Capitalize on Mid-Year Feedback
For the remainder of the year, focus on keeping up your strengths while putting additional energy into the areas you can improve. If there are more than three areas you should improve in, you may want to discuss with your manager if there are a few that you should really focus on in the immediate future. Improvements in some areas may also lead to improvements in others, so try to kill two birds with one stone if possible! For example, if your manager says you need to work on improving your communication skills and how you work with others on your team, improving the communication aspect may help improve how you work with others.
In most cases, you don’t need to be an expert at all tools - be knowledgeable enough to use all, an expert in a few and focus the rest of your energy on improving soft skills to become better at your job and a better leader. These improvements will help you shine in your year-end review!
Share Your Knowledge
Reach out to your manager and offer to lead a training session so your team can improve their skills. Even if you set up some quick 15-30min learning sessions to teach some lesser known tips and tricks to speed up day-to-day work, that could still have a huge impact! Your initiative and drive to improve the team will not go unnoticed.This could also help set you up for a promotion sooner than you would expect!
Become the Go-To Person
In order to become the go-to person for your manager, your manager needs to see you as trustworthy. Make sure you are completing your projects in a reasonable amount of time with no errors. Don't delay just because you're way ahead of deadlines - finish the project and find something else you can help with. And this should go without saying, but DO NOT sit on a completed project without notifying the reviewer or manager that it's done. No one likes getting an email to review something on a Wednesday when the timestamp on the file was for the prior Friday...
In addition to providing error-free deliverables on time, make sure you are also engaging with your manager. If your manager reaches out to the team asking for thoughts or help on something, make sure you reply! Even if you think other people will respond with the same thoughts, reply anyway! If you have a meeting with your manager, don't just respond with 'yes' or 'no'. Ask questions. Provide your thoughts (if you are in disagreement, let your manager know and provide your reasoning in a proactive way!). When a manager is looking for their right hand man or woman, they're looking for someone to count on across the board - especially someone they can rely on for their insights, whether they are in agreement or not (just don't be too negative!).
Improve Existing Processes
Focus on processes that take a lot of time. Is there a monthly or quarterly project that is really manual in nature, taking 10+ hours? Is there a way to automate the process to reduce the time to 5 hours? Even if you can't code, bring up your idea to your manager and see if you could team up with one of the experienced programmers on your team to implement your proposed solution. As long as your not busy with regular with, the manager will most likely be open to improving the process!
This is especially important if you are relatively new to the group - a benefit of coming in as an "outsider" is being able to bring in a different perspective. If others on the team have been working on a project for a while, they might not be able think of improvements as easily as a newcomer with outside experience.
Forward thinking plays a huge role in career advancement. Developing ideas to drive efficiencies and creating better processes is a step in the right direction!
Professional Development Outside of CAS/SOA Exams
I wouldn't recommend specifically skipping an actuarial exam to take a different type of exam, but if you have a month or two between studying for actuarial exams, you could easily take some of that time to study for a different exam. For example, CPCU exams can help you build on your insurance knowledge, provide a break from the intense studying for actuarial exams, and still allow you to continue your professional development. After studying for actuarial exams, a lot of the other insurance exams will be much easier and won’t require as much studying to pass.
While it's ideal to pass actuarial exams in a timely manner, reaching out to your manager regarding alternative exams when you're stuck on an actuarial exam will show that you are proactive about your professional development. If another type of exam will count toward professional development, it can also help relieve some of the stress from failing the actuarial exam. It can also help boost your confidence so you'll be in a positive mindset for your next actuarial exam!
Sometimes, the accomplishments may be small, like learning how to create a macro in VBA. Other accomplishments may be a successful deployment of a tool/model you’ve been working on for months. No accomplishment is too small for this list and when it comes time for your self-evaluation at the end of the year, you will have a large list to choose from instead of trying to remember everything off the top of your head!
If you are lucky enough to work for a company that doesn’t require self evaluations, this is still a good habit to have since it can provide perspective on your career and also give you some talking tips when you run into someone from senior management!
How do you plan to close out the year strong? Comment below!