CIA (e)Bulletin/(e)Bulletin de l'ICA
Past Issues |  
March 2016

My Top Tips for Success

Print Print this Article | Send to Colleague


By Simon Curtis, FCIA

When I was asked to write an article for the new column Thoughts for Today—and Tomorrow, my mind immediately turned to one of the questions that I’ve been asked most frequently by younger actuaries—which is advice on what I did to achieve success in my career that they could apply to their own careers. Over the years, my answer to this question has remained quite consistent, and is still the advice I give today when asked this question.

First off, I think it’s important to realize that there is no such thing as a sure path to success—there are a lot of strong actuaries and professionals out there with similar skills and potential looking for opportunities to develop their careers, and like it or not, good fortune and chance do play a role in how our careers develop. It’s important that we always stay humble enough to realize this. And it’s important to realize that not everyone has the same career trajectory goals—the times I am usually asked this question are when individuals want to accelerate/progress their careers as strongly as they can, but this is not everyone’s goal.

So, with those thoughts, what do I recommend for individuals who want to push onward and upward as much as they can?

  • First and foremost, always dedicate yourself fully to doing the best possible job on your current work/assignment—this ultimately is the best selling point and advertisement for your potential. Focus on your current job, and not the next job you want.

  • Always make sure you report to/work with individuals who themselves are respected and viewed as leaders/high-potential people. Working on high-profile projects can also be good, but ultimately it’s working with and gaining the respect of the right people that will help push your career along. Mentoring can be good, but there is no substitute for working for and with the right people.

  • Most importantly, and I cannot emphasize this enough, seize opportunities. There is a motto that the British Special Air Service (SAS) uses that says "Who Dares Wins" which I think is very appropriate. There is no cautious approach to career advancement. Going back to my opening comment, a lot of career development involves chance—being in the right place at the right time and being given an opportunity to take on increased responsibilities, a difficult high-risk assignment, etc. Actuaries are inherently cautious and risk averse, and many actuaries make the mistake of avoiding or not pursuing opportunities where there is a risk of failure. But the reality is that taking risks and failing is not usually fatal, and in fact is better than taking no risks at all if one wants to develop one’s career.

  • Change is good. This applies to all actuaries, not just those who want to advance their career. We live in an increasingly fast-changing world, and changing roles/taking on new opportunities on a regular basis, whether with a current or new employer, is an important way to stay fresh, relevant, ready to seize opportunities, and to have a long and productive career.

  • Develop those soft skills. All actuaries are highly competent technically and most actuaries have good analytical skills. What separates actuaries tends to be the soft skills—good written skills, good verbal skills, good interpersonal skills—and these are the qualities that are very often increasingly valued as one progresses to more senior roles in one’s career.

Finally, I would offer a word on networking. Networking is very beneficial, as it’s a way to build bridges outside of your immediate work environment, but again, networking is a complement to everything above, not a substitute.

Good luck to all of you, especially the younger actuaries embarking on their careers, and I hope you find a fulfilling career path that meets your own goals.

Simon Curtis, FCIA, is chief actuary, central life reserving at Munich Re, and was CIA President in 2012–2013.


Back to CIA (e)Bulletin/(e)Bulletin de l'ICA

Share Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn