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Old 12-16-2011, 01:57 PM
Dr T Non-Fan Dr T Non-Fan is offline
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Default Here is some career-changer advice

Placeholder for the advice to we give to the FAQs of the once-a-month posters. If someone with authority deems it so worthy, I'd like this thread to be made "sticky."

For starters:
Q1. What should I do first?
A1: Pass some exams. Then, get back to us.

Q2:
Where is there a sample of exam questions?
A2: Here is a link to the sample exam questions. there are 153 questions.
http://www.beanactuary.org/exams/pre...equestions.pdf

Q3: Am I too old?
A3. No, you're not too old. But you probably won't get any of the slots designated for the recent grads. You'll have to look for "offseason" openings. These pop up when a recent grad doesn't work out, and the company still wants someone to fill the position.

Q4: will I have to take a salary cut?
A4. Yes, you will start somewhere near the bottom of the salary ladder, but if you turn out to be a great worker, your salary increases should be larger. (Or, maybe not.) Remember, you're the risk here. All companies are different in their perception of the career changer. you'll likely end up with one that doesn't have any hangups you can conceive of. (Meaning, the others won't bother with you.)

Q5: But my situation is unique.....
A5: No, it's not.

(From Justin M.)
Q6: What's the job market like?
A6: As of December 2011, it's not that great. Although many employment "experts' will say the profession is expanding, they don't realize that the pool of applicants is expanding greater.

(From Justin M.)
Q7: Will I be limiting my odds if I am geographically restricted?
A7: Without knowing any more about you, the general answer is yes. Most actuaries live where the home offices of insurance companies are: NYC, CHI, Hartford, then there's another tier of areas, then the outliers. Consultants can generally live wherever they want these days.
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Old 12-16-2011, 02:20 PM
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and the sticky-thread request.

If only we can get people to look at it, though. That's the sticky part.
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Old 12-16-2011, 02:23 PM
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I think that's why it's called a "sticky." amirite!?

Who has the stickinator (besides Doofenshmirtz Evil Incorporated) around here?
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Old 12-16-2011, 02:37 PM
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What's the job market like? Will I be limiting my odds if I am geographically restricted?
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Old 12-16-2011, 03:16 PM
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stickying a thread guarantees it won't get read by anyone, IMO
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Old 12-16-2011, 05:35 PM
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Originally Posted by undegaussable View Post
stickying a thread guarantees it won't get read by anyone, IMO
Meh. Makes it easier for people to link it when people ask the same questions about once a month.
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Old 12-18-2011, 11:36 AM
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Since this is the career-changer advice thread I figure I might as well go into a little detail about my experience changing careers. My situation is not unique, as I have seen many others in very similar situations. Hopefully it is helpful to someone.

Before deciding to be an actuary I had been working in a blue collar job for about 8 years. Although I had a bachelor's degree, it was not in a quantitative field and the highest math I had ever taken was algebra. Once I decided I wanted to be an actuary I read up thoroughly here on the AO, beanactuary.org, and the US DOL website in addition to going out and speaking with actual actuaries about the profession.

It was my understanding that the field was highly competitive to get into at the EL, and with my limited math skills and a 2.5 GPA it would be nearly impossible for me to get into the field (and this has proven true). Thankfully, I'm not one to give up very easily.

Since the highest math I ever had was algebra, I was completely underprepared for any actuarial exams and decided to go back to school for another degree in AS while continuing to work at my job. This is not a requirement for career changers who have a bachelors degree, but it was necessary in my case due to the lack of math skills. One needs at least a solid foundation in calculus before sitting for exams, and my program gave me that. In addition, my program at school provided me opportunities for networking, study groups for exams, and specific classes tailored towards passing exams.

Because of my low GPA and lack of pertinent experience, initially no employer would even look at me. I spoke with actuaries who I knew and they advised I pass at least two exams and I would have somewhat better odds at finding an actuarial job. So, in my first year of studying AS, I passed Exam P/1 (using Actex) and Exam FM/2 (using ASM).

Once hiring season started the next year (yes there is a hiring season for EL candidates and it tends to occur in the fall) I had the two exams passed, but still had some hurdles to jump over (given that I had a sub 3.0 GPA and no internships). I had my resume critiqued here on the AO, critiqued by the actuaries I knew, and by my career services office at school. After I thought my resume was as good as it could get, I sent it out to over 100 companies with a tailored cover letter for each company (never a form letter), keeping track of any and all contact I had with a company on a spreadsheet. I applied both online and emailed the hiring manager directly if I could (you can figure out how to find hiring managers in the EL Advice thread).

In the end I ended up getting about 8 or 9 on-site interviews and 3 offers, however there were 3 very important factors which helped me get the job: quickly passing exams, interviewing well, and networking.

If you can pass exams quickly, especially while working, this will make you stand out to employers.

As for the interviewing and networking, I think it is important to point out that any contact with a potential employer is an interview whether you realize it or not. I always made sure I was dressed at least business casual if I was meeting a potential employer (business professional if the meeting was a formal interview), had a copy of my resume on hand, and was knowledgable about the company with plenty of questions ready. If you can learn how to network effectively this will get you interviews. I had a few interviews for positions I didn't even apply for, but the hiring manager had received my resume from someone I had contact with previously.

In the end, I was hired for a job which about 400 people had applied for and which I was probably one of the least qualified applicants on paper, but because I had been networking with a few of the hiring managers directly for at least a year and was able to interview well I ended up getting the job.

Learn to network. Networking is key.

