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Five ways to become an awesome consulting actuary

Five ways to become an awesome consulting actuary

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Now, let me address an issue head-on. There is a somewhat arrogant undertone to the title of this blog. To be clear, by writing this blog I am not looking to assert that I am myself an awesome consulting actuary.

That’s not to say I’m not an awesome consulting actuary. I totally am. However, I’m not looking to make that specific point via this specific blog.

Rather, I’ve had the fortune to manage and work with a large range of awesome consulting actuaries, and think I know enough to impart some observations about what has led them to achieve awesomeness.  Or at least, I’m arrogant enough to think that I do.

As noted in my recent blog “Why it’s never been a better time to be a pensions actuary,” I am firmly of the view that the pensions space is an awesome space in which to achieve that awesomeness, but what I say below definitely does have wider application.

Here we go, doing my best to avoid transgressing into a cliché minefield…

1. Opportunism

Every day is different. (Bad start.) But it really is. In your consulting career, all sorts of challenges and opportunities will present themselves – for example, to meet new people, research a latest development or expand the business. I spent a big chunk of the second year of my career building a random bit of software, which was totally outside my skill set, but I learnt loads.  Be that person who says ‘yes’ to stuff, even when your instincts say otherwise.

2. Stamp of quality

A simple principle: let everything that crosses your desk have a ‘stamp of quality.’  Apply this to everything from large reports to tiny internal tasks. Note this isn’t the same as getting everything right – nobody can do that – but you can ensure you’ve done a quality job, and thereby build your reputation as a trusted professional. I actually think this is one of the only disadvantages of a move away from paperless working, as I find there is something about holding a piece of paper in your hand that makes you think twice about stuff. However, an effective task list can achieve something similar…

3. Organisation

There is nothing more infuriating than seeing someone with awesome technical and consulting skills fail to realise their fully awesome potential because they can’t organise themselves to deliver work on time. If this is you – and it totally was me in the past – recognise this and do something about it early in your career. Literally everyone can manage their work and organise their lives – this is ultimately the easiest part of the job – but the way in which you go about it should reflect your particular preferences and personality…

4. Authenticity

Be yourself. (Yuck.) One of the things I tell graduates at assessment centres is not to behave how they think we want them to behave. Never listen to anyone who says you should modify your personal style or (my personal favourite) change your accent in order to succeed. This is total rubbish, and completely unsustainable. To be an effective consultant and build relationships with clients and colleagues, you have to draw from your own personality. Thankfully, due in part to the big push on DE&I, there are examples of actuarial consultants with all personality types displaying their awesomeness across our industry.

5. Learn from feedback

I think back to a key moment of my career, after an otherwise unremarkable appraisal, when I realised that instead of having a defensive or dismissive response to feedback on my work, I could actually just say “yup, I’ll do that.”  It’s actually really refreshing and empowering to take on that attitude. Others don’t always know better, but they do have a different take on things. Use feedback to build your internal library of mindsets and experiences, from which you can draw to face the next opportunity that comes your way.

And in addition to all this, have fun. (Bleuh.)

So, there you go – do all that and you can be awesome! Woohoo!