Interview With Deb Model: Answers to Top Questions About Getting an Entry-Level Job 

“Knowledge is Power.”–Unknown 

With this post, we’re changing things up with an interview with Deb Model, a former actuarial recruiter. She answers some of the most asked questions about becoming an actuary on the entry-level, and shares really valuable tips for you to keep in mind. 

Destination of This Journey 

The takeaways you’ll want to pay attention to are: 

1) Understanding key items actuarial employers look for in entry-level employees.

2) How you can set yourself apart from others.

3) Approaching salary negotiations—if you choose to negotiate–with confidence and knowledge. 

Question 1: Archetypes of Getting a Job as an Actuary. 

ACTUARIAL JOURNEY: Ideally, most people want to have those two exams and internships to put on their resume, but in the event that you don’t have this experience, what do you do? 

DEB: A lot of the time, it’s geography-related. What’s the market around you like? How many programs for actuaries exist where you live? If you’re in an area where there aren’t that many actuaries, the employers will go ahead and look for anything that might mark you as you taking the actuarial field seriously, such as the undergrad degree in math, actuarial science, or business. 

Also, make sure you stand out—get those exams taken as well. Or even if you haven’t passed an exam yet, get the date that you sat for one on your resume. It shows you’re serious about the job. Plus the GPA and SAT scores are something they will likely look at as well. 

It’s still good to get the internships, because it shows you’re proactive about getting to know the actuarial field—you’ve done the research, gotten to know the culture in one or more companies. 

But ultimately, when it comes to getting an entry-level job, the size of the company makes a difference about whether you will get a job.  

Question 2: About Career Changers 

ACTUARIAL JOURNEY :Some people going into the actuarial field are going into it as a second career. But they won’t have the major areas of study commonly associated with the field, such as actuarial science, math, etc. How can they break into the field?

DEB: If you’re one of these people, know that you are going to be the underdog. So get as much knowledge as you can about the field. Take the exams, even though you might not have taken the courses that might help you pass them. Put your best foot forward—if you took accounting, list that. Mention if you’re thinking about taking the actuarial exams, or if you’ve sat for at least one, mention the sitting date.

Question 3: Career Changers, Pt II—Education. 

ACTUARIAL JOURNEY: What are some further hints for people changing careers later in life, going into the actuarial profession from some other field? 

DEB: Getting a master’s degree in anything involving being an actuary really helps, even if you weren’t on the path before. Whether that master’s is in math or actuarial science, that’s going to show that you’re really passionate about your new field of interest. 

Networking also helps. Talk to actuarial alumni, talk to someone you know in the field, and get as much information as possible, so you know going in what the field entails. Join LinkedIn and talk to people there. As far as internships, go to the company sites as well as LinkedIn. But especially go to the company sites, because each company will focus on a different time of the year. If they offer internships in the fall, that will help them decide who they hire in the spring. 

Question 4: Becoming an Actuary as an Older Person—Confidence. 

ACTUARIAL JOURNEY: This question is really two-fold, as the following are two of the top questions received: “Can I become an actuary as an older person? How can I convey myself during internships?” 

DEB: Put some bullet points together, an “elevator speech.” Think about the following:

  • What makes you different? What makes you “rock?”
  • Know something about the organization you want to work for. How do you personally fit into the culture there? This is important, because you may be passionate about actuarial work as a second career, but you might not be the best fit, company-culture-wise.
  • Look at the job description—interviewers might take the questions from there.
  • The more prepped you are, the more confident you will be, and the better you will be able to answer their questions and “crush” the interview. That, by itself, will stand out.

Question 5: How Can/Should Prospective Employees Handle Salary Negotiations? 

ACTUARIAL JOURNEY: There are times when, in the course of interviews, the subject of compensation comes up, and the employee can choose to negotiate. But how does a person on the entry level do this? 

DEB: This is a time when many Millenials are in college, going for the internships, etc, but they have a tendency to forget that not everyone gets a trophy. You need to know the difference between being confident and being cocky. 

Know going in why you want to negotiate. It’s always a good thing to have knowledge of current market compensation rates. So if you go in for one interview and get an offer, then go for a different interview with a different company, hold the previous offer in your memory, or in your tablet, and say, “Hey, your competitor is offering me this much. Can you match it?” If the second interviewer can’t do that, then you have something in your back pocket that you can fall back on. 

Even if you don’t have an offer yet, still be up on the market. Also, going back to another point—you still need to know what it is about the organization you’re interviewing at that you like. Why do you want to work there? 

If you can give them that kind of answer, even if they can’t match their competitor’s offer, they still might offer a sign-on bonus. Also, the more credentials you can produce: the degree, the internships, exams, etc, the more you look like a choice employee, and you’re going to stand out as a truly competitive option. 

You’ve Reached Your Destination 

Let’s recap the destination takeaways. By now, you: 

1) Understand key items actuarial employers look for in potential employees.

2) Know how to set yourself apart from others, especially when you’re changing from a completely different career to the actuarial field.

3) Know how to approach salary negotiations with confidence and knowledge of the actuarial markets. 

Going for an entry-level position in the actuarial field, no matter where you are in your life journey, doesn’t have to be completely nerve-wracking, especially if you’ve done your research, done your homework, sat for exams and had the internships. Knowledge truly is power, and by having the knowledge in hand that you need for your first position as an actuary, you will be quite a choice candidate for the job you really want. 

Want more help with your journey?

  1. Actuarial Community: Feeling alone on your journey? Become a part of the Actuarial Journey Community!
  2. Create a study plan you’ll actually stick to!: This free video series will show you the step-by-step process to create you own Personalized Study Roadmap and design your Study Lifestyle
  3. Actuarial Job Course: a completely free full-length course with videos, worksheets, tools, and community all geared to help your get your entry-level actuarial job and start your actuarial career.
  4. Actuarial Journey Podcast: Get more insights and lessons learned each week sent directly to your phone!

Let us know in the comments below – Which one of these principles do you think would be the best for you to focus on for the next month?