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Old 04-25-2005, 08:05 AM
Westley Westley is offline
Join Date: Nov 2001
Posts: 30,897
Default Westley asks you to please START HERE

OK, as of September 2017, I'm re-doing this thread.
This thread, formerly the "Best of" thread, will include links to where I think people should be going for a variety of issues, basically a directory of good threads, not all my own. This will be the starting point for anything I think is worth sharing (whether my work or others). As such, I'm cleaning up some of the other stuff in here. Sorry if your post got deleted.

If you're new to the AO, and looking for job advice, most of what you need is here, with labels and organization to help you find it. Your question is probably NOT new and original, which is not to say that I'm discouraging you from starting a new thread, but consider whether you might go through some of the threads here and find your answers and/or contribute new questions, thoughts, or ideas. I would also like to take this moment to encourage those who get advice to come back and tell us what happened so that others can learn from your mistakes/successes. And please don't start a thread, get helpful responses, then delete everything after you've gotten help - you're deleting info that the next person will want.

The suite of Westley-endorsed threads - where I sat down and wrote out some good material that I think is broadly useful and at least somewhat organized (formerly was in my sig line):
(roughly in order of when you'll need them)

Should I become an actuary? This isn't the career you're looking for. You can go about your business. Move along.
Yeah, there's some real clowns in the field, but even if I ignore that, isn't the market, like totally saturated?OK, I ignored that and decided to become an actuary. Can you help me write a resume? (note that this is pretty old but really hasn't changed much. Might update sometime soon; you still won't get a job if you have "atention to detail" on your resume) Resume writing for beginners
OK, the resume was easy, but what about interviewing? Westley talks about interviewing
Or, maybe I can network my way to a job? Westley talks about (EL) networking
Got a job! Hope I don't screw things up once I start working! Westley advises newbs
OK, now how do I get a better job? I don't want to get a better job, how do I move up at my current job? Westley talks about Corporate Bureaucracy

Coming soon: Westley discusses "When they ask your current salary"
Reference thread:

General advice and disclosures for any Westley-endorsed thread:
Feel free to add questions and anecdotes of your own. These are not intended to be just me expounding philosophically to an audience.

Last edited by Westley; 02-17-2019 at 06:48 PM..
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Old 04-25-2005, 11:19 AM
Westley Westley is offline
Join Date: Nov 2001
Posts: 30,897

Lots of random threads that I thought were worth linking to. Most are very old (doesn't mean they don't apply). Westley needs to come back and organize, but has not done so as of August 2017.

Westley, why should I listen to your advice when you're such a jerk ?

Advice that applies mostly to people still in school/looking for their first job:
Really, resumes should only be one page? Why?
Updated one-page resume discussion here .
How do I 'correctly' answer this question ?
What about my embarassingly bad GPA? ?
What do I say to follow up on a resume that I sent a few weeks ago? How do I avoid a bunch of empty silence ?
Should I do it myself? My boss can do it faster why not give it to him? (Note: Some of my best advice, almost any young person can benefit from reading this.
Discussions on how well foreigners (or natives, I guess) need to speak English: 1 2
How do I decline a job offer ?

Advice for people already working:
Basics of negotiating
Can I use a reference without checking with that person? What's the worst that could happen - they just won't say much. Right?
Can I use multiple recruiters ?
Should I be a job hopper if I'm trying to increase my salary, or is it better to stay with my company ?
Can I use the DWS scale to negotiate salary ?
Some exceptional advice from MNBridge on discussing salary with your current employer (post 56)

Advice for resigning:
Should I put in more than 2 weeks notice?

Other stuff:
Does it make sense to go insurance now and switch to consulting after I pass exams, since consulting pays better ?
Really bad recruiter stories: 1 2 3 4 5 6

Threads on negotiating:

Other recruiter stuff:
I should just ignore recruiters until I need a job, right? (Post #32 is particularly good)

Networking event discussion:
Negotiating multiple offers:

Bumped because I think newbies could learn something from this thread, particularly my post 28 (but read the whole thing up to there):
A little thought before assuming everybody else is stupid and you're smart will be appreciated by managers. You're welcome managers!

Good thread on actuarial communications:

This is where I was just storing some junk that amused me, probably can skip and I'll find someplace else to put it later.


OK, now I'm going to use this post to hide my tracking of former sig line quotes, since I keep thinking I might run a "best of" someday

I don't know how you are doing for friends, probably not very well, but you might get along with GosuJohn --remilard
Well maybe everyone is born closed-minded, arrogant and brainwashed. Did you ever think of that? --Listeria
Now I'm mean. I'm cool with that. Because I'm lucky, and for some reason, I assume completely independent of my mean parenting approach, I have pretty good kids. --gomer_tree
We've decided to compromise and do it her way ---Pseudolus
The more information we have, the more useful our responses. Well, not mine, but in general. --Woodrow
Make sure she is real easy on the eyes and also just easy in general. --Abused Student
"getting drunk and tasing your buddy" was evidently not a legitimate reason for the broward county sheriff's office to permit use of a taser. --MattTheSkywalker
I hate icebreakers. That's why I quit church. --tbug
I think the people on this board have the math skills to figure out that they can do better than to pay $400 for half an hour with a $300/hour hooker. --Loner
From the title, I just assumed this was another JAS attention-whoring thread. --tbug
Not to be difficult. (This time) --MattTheSkywalker
I was doing an assignment for my online Amateur Sociology class at MTSU. --Baron von Raschke
Are you worried about being drafted? You are probably getting too old by now. You've spent your prime war-fighting years whining on the internet. --shekky tree
read the original post, clown. --MattTheSkywalker
It's tagged as satire... Did you go to a public school or something? --cubedbee
OMG. I just realized that all those boy stories JAS has ever told us are all true. Because when she makes crap up, it's really really boring. --SamTheEagle
Oh and the Clemson girl was very arrogant!! I felt offended and insecure inside when she said she could beat me at basketball. --gosujohn
women around me without a long-term commitment seemto be the ones having the most children. Although... most of them don't actually raise their children to adulthood, they're taken away at some point. -JAS
yea, if history repeats itself, I'll just learn it the next time around -yanz
I would be happy to become engaged to Westley. -Listeria
Jack it would be nice if you'd quit calling Jersey the Garbage State. It's not like Staten Island is exactly a jewel. -Loner
I hate to break the new to you but your son witnessed Santa plowing your wife. -Jack
I do not recommend a dinner of Brandy and Oreos, which I once partook of -Maine-iac

Hedge Funds: 1) Give us millions. 2) You don't know what your money is invested in. 3) You can't ask us what were doing. 4) We'll tell you trading results when we feel like it. 5) You can only take your money out when we say so, not when you want to. 6) Pay us gigantic fees.
American public: This is an awesome idea.

Sean Archer:Webster McRiley::Michelangelo's David:The ashtray your kid made at camp ---Luda
Math is like lazy white person kryptonite. ---tenthring
Let's face it, I am a pretty big deal in the actuarial Master Cleanse community. ---FormLetter
I used to listen to El Shaddai and pretend that the hebrew words translated into something filthy and perverted. She could have been her generation's Britney Spears. ---Person Man
I can pretry much guarantee that you will not be taken seriously by those of us with actual influence. ---jas66kent
One day JSA666kent is going to give you resume advice, Westley. Maybe he has already. I would believe that. ---FormLetter
govt launders the existence of victims to immoral behavior, thereby making it so much easier to rationalize ---Chuck

Last edited by Westley; 08-09-2019 at 11:53 AM..
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Old 01-03-2006, 06:12 PM
Westley Westley is offline
Join Date: Nov 2001
Posts: 30,897

Updated August 2017:
Some thoughts on asking questions during interviews

I don't particularly like to be asked questions - I am glad to tell a candidate why they should work for this company, and if they have questions, that's ok, if not, that's ok too. BUT, most people expect you to ask questions, and they view that as showing interest. So, it's usually best to ask questions.
The best questions are always ones that arise in the normal course of the interview - they are tied to what the interviewer asks you, or the thought is sparked by the interviewer. If a question comes up during the interview, don't be afraid to ask it right then. OR, wait until the end, and then say "You know, before you mentioned ______, tell me more about that issue" (ask in-the-moment if it won't break up the direction of the conversation; if it's a tangent and you want to stay on-point, then just save it till the end).

Some good general questions (non-technical):
Explain how the rotation program works (make sure that they have one before you ask).
How does study time work?
How are your exam results (for the company)?
How would you describe the company culture?
Why do you choose to work here versus someplace else?

