Future Fellows - September 2009
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The Job Hunt: Tips to Help Enhance Your Search

By Dan Tevet, Candidate Representative to the Candidate Liaison Committee

The U.S. economy is facing perhaps the worst slump since the Great Depression. With unemployment high, trying to find a job in the current market has forced job seekers to spend both more time and effort in their searches and to strategize more effectively. What worked for your last job search may no longer yield results in the timeframe you hope for or need. In this market it is imperative to be prepared to search harder, broader, and longer than those searching a few years ago.

With that in mind, here are several tips to help enhance your search.

Treat Your Job Search Like a Job
The dedicated job searcher treats the process like a full-time job, devoting several hours to it each day and keeping diligent notes on all openings that may be of interest.   Decide how many hours a day you’d like to spend on your job hunt and earmark those hours for uninterrupted work. Consider the employer’s perspective—should they be impressed by a candidate who is neither consistently available nor responsive to inquiries? This also applies to working with a recruiter—you should be available and responsive.

If a potential employer is not responsive, keep in mind that he or she is often bogged down in day-to-day work (you know, the thing you are seeking) in addition to reviewing many applications and may not share your personal sense of urgency. So be patient and professional in communicating with them.   

Networking—It May Involve Leaving Your Computer Screen
There is no doubt that social networking sites can be a great asset in the job search. For example, you can see if any Facebook friends work in your area of interest. The well-known career-oriented networking sites also can provide an invaluable tool for those in the job market. But, traditional networking (among real people) is still an important component. Talk to friends, neighbors, and former colleagues. If your college has an alumni association, consider using it as a resource (particularly if your school has an actuarial sciences program). Search for actuarial recruiting events, networking events, and seminars in your area. Not only does networking allow you to learn about openings that you otherwise may not have considered, but knowing someone at a company may put you at a significant advantage when interviewing for a position there.   

If you are working with a recruiter and also tapping into your personal network, communicate that clearly with your recruiter in order to avoid being presented twice at the same company. You don’t want your inquiry to the company to seem disorganized.

Avoid the “Shotgun” Approach
When unemployment is low and many companies are hiring, you may be able to find a job quickly by simply applying to every posting that interests you. But, in down times doing so can be counter-productive, as you commoditize yourself and make yourself indistinguishable from the large pool of applicants vying for the same position. Making your application stand out from the crowd may take more effort, but doing so is almost always worthwhile. See if you have a connection with someone at the company, or see if you can make a connection. Spend time researching the company and gear your resume and cover letter toward that specific position. When applying, try to demonstrate that you are not just looking for a job, but rather are looking for that specific one.

Demonstrate a Commitment to the Actuarial Field (for Newbies)
When I was searching for my first job in the actuarial profession, virtually every interview began with the same question: “Why are you interested in becoming an actuary?” It’s a fair question, considering how small and unique the industry is. Did you hear that actuaries are consistently ranked as one of the top professions and then decide you’d give it a shot? Did you plan on going into investment banking, but later realized that it would be virtually impossible to find such a job and thus chose a profession you thought would hire you? Or, did you thoroughly research the actuarial profession, speak to several actuaries, and concluded that the industry is a good match for your skills and goals?

Perhaps the easiest way to demonstrate a commitment to the field is through exams. It is increasingly beneficial to have (several) exams under your belt when applying. But, you can also show your commitment through your resume and cover letter, your selection of courses and activities in college, and through summer internships. Though it may be difficult to land an actuarial internship in this economy, any experience in the insurance industry may be helpful. For example, an internship in claims processing for a large insurer can significantly boost your profile and give you an edge over a similar applicant without such an experience. If you lack work experience or internships, you will need to be prepared for the opening question to share at the interview.

In the current economic environment, flexibility is often essential. You may have to consider the real possibility that you can’t find the mythical perfect job. Any artificial constraints you place on your own search could have a significant effect on your results. A job seeker should carefully and honestly consider how strongly he or she feels about specific practice areas, office location, etc.   

Perhaps the biggest variable to consider is local vs. distant. Would you prefer to be unemployed (or working outside your field) in your current city or employed somewhere far away? Opening your search to other locales sooner is better than waiting to do so later.   

Although finding a job in the current economic climate can be a daunting task, remember that it is a difficult process for everyone – in every industry. The most important thing to keep in mind is how to present yourself as the most qualified applicant.

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