Credit to DTNF if I referenced anything in his sig-line and for the idea of starting a Sticky Career Changer thread.

Last edited by Peetie Skunk; 12-18-2011 at 11:42 AM..
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Old 12-22-2011, 09:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peetie Skunk View Post
Since this is the career-changer advice thread I figure I might as well go into a little detail about my experience changing careers. My situation is not unique, as I have seen many others in very similar situations. Hopefully it is helpful to someone.

Before deciding to be an actuary I had been working in a blue collar job for about 8 years. Although I had a bachelor's degree, it was not in a quantitative field and the highest math I had ever taken was algebra. Once I decided I wanted to be an actuary I read up thoroughly here on the AO, beanactuary.org, and the US DOL website in addition to going out and speaking with actual actuaries about the profession.

It was my understanding that the field was highly competitive to get into at the EL, and with my limited math skills and a 2.5 GPA it would be nearly impossible for me to get into the field (and this has proven true). Thankfully, I'm not one to give up very easily.

Since the highest math I ever had was algebra, I was completely underprepared for any actuarial exams and decided to go back to school for another degree in AS while continuing to work at my job. This is not a requirement for career changers who have a bachelors degree, but it was necessary in my case due to the lack of math skills. One needs at least a solid foundation in calculus before sitting for exams, and my program gave me that. In addition, my program at school provided me opportunities for networking, study groups for exams, and specific classes tailored towards passing exams.

Because of my low GPA and lack of pertinent experience, initially no employer would even look at me. I spoke with actuaries who I knew and they advised I pass at least two exams and I would have somewhat better odds at finding an actuarial job. So, in my first year of studying AS, I passed Exam P/1 (using Actex) and Exam FM/2 (using ASM).

Once hiring season started the next year (yes there is a hiring season for EL candidates and it tends to occur in the fall) I had the two exams passed, but still had some hurdles to jump over (given that I had a sub 3.0 GPA and no internships). I had my resume critiqued here on the AO, critiqued by the actuaries I knew, and by my career services office at school. After I thought my resume was as good as it could get, I sent it out to over 100 companies with a tailored cover letter for each company (never a form letter), keeping track of any and all contact I had with a company on a spreadsheet. I applied both online and emailed the hiring manager directly if I could (you can figure out how to find hiring managers in the EL Advice thread).

In the end I ended up getting about 8 or 9 on-site interviews and 3 offers, however there were 3 very important factors which helped me get the job: quickly passing exams, interviewing well, and networking.

If you can pass exams quickly, especially while working, this will make you stand out to employers.

As for the interviewing and networking, I think it is important to point out that any contact with a potential employer is an interview whether you realize it or not. I always made sure I was dressed at least business casual if I was meeting a potential employer (business professional if the meeting was a formal interview), had a copy of my resume on hand, and was knowledgable about the company with plenty of questions ready. If you can learn how to network effectively this will get you interviews. I had a few interviews for positions I didn't even apply for, but the hiring manager had received my resume from someone I had contact with previously.

In the end, I was hired for a job which about 400 people had applied for and which I was probably one of the least qualified applicants on paper, but because I had been networking with a few of the hiring managers directly for at least a year and was able to interview well I ended up getting the job.

Learn to network. Networking is key.

Credit to DTNF if I referenced anything in his sig-line and for the idea of starting a Sticky Career Changer thread.
Congratulations on your perserverence!
I am also a career changer and came from a blue collar management position. At the time I decided I wanted to be an actuary, I had been out of college for about 10 years. I never took an official calculus class in college (but I took calculus in HS). I was a non-math major (business and finance) and in addition to not having had calculus in about 15 years. After reteaching myself calculus and calculus based probabilty straight out of the textbook, I took exam P, passed the first time, got a job and passed FM on the first try. I have since received my ASA and I have never looked back.

How did I get a job? If you asked people on AO, most people will be very negative about the chances of getting a job. Similar to your approach, I didn't wait for somebody else to initiate contact or publish an opening. I simply decided on what geographical area I wanted to work in, checked the SOA directory and started sending out emails with cover letters and resumes. One big advantage I had over other candidates is that I had a lot of experience interviewing candidates on the other side of the table (I used to do a lot of interviewing and hiring in my previous job). IMO, no matter how good or bad you look on paper, interviewing skills are key to landing a job. The good news is that interviewing skills can be learned and improved on by doing mock interviews and reading books on effective interviewing.

I wish all of the career changers best of luck and perseverence in their job search!
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Old 01-04-2012, 11:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peetie Skunk View Post
If you can pass exams quickly, especially while working, this will make you stand out to employers.
this is a very important point. do your best to pass exams quickly and impressively.

if you pass on your first attempt, if you score highly, if you were balancing work while doing so, mention it all (in a cover letter, or in your introduction if you're cold emailing). this + existing experience, i would argue, puts you at an advantage over the average AS major, in terms of getting noticed.
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Old 01-04-2012, 11:58 AM
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Vorian Atreides Vorian Atreides is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alphatmw View Post
this is a very important point. do your best to pass exams quickly and impressively.

if you pass on your first attempt, if you score highly, if you were balancing work while doing so, mention it all (in a cover letter, or in your introduction if you're cold emailing). this + existing experience, i would argue, puts you at an advantage over the average AS major, in terms of getting noticed.
One might be better off letting their resume take care of most of these points rather than possibly insult the reader's intelligence. Hiring managers looking at your resume can put two plus two together wrt what you were doing when you passed your Exams.
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