With constant talks of mergers and acquisitions, consolidations and downsizing, it is imperative to stand out from your peers to ensure career stability and advancement opportunities within your firm. How? Quite simply by matching your technical expertise with ‘soft skills’ honed to the same level.
The smart technician may be the predominant image many actuaries aspire to, but it is a mixture of several core elements which add the most value to the top actuary’s profile. Specifically, the richness or depth of actuarial perspective, the breadth of actuarial discipline and, equally as important in the modern climate, the ability to communicate effectively.
With this in mind, here are our top tips to aid you in your professional development and help you secure that much deserved promotion:
You have strong intellectual, mathematical and problem-solving skills but have you got the communication skills to match? Perhaps the most important of our top tips, it’s essential to be effective in this area especially now that there is constant pressure to be more relevant to clients, employers and employees. The capacity to think commercially and communicate clearly should not be underestimated; your ability to engage and influence with the business as a whole and stakeholders is now paramount in your success as an Actuary. The good news is that soft skills can be developed (just like technical skills!) but it will require focus, commitment and most importantly, patience.
Why are soft skills so important? Well, the role of the actuary has drastically altered in the last 20 years. The ability to communicate concisely with clients and colleagues is essential in differentiating yourself from other actuaries. Proficient leadership skills, social skills and communication skills are a necessity in the business world, where, if you are a consulting actuary for example, you are having to communicate extremely complex and difficult information to people who have no training in actuarial concepts. Effective communication skills are also vital in managing junior employees, projects, work-streams and winning new business.
Therefore, mastering the art of communication is essential from improving conversational skills through to presentation skills; why not attend various networking events with other Actuaries to help in developing your soft skills in a professional yet informal environment? Employers are actually now placing greater emphasis on developing soft skills, with some firms even investing in specialist writing training programmes for their actuarial staff.
There is no denying that the client will ultimately be interested in the financial implications of your findings. However, you need to ensure you are communicating the ideas behind the implications. Getting this wrong could potentially lose valuable business or weaken existing client relationships. To improve your communication skills, actively engage with clients and colleagues in meetings and don’t just wait to be asked questions; voice your opinion and ultimately show assertiveness.
2. Taking Initiative
Take the initiative to seek our responsibility above and beyond your job description to better your company and colleagues. Whilst you will obviously seek individual reward and recognition, taking the initiative to implement a practice that benefits other Actuaries will increase your value within the company and get you noticed.
Don’t underestimate the power of self-management in achieving that promotion. Understanding yourself, identifying your strengths and adopting multiple perspectives on your role are all factors that will contribute to improving your position over time. Essentially, think outside of the box, adopt a creative approach and above all, be self-motivated.
Leadership skills coupled with effective communication skills that are backed up by technical ability will deliver actionable insight for the business. Go beyond identifying and measuring the problem; taking the brilliance of your spreadsheet and sharing this articulately with a wider audience will help you stand out from the actuarial crowd!
It’s incredibly important to build your external network, share knowledge within this technical industry and learn from others. People you meet and build key relationships with may be able to assist you with critical business projects and therefore, increase your pool of knowledge and value to the company. Effectiveness and efficiency can also be improved for the better when you call upon your established network of industry peers. Identify sought-after experts and senior Actuaries in other firms and work on building a strong, professional network of peers to call upon for tough tasks. It’s never been a better time for you to accept all those invitations for ‘networking drinks’!
Actuaries now have greater influence and more touch-points internally than ever before. The need to be able to effectively communicate, manage, influence and negotiate for the modern actuary therefore, becomes vital to advise and embed values across the organisation at all levels. Rather than being seen as a back-office cost and governance function, the modern actuary can help improve the bottom-line, optimise capital usage and returns, whilst managing and helping enforce a healthy level of risk appetite. Remember, exceptional hard skills are a prerequisite for an actuarial career – it is the soft skills that will make you stand out from your contemporaries.
If you are looking to advance your actuarial career or simply seek advice on how to improve your skill set, contact Clare Nash, Director – 0207 649 9350 Clare.Nash@ojassociates.com or Paul Francis, Associate Director – GI Actuarial and Catastrophe Modelling (Insurance Division) - 0207 649 9469 Paul.Francis@ojassociates.com to arrange a confidential and informal chat.