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  #11  
Old 12-18-2011, 02:28 AM
Dr T Non-Fan Dr T Non-Fan is offline
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Thank you, stickymaker!
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DTNF's Basic Philosophy Regarding Posting: There's no emoticon for what I'm feeling! -- Jeff Albertson (CBG)
DTNF's Trademarked Standard Career Advice: "pass some exams and get back to us."
DTNF's Major advice: "Doesn't matter. Choose major that helps you with goal of Career Advice."
DTNF's Résumé Advice: Have a good and interesting answer to every item on it for the interviews.
DTNF's Law of Job Offers: You not only have to qualify for the position, but you also have to be the best candidate available for the offer.
DTNF's Work Philosophy: I am actuary. Please insert data. -- Actuary Actuarying Rodriguez.
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  #12  
Old 12-18-2011, 12:36 PM
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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 12:42 PM..
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  #13  
Old 12-18-2011, 02:24 PM
alphatmw alphatmw is offline
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here's what i think would be most useful for both AO regulars and newcomers looking for advice. start a series of threads, but don't sticky them, which all have a common title (e.g. ELSFAQ: Entry Level Series FAQ). the series of threads would include career changer advice, interview tips, job search advice, etc etc. then when someone asks for advice, you can say "search title: ELSFAQ" and they would find the specific thread in question.

the general FAQ right now is too long for anyone looking for a specific question and search function is far from perfect (often turns up threads from 2002 which aren't exactly reassuring to rely on).

also, its 20x more reassuring to have someone say the exact same advice as a reply to your question than to read the stock response from the exact same question you were going to ask. for career changers especially, it's a lot to ask for them to decide on this drastic change based on an FAQ without wanting to start their own thread. i think these FAQs should welcome people to add in their own questions to bump the thread when needed. future career changers would then have the FAQ responses plus a dozen other questions/answers from new posters.

we would also add a sticky note telling people to use the ELSFAQ search obviously.

if people here agree this would be useful and would help contribute to it (since i don't have the knowledge to fill it out myself), i'd be willing to set it up.

Last edited by alphatmw; 12-18-2011 at 02:30 PM..
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  #14  
Old 12-18-2011, 03:04 PM
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  #15  
Old 12-19-2011, 12:41 AM
Dr T Non-Fan Dr T Non-Fan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alphatmw View Post
here's what i think would be most useful for both AO regulars and newcomers looking for advice. start a series of threads, but don't sticky them, which all have a common title (e.g. ELSFAQ: Entry Level Series FAQ). the series of threads would include career changer advice, interview tips, job search advice, etc etc. then when someone asks for advice, you can say "search title: ELSFAQ" and they would find the specific thread in question.

the general FAQ right now is too long for anyone looking for a specific question and search function is far from perfect (often turns up threads from 2002 which aren't exactly reassuring to rely on).

also, its 20x more reassuring to have someone say the exact same advice as a reply to your question than to read the stock response from the exact same question you were going to ask. for career changers especially, it's a lot to ask for them to decide on this drastic change based on an FAQ without wanting to start their own thread. i think these FAQs should welcome people to add in their own questions to bump the thread when needed. future career changers would then have the FAQ responses plus a dozen other questions/answers from new posters.

we would also add a sticky note telling people to use the ELSFAQ search obviously.

if people here agree this would be useful and would help contribute to it (since i don't have the knowledge to fill it out myself), i'd be willing to set it up.
Sorry, bud. It's sticky. It's more for our ease of answering the same old thing every month or so.
Your suggestion is akin to suggesting that workers not document their spreadsheets, and make people ask questions about them once a quarter that would easily answered in documentation.

We used to have tags, but we found them more fun to play with than to be useful with them.

We'd rather engage with people who have more interesting problems that we haven't yet solved. This thread is analogous to the solution to the 1x1x1 Rubic's Cube.
__________________
DTNF's Basic Philosophy Regarding Posting: There's no emoticon for what I'm feeling! -- Jeff Albertson (CBG)
DTNF's Trademarked Standard Career Advice: "pass some exams and get back to us."
DTNF's Major advice: "Doesn't matter. Choose major that helps you with goal of Career Advice."
DTNF's Résumé Advice: Have a good and interesting answer to every item on it for the interviews.
DTNF's Law of Job Offers: You not only have to qualify for the position, but you also have to be the best candidate available for the offer.
DTNF's Work Philosophy: I am actuary. Please insert data. -- Actuary Actuarying Rodriguez.
Twitches' Advice to Crazy Women: Please just go buy your 30 cats already.
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  #16  
Old 12-22-2011, 10:49 AM
AUM AUM is offline
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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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  #17  
Old 01-04-2012, 12:47 PM
alphatmw alphatmw is offline
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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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  #18  
Old 01-04-2012, 12:58 PM
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Vorian Atreides Vorian Atreides is offline
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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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  #19  
Old 01-04-2012, 01:17 PM
alphatmw alphatmw is offline
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Originally Posted by Vorian Atreides View Post
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.
are you suggesting a cover letter should not highlight the strongest parts of your resume?

or that in a cold email, you shouldn't give the reader a few quick reasons to open the resume at all?
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  #20  
Old 01-04-2012, 02:13 PM
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I'm suggesting that you use the cover letter/email to highlight those qualities that you can't effectively show on a resume.

One of the first things that are looked at are Exam progression and work history. If you can't communicate high exam scores, rapid progression through the Exams, or passing Exams while working full time on the resume, you're doing the resume wrong and you're wasting valuable real estate in the cover letter.

Why you want to work for the speicific company is something you can't communicate on the resume. Use the cover letter/email to communicate that.

How you communicate your qualities is just as important as what you communicate.
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