All you have to do to one day land that coveted role is pass a few exams (I may have a pretty loose definition of 'few') and land an entry-level actuarial role to begin your journey. Easy right?! Not in an oversaturated entry-level actuarial job market! Many recruiters won't work with entry-level candidates for this reason, so it's even more important to make sure you are doing everything you can to stand out from other actuarial candidates.
The first step toward standing out is having a great resume that is able to showcase your qualifications while also being easy to follow and aesthetically pleasing (if you haven't yet, check out my blog post with some great tips for actuarial resumes!).The second step toward standing out is using your resume to differentiate yourself from other candidates. This is really important since a lot of candidates have similar qualifications!
If you have at least one exam passed, a couple of solid technical skills (definitely excel and then some experience using SAS, SQL, R, or VBA), a decent GPA (3.0+), a well-formatted resume with some work experience (doesn't need to be actuarial) and differentiating experiences, you can get an entry-level actuarial interview.
Your resume does not need to scream 'MATH' in order to get you an entry-level actuarial interview. In fact, I advise against everything on your resume being math/stats/actuarial related - it may be impressive, but it's boring! Make sure your qualifications are on your resume and then include some of your unique experiences to help showcase other important skills such as communication skills, critical thinking, passion, leadership and teamwork. I'll provide some example experiences that can showcase these skills, but of course, this is not an exhaustive list!
Where should these "differentiating" experiences go on your resume?
- Train with team members weekly for bi-monthly rock climbing trips of varying difficulty. (Passion)
- Strategically climb peaks while quickly evaluating the safest path to the top, assisting team members as necessary. (Critical Thinking, Teamwork)
If you had two identical resumes, with the only difference being Mountain Climbing Club on one versus Math Club on the other, and could only interview one person, who would you choose? Interviewers are in this position all the time - make it an easy choice for them to choose your resume!
Differentiate yourself while showing the following five skills:
- Volunteer for community outreach at your favorite non-profit organization
- Become an events coordinator/secretary for a college organization you are passionate about
- Cold-call to raise money for your college/non-profit organization (this helped my verbal communication skills tremendously!)
- Participate in college case competitions (these will be helpful if you want to go into actuarial consulting)
- Enroll in a writing/communication elective course or major in a communications-related field
- Start your own blog about something you are passionate about (keep it professional, though!)
- Start your own business (be careful with this, you want to make sure it's not seen as a conflict of interest!)
2. Critical Thinking
- Study abroad or volunteer abroad (bonus points if you learn a foreign language)
- Play a musical instrument
- Attend Improv/theatre classes
- Blog (specifically if your are blogging about different technical skills)
- Play sports or other physical activities that require you to think on your feet
- Develop your own model to predict game outcomes for fantasy sports (or regular sports)
- You can mentor underclassmen or high school students
- Join the board of a college organization or get involved in committees
- Take on and lead an independent project (kaggle competitions are pretty cool and a good way to gain a better understanding of data science)
- Become a captain of an intramural sports team
- Lead a volunteer project
- Join a team to compete in a college competition - many colleges have competitions throughout the year across a variety of interests
- If you loved playing a sport in high school, continue playing in college - you could play for the college, intramural or join a local recreational sports team
- If you are part of a board or committee, you can also show you work well on a team, especially if you are working with others to put processes together or create events
- Don't be afraid to pursue a major outside of math/actuarial science if you have another subject you are passionate about (passing the first couple of actuarial exams will prove you are good at math) or double major in a math related course and a non-math related course
- Volunteer/fundraise for a cause you are passionate about
- Become involved and active in an organization regularly
Anything you do outside of studying for exams and math-related classes/organizations/work can show you have passions and interests outside of your career which will help differentiate you from other candidates. This will also have a great impact during your interview since you will be able to spend a few minutes talking about something you do that you are really passionate about!
When I was a junior, I had to make the toughest decision of my life (at the time) - I could either do a semester business exchange in Australia from July - November of senior fall or do a summer actuarial internship. It was a stressful decision, but I know 100% studying abroad was the right choice - it was 100% an experience I really wanted whereas an actuarial internship was just something that was "expected" of me because it was the summer before graduating. Luckily, I still had around 5 interviews and an offer before graduation - so it worked out!
Since there was so much travel on my resume, it was bound to come up in interviews and, I can't speak for myself, but I know when others talk about their passions, they light up and it makes for great conversation. That's probably why, after I was hired, one of my interviewers said she remembered me as the girl who went to Africa (one of my favorite trips of all time, btw). You should always strive to be that person who's remembered for doing something unique. Don't be all business - let your passion shine through!