any mentoring relationship which works for you, I encourage you to consider whether the Institute program might be helpful. The more people who connect with our system the more we are able to get feedback to improve the program on an ongoing basis.

We have now launched the intake for the 2017/18 Mentoring Program. To express your interest, please email mentoring@actuaries.asn.au by Friday 28 July 2017.

The Mentoring Working Group will also be holding an Information Session at the Institute (also available via webinar) on Tuesday 18 July.
The session will comprise an interactive panel discussion by a selection of mentors and mentees who will share their personal experiences, a presentation of the survey findings of participants’ views on the program and reveal some exciting future developments. Register now.

YAP Trivia night

I was also lucky enough to attend the YAP trivia night.  I have been to a few of these and this year there was a particularly enthusiastic and vibrant group. There was a lot of keen competition and another clear demonstration that our younger members have a huge amount to offer by way of intellectual capital and effective communication.  Last year I was stunned when we asked to name the K-Pop boy bands (I didn’t even know what K pop was!), this year I realised it was a long time since I had been to do some integration.  Fortunately, both times my team were on top of it! 

I’d like to thank the organisers for what is a fun evening with great opportunities for networking.

Finally I am holding some lunches for our younger members to seek their views on the future for the profession and how we can support them, so if you would like to attend please register once the invitation comes out.

CPD Actuaries Institute Members can claim two CPD points for every hour of reading articles on Actuaries Digital.

About the author

Jenny Lyon

Jenny was the 2017 President of the Actuaries Institute. She is a Director of SKL, a specialist actuarial recruitment firm. She has over 20 years’ experience advising and recruiting actuaries in Australia, New Zealand and across Asia.

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