Good technical questions are tough to ask, and it depends on where you are at, but you might ask:
Good questions at an insurance company (ok to ask at a consulting firm as well): what is the corporate strategy, and how does the work that actuaries do fit into that? How does the actuarial group interact with underwriting and marketing?
Good questions at a consulting firm (probably wouldn't ask at an insurance company): what is your quality process? Who are your target clients?
If it's an accounting firm, read up on what's going on in the industry - are the actuaries working in more traditional work (audit support, reserving) or is there significant involvement in modeling work, do they get involved in M&A work, etc.

If you have a lunch or dinner interview, keep it somewhat off-work:
Do the people that work here tend to go out together?
How do you like living around here?

Last edited by Westley; 08-23-2017 at 11:38 AM..
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Old 05-28-2006, 05:50 PM
Westley Westley is offline
Join Date: Nov 2001
Posts: 30,897

Following are some comments from an email exchange I had recently regarding negotiating salary. The person was negotiating and was looking for advice on how to present it. I won't give you all the background, some of the comments it's not clear what I was responding to, but I think it's all clear in the aggregate regardless. Some of this may not be accurate in every instance, but gives you something to think about.

Also, generally, be aware that the advantage to email is that they will remember exactly what you said, but the advantage to speaking on the phone is that you can sound interested and such, and it doesn't sound different than what you want. Think about how bad it sounds to write in an email: "I want more money." Now, think about how it sounds in a conversation as part of the discussion about ho wmuch you like the company, how excited you are to get the offer, etc.

I would call the person that is coordinating (probably HR) and ask where they're at in the process. There's a lot of approvals and whatnot to go through to get numbers approved, so it takes a while. In my company, when we make an offer, if there's negotiation, the HR person goes back to the local office manager (who may be travelling that day) to get his input, then goes to the national director (who may have meetings that day) to get his answer (he decides), then runs it up two level higher to get simple signature approvals (either of them could have a vacation day).

If the company has told you that they will make an offer, but they have not actually made an offer (i.e., no numbers have been mentioned). Call and just say that you are checking in. I would make sure to start off by politely apologizing for bothering them, you're not trying to be impatient, but you are very excited about the opportunity, so you are just checking back to see what the status is. And, mention wat you are giving up. "I wanted to mak you aware that by leaving Company X, I am giving up (name as much stuff as you can). I'm definitely interested in your company, but I have a pretty good situation here that I am leaving behind as well, so I just want you to know where I am coming from. If there's any questions about any of that, I'd be glad to discuss it." I would recommend that you say that sentence exactly the way that I wrote it, if you can. Sometimes, a certain way of saying things doesn't fit your style of speech, but if you can, say that exactly. Then, also mention the one or two most important things that you are giving up - no more than a sentence or two. Something like "I do have four weeks of vacation here, so if I'm taking a step down on that, I have to take that into consideration, of course". Also, if they respond by pointing out (for example) that you only get two weeks of vacation, but the company has more holidays - 18 - than most, plus you also get to take a minimum of five sick days, so if you're never sick, that's additional time off, the response is "Great, that's good to know, thanks for sharing that with me - that's a pretty generous policy". Basically, while you're telling them all the good stuff that you are leaving behind, they are going to tell you all the good stuff that you are walking into, which is fair enough. Essentially, this part just boils down to sharing information so that everybody knows what you ar eleaving and what you are getting.

If they already gave you a number, and you made a counteroffer or rejected it, it's a little trickier, since you are clearly negotiating, but the conversation isn't that different. Also, if they gave you a number, and your response is about things that they cannot change (corporate bonus plan, for example), then they will probably be expecting you to give them a number - which is difficult, but not impossible. Let me know if that's the case, and I'll be glad to give what advice I can. So, if they offered you $X, and you essentially said "well, since I'm giving up benefits A and B, I was hoping for a little more than that", they are going to say "What amount did you have in mind?" and they will expect you to have an answer.[/font]
[font=Arial Black]Keep the entire conversation pleasant and upbeat, and the last thing you say is: "Thanks for taking the time to update me. I'm really excited about the prospect of working for (Prudential, Allstate, Tillinghast, whatever), and I look forward to hearing back from you (OR, I will get back to you by next Monday or whatever). Have a great day.


