This is a guest post by Kalyn Yang for Student Stories.
According to beanactuary.org, an actuary is “part super-hero, part fortune-teller, part trusted advisor.” But really, professionals in this top-ranked job use their high analytical skills to manage risks and organize plans to prevent losses.
I started looking into this profession in my sophomore year of college and successfully found an actuarial internship in my junior year summer. After working in San Francisco like a big girl for 3 months, I received a return offer and will be working full-time at the same company fresh off graduation!
When it comes to looking for an internship, utilize the job-searching service provided by your university! I applied directly through the Career Center at UC Berkeley, and proceeded with on-campus and then on-site interviews.
Sell your forte
In order to stay competitive, remember that a strength is not really a strength if EVERYBODY has it. While maintaining a decent GAP and pursuing a degree in Math and Economics may put me in the “smart” category in general, it really doesn’t say too much in the actuarial field because that’s pretty much how everybody is. Since math majors aren’t usually the most social people, I emphasized during my interview the fact that I’m a people person and great at communication. I also set a foot forward by passing two actuarial exams by the time I interviewed, which really showed my interest and ability to become an actuary.
Do your research and know the key qualities desired by the position. I made sure to emphasize my abilities to interpret complex data into everyday languages, since that’s what’s valued the most at an actuarial consulting firm. While it’s cool to be a certified skydiver, would that skill be useful in this job? (Although do mention it if you really are a certified skydiver though, it makes you look so awesome).
As cliché as it sounds, put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes and think what qualities would you want to see in a potential intern. It all comes down to whether they would want to work with you as a person. So are you likable?
Hard at Work
Do your best. During the internship, grasp every opportunity to grow. I took every project seriously and made sure I understood why things were done the way they were. On one hand you leave your colleagues with a good impression, but more importantly remember you are here to learn. Since actuarial work is highly technical, I always double-checked my work before submitting it to my supervisor for review.
Ask questions, but only the good ones. While my supervisor always told me to ask lots of questions, I never went up to her asking about an Excel formula—that’s something I could search online! Instead, I only brought up concepts-related questions and always put my thoughts into it first. During my internship evaluation, my supervisor said she was impressed by my critical thinking skills because I always had good questions.
Show that you are independent as well as a team player. These two do not contradict and are equally important. Since I interned at a client-facing consulting firm, I worked on many teams with different colleagues. While I demonstrated that I could work on my own, I also made sure that communication ran smoothly by always keeping people in the loop. Again, put yourself in others’ shoes and think how would you like to see the work you are about to hand to your co-worker.
Write down what skills you’ve gained and the projects you’ve worked on. Make a concrete list and update your resume and LinkedIn profile! It’s too easy to forget the specific things you’ve learned so do it quickly (which I learned the hard way)!
Keep your options open. Know that this internship, whether it leads to a full-time offer or not, does not necessarily define your career path. Even though I’ll be returning to the same company after graduation, it doesn’t mean I will be set for life. Actuaries can work in multiple industries wherever financial decisions and risks are present. I know the experience and skills I’ve gained during my internship can be brought up again and again in the future.
Did you like what you did? I’m a total math person so I really liked problem solving and dealing with data. Actuaries are the backbone of financial security and I love making that difference. Ask yourself if you liked your experience. It’s never too late to pursue something you love—that’s what internships are for!
The bottom line
Don’t limit yourself! As an undergrad, intern in different fields during summers as well as the semesters. I didn’t quite do that but I wish I did. I have friends who have always wanted to go into banking but discovered their sales talent during internships and proceeded to work in sales after graduation; another friend studied geography in college but found himself to be a natural scout for talent after a couple HR internships thus became a full-time recruiter. Try different things; college is an exciting time to do that. You might surprise yourself! That being said, make friends across different industries and keep in touch with people. Don’t ever underestimate the power of networking!
About the Author:
My name is Kalyn Yang and I’m a graduating senior at UC Berkeley double majoring in Applied Math and Economics. I’m currently working on becoming a certified actuary woohoo! I love traveling, playing the piano, and salsa dancing! I take my time to make delicious food and would always appreciate a good book. I believe that attitude determines altitude, and that living the moment fosters happiness. Find me on LinkedIn.