Why I chose to do an actuarial internship
Going into my second year of university, I wasn’t too sure about what I wanted to do when I finished. I had read about being an actuary and about actuarial consultancy, and thought that the industry might suit me due to the balance between technical problemsolving and client-facing work. An internship seemed like the perfect opportunity to try it out, with the bonus of a possible job at the end of it and the chance to walk away if I felt it wasn’t the career for me.
The application process began with an online form which asked questions about me, my qualifications and my experiences. I then had a short phone interview in which I was asked a selection of competency questions, and following that I was invited to an assessment day in the London office. This involved a tour of the office and a question and answer session with some current actuarial students, plus an individual interview and a team exercise. It was a good chance to see whether I thought I would fit in with the company as well as the company’s opportunity to assess my suitability for them.
During the internship
During my internship I was assigned a mentor who ensured that I was kept busy with a variety of work and answered any questions I had. He supported me throughout the internship and we got to know each other well, so when I started my job a year later I had the benefit of knowing someone in the office already!
To begin with, I was concerned that my lack of knowledge and experience made me a burden on my colleagues, but they involved me in client work from the start and made me feel that I was a valuable part of the team. I worked directly for people of all experience levels, including partners, and was also given opportunities to work in different practice areas such as investment and longevity. I was also given training on the day to day work I would be doing as well as the general pensions industry, both of which enhanced my understanding and enjoyment of the internship and proved invaluable when I began my job after graduating.
I knew before beginning the internship that a pleasant workplace atmosphere was important to me, and I soon realised that it was valued at Barnett Waddingham too. Everyone was friendly and always more than willing to help me out with any issues I had. The open-plan nature of the office allowed me to quickly develop friendships with my colleagues, and there were plenty of social events and pub trips at which I could get toknow more people, including a trip to the Great British Beer Festival one evening.
During my internship, I was given the task of organising a volunteering day at a local charity farm which tested my organisational abilities and helped me get to know my colleagues better in a different environment. I liked that Barnett Waddingham gave its staff the opportunity to do something completely different for charity, and I was glad that the day turned out to be a success.
What I learnt from the process
The biggest thing I gained from the experience was securing a job that I enjoyed on a career path that fitted my interests, and this allowed me to focus on my studies during my final year of university. Even if I had not been offered the job, the experience would still have been very valuable. Working in a professional environment with many different people developed my communication skills and improved my confidence in my abilities, as well as developing my Excel skills – all of which look good on the CV!
Tips for making the most of your internship
- Apply for an area of actuarial work that you are interested in, since you will likely spend a good portion of your internship working in and receiving training on this area!
- Prepare for your interview, in particular the competency questions as these can be quite hard to answer when put on the spot. I found it useful to brainstorm my hobbies and experiences and think about what skills I had gained and what I had learnt from them in advance of the interviews.
- Use your internship as a chance to strengthen any of your weaker skills, for example by giving a presentation to practise your public speaking or agreeing to organise an event to build your management skills.
- Take advantage of any and every opportunity available to immerse yourself in your environment and try new experiences. This could be working in a different practice area, attending a meeting or simply getting involved in social events. Your internship will likely only last a few weeks to a few months, so you might as well try things while you can!