Depends on what you are looking for and what the issues are. I would start the conversation something like "I'm trying to make sure you understand the entire package that I have at my current position and that I understand the entire package that is available at (the new company) just to make sure that I make the best possible decisions. I listed out some thing that I have at my current position, and...." depending on the details that you have, you may want to mention something that you are not sure if you are giving up or not - do you know their vacation policy? do you know how their bonus program/tuition reimbursement/etc works? - or you may want to mention something that you know you are losing - maybe you know that you will have fewer vacation days at the new position. Emphasize that you are trying to look at the total package, and do what's right for your family (don't say you're trying to do what's right for you, even if that's the case), and you just want to understand. The good thing about this strategy is, if you get to the end of the day, and they don't offer more money, but you still want to take it, you just tell them thanks, now that you understand their offer, you are excited to accept.

When you discuss specific pieces that the new company is worse than the old, ask if there's any flexibility (if that makes sense - there's guaranteed to be no flexibility in the pension plan, but there might be in the vacation days) and explain again that you are giving something up. If the points you raised are about when your next review/salary adjustment is (the start of our whole conversation), then bring that up - ask if there's flexibility for an earlier review and be specific - "if I am performing at an appropriate level, would I then be elgible for a full raise, similar to other actuaries?" If they have no flexibility (on pension, for example), and they have room to negotiate on salary to make up the difference, they will likely say so. They may ask you to name a number. My advice goes back to my previous PM: if you really want the job, don't be greedy. If you don't mind staying at your current job until something better comes along, you can be greedy. Assuming you're fairly young, you might be making $60k or $75k (I have no idea where you are on exams or experience) - you might present it something like this: "I am giving up 401k matches worth 5% of salary, vacation of one week (2% of the year), and missing out on an annual raise that would go into effect in just a month worth perhaps 4% of salary, so that's something like 11% of salary that I am losing. Now, I'm not discounting that you have already offered a raise of 5% over my current salary, but considering cost of living and the risk of taking on a new job rather than staying at a safe job, I was hoping to get to $X" and if $X is less than 10% above their current offer, I would be surprised if they didn't either go part way or all the way, 5% is very safe in my experience. BUT THERE IS ALWAYS A RISK IN NEGOTIATING RATHER THAN JUST ACCEPTING. In my mind, it's worth negotiating, but be careful.

Also, don't name a number until you have gone through all aspects of the offer. That is, if they ask you how much lost vacation is worth, say "well, I'm trying to understand the total offer, can you walk me through the rest of the details first?" At the end of the day, don't name a number unless you have to, and then balance a mild counter versus aggressive negotiating based on how much you want the offer.

If they offer you anything, get it in writing. Any HR person that is offended that you want all the details in writing is scamming you or incompetent. This shouldn't be a problem for them. "Can you send me an amended offer letter with the details we discussed?"

In order to give you more advice, I would need some numbers and the details of the email you sent. You may or may not be comfortable discussing those details with me. No offense if you don't want to tell me, it's very private, but if you want specifics, you can send me specifics.

Last edited by Westley; 08-13-2006 at 05:14 PM..
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Old 07-31-2006, 03:14 PM
Westley Westley is offline
Join Date: Nov 2001
Posts: 30,897

By popular request, copied from another thread.

There's a wide range of "team" levels, but I would say this: many people spend the majority of their time staring at their computers. Team is still hugely important. Why? 1) You can do all the work right for 39 hours per work, but if you screw up in communicating it to your team, then it adds no value. 2) It changes as you go higher in the organization, and the expectation is that as people move up, they will have those skills (those who do will be promoted faster nd higher than those who don't). Part of the reason actuaries pay pretty well (especially for people right out of school, I think this profession pays really well) is for the future value. That is, companies value the fact that you are learning about the company, and if you stick around, you will have very high impact as an experienced actuary with a deep knowledge of the company. And, that value will be limited if you can't work with/communicate with other people. 3) One person who is a "problem child" can provide a huge disruption to all people working on that team. So, part of the whole team thing is just not being an a$$, and that's always important.

Last edited by Westley; 08-16-2017 at 12:38 PM..
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Old 09-03-2006, 04:46 PM
Westley Westley is offline
Join Date: Nov 2001
Posts: 30,897

Things to consider if you ask me to review your resume:

1 I'm not an expert on format/appearance. Don't bother asking for my advice on that, it won't be helpful
2 No matter who you have review your resume, they aren't perfect. Even me (I know that's hard to believe). Get multiple viewpoints, not just one.
3 If I give you advice and then later you send your resume to me, and you ignored all of my advice, including clear and obvious stuff, don't expect the response to be favorable.
4 I'm probably willing to review your resume. I'm not interested in passing it on to my employer.
5 My advice, if you read my threads, is not exactly sweet and kind. It's harsh and as accurate as I can make it. I'm not trying to be your friend, I'm trying to tell you how an employer views your resume. If you don't want my advice, don't ask for it.
6 I'll probably get it reviewed eventually, be patient. Remind me if I forget, I'll get around to it.
7 Don't send me resumes with grammar and typographical errors. Please have enough respect for my time to get somebody else to do that. Career Services at your local college, or a professional resume editor or something.
8 I'm not interesting in helping you with your ESL issues - get somebody at your University's Career Services or elsewhere to read it, I'm glad to help with the actuarial aspects.

Last edited by Westley; 01-15-2007 at 09:06 AM..
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Old 09-06-2007, 06:37 PM
Westley Westley is offline
Join Date: Nov 2001
Posts: 30,897

Westley loses it:

Post 58

You know, before I answer any more questions there's something I wanted to say. Having all of these posts in the Employment thread over the years, and I've spoken to many of you, and some of you have spent... y'know... hundreds of hours to pass these exams, I'd just like to say... GET A LIFE, will you people? I mean, for crying out loud, it's just an exam series! I mean, look at you, look at the way you're studying! You've turned an enjoyable hobby, that I did as a lark for a few years, into a COLOSSAL WASTE OF TIME!

I mean, how old are you people? What have you done with yourselves?

You, tommie frazier, must be almost 30... have you ever kissed a girl? I didn't think so! There's a whole world out there! When I was your age, I didn't take exams! I LIVED! So... move out of your parent's basements! And get your own apartments and GROW THE HELL UP! I mean, it's just an exam series dammit, IT'S JUST AN EXAM SERIES!
If you don't get it, google "it's just a tv show".
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Old 03-05-2008, 10:08 AM
Westley Westley is offline
Join Date: Nov 2001
Posts: 30,897

Great post from FormLetter. Don't agree with all of it, but the part that I bolded is pure brilliance, and something that the vast majority misses.

Originally Posted by FormLetter View Post
I would be pretty weary of the person that has the ASA finished while still in college. Now that I have about 85 years of experience (on a wisdom-equivalent basis) under my belt, I've figured out that the people that really get stuff done are the people that can:
-think of the massive change that results in a 100-4000+% improvement in a process
-get stakeholders committed to a change that has been proposed
-hire the right people
-establish good working relationships with the "right people" that are already employed there

Not everybody can be all that though, and you wouldn't want a whole department of those people. So it depends on what your particular department needs. If you already have your "navigate our systems to get all the right data quickly" needs and your "convert data into whatever calculated item we need" needs met, then you need the person I described. If you already have a few of the people I described above, then the person that wrapped up their ASA in college is probably your best bet, as they have shown they can keep their nose in their work while the person described above orchestrates the big picture items.
I think this is more important for hirers than workers to understand because, unfortunately, this is not what gets you rewarded (in most organizations), but it's how you accomplish actual work. The people described above often accomplish 10x as much, and collect salaries that are 10% higher than people who show up and fill chairs.
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Old 06-23-2012, 01:17 PM
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Colonel Smoothie Colonel Smoothie is online now
Join Date: Sep 2010
College: Jamba Juice University
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Originally Posted by Westley View Post
Originally Posted by fomoz View Post
Why wouldn't they? We're employing over 700 people. We own pretty much every adult site you can name.
Challenge accepted!

(reviewing last week's internet history)

Do you own


Because that's pretty much every adult site I can name.
This was my favorite Westley post.
Recommended Readings for the EL Actuary || Recommended Readings for the EB Actuary

Originally Posted by Wigmeister General View Post
Don't you even think about sending me your resume. I'll turn it into an origami boulder and return it to you.
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Old 04-18-2016, 10:52 AM
Westley Westley is offline
Join Date: Nov 2001
Posts: 30,897

From a thread titled "Is my resume too short":

Originally Posted by Westley View Post
... a resume should be long enough to tell a person all the strong reasons you have for being the right candidate, and no longer.

Is my resume too short? Yes, if you've left off things that will give them a reason to hire you.
Is my resume too long? Yes if there are details on the resume that don't help you get hired (and that also might distract from the details that will get you hired).

Number of lines or pages are not relevant (although I contend that if you go over a page it's extremely likely (but not certain) that you're not adhering to the advice already given.
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