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Thread: Sobering Discussion

  1. #1
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    Sobering Discussion

    I just had a sobering conversation tonight with a coworker. I've not yet started my own search, but because I work at a recruiting company, my coworker offered to present my resume to his former coworkers (actuaries) at one of the local insurance companies.

    They told him that not only would they not consider me because I only have one exam passed, but that my salary expectations were too high. They also told him that the other large insurance company in town wouldn't be interested in me either for the same reason. They added the comment that I needed to pass FM/2 this November with "a good score." Finally, they told him that there is a "glut" of resumes for entry-level candidates right now, so I'm likely not going to be considered with my current "one exam, no experience" state.

    By way of disclosure, I don't have a Math or Actuarial Science degree but I do have a B.S. that is a science-intensive degree. I am a career changer, and I have a solid work history with eight years at my current job.

    What concerns me is that my current location is a relatively small actuarial job market. I'm planning on submitting resumes to employers out of state, nationwide if necessary to find my first job.

    I guess I'm wondering if I should just focus on passing FM/2 in November and then start my search at that time. I've registered with D.W. Simpson, and other than my initial conversation, I haven't heard back.

    Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
    You spam? I ban! Irish Blues's Avatar
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    1. "Your salary expectations are too high" - so, what are you expecting?

    2. He's absolutely right ... right now, without experience, you'll need 2 exams unless you're a good enough salesman, you could sell clothes to an avowed nudist.

    Put another way: from 2003-2004
    Exam 1 - 23054 people took the exam; 8588 passed.
    Exam 2 - 13247 people sat; 4684 passed.
    Exam 3 - 8895 sat; 3279 passed.
    Exam 4 - 6559 sat; 3332 passed.

    Since 2005:
    Exam P - 24617 sat; 9016 passed.
    Exam FM - 18989 sat; 9434 passed [3857 of those in May 2005]
    Exam C - 7537 sat; 4025 passed.

    And now for full credit on exams P and C, you need the VEE credits. So to set yourself apart from the rest, one exam definitely won't cut it. There's a lot of people running around with 1 exam, quite a few with 2 exams, but the field starts narrowing after that.

    3. Is there a national company who has actuarial positions in the area? It's possible you could go to work at the corporate headquarters for a couple years, then transfer back. That's what I did - I didn't want to leave the Midwest, but couldn't land a job in the area I was in and got offered a job in the Northeast ... so I went there knowing that eventually I could get back in this part of the country, and when rotation opportunities were announced 2 years later I jumped all over it and got it.

    There's nothing saying you have to go elsewhere to get experience and can never come back.
    "You better get to living, because dying's a pain in the ***." - Frank Sinatra

    http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blogger_ar...blogger_id=174 - where I talk about the Blues and the NHL.

  3. #3
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    1. I passed along the "one-exam no experience" salary range from the D.W. Simpson survey and stated I wanted a salary at least somewhere in the middle. I guess my issue with the compensation is that Utah employers tend be pretty cheap with salaries. My current employer was grateful to have me stay on while studying for P/1, and they let me reduce my work hours for study time, and of course my salary was reduced. I was hoping to get paid at least enough to be my full-time salary plus some more.

    2. I do have the VEE-Economics requirement complete. I plan on taking the NEAS VEE-Corporate Finance course after sitting for FM this November, and hopefully with my study plan for FM, I'll pass that too. My current employer would be more than happy to keep me on while I completed those. Did you have two exams passed before getting your first position?

    3. I'm not completely attached to Utah. I have looked into other areas of the country, and other than COL concerns, I don't have a problem with relocation.

    My coworker the recruiter mentioned that he got the name of the head of the department of insurance in our state, and that he is considered a great lead for all actuarial positions in the state. We'll see where that goes next week.

  4. #4
    You spam? I ban! Irish Blues's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cpowell View Post
    1. I passed along the "one-exam no experience" salary range from the D.W. Simpson survey and stated I wanted a salary at least somewhere in the middle. I guess my issue with the compensation is that Utah employers tend be pretty cheap with salaries. My current employer was grateful to have me stay on while studying for P/1, and they let me reduce my work hours for study time, and of course my salary was reduced. I was hoping to get paid at least enough to be my full-time salary plus some more.
    As a general rule, the higher the cost of living, the higher the starting salary should be. Based on the D.W. Simpson scale for P&C, 1 exam and no experience, I'd bet my current job and the salary it pays for the next 10 years that there's no way a person working in Southern Illinois would get $51,000 starting off ... but I would be surprised if the starting salary was that low in the Chicago area. I guarantee in the Northeast, starting salaries will be nearer the high end of the scale because of the cost of living.

    If Utah employers are cheap, then you should probably look at the lower end of the pay scale and be pleasantly surprised if they come in with an offer that's higher.

    Quote Originally Posted by cpowell View Post
    2. I do have the VEE-Economics requirement complete. I plan on taking the NEAS VEE-Corporate Finance course after sitting for FM this November, and hopefully with my study plan for FM, I'll pass that too. My current employer would be more than happy to keep me on while I completed those. Did you have two exams passed before getting your first position?
    I had the first two exams; I took 2 in November 2004 - which gave me the VEE's for Economics and Corporate Finance.

    Quote Originally Posted by cpowell View Post
    3. I'm not completely attached to Utah. I have looked into other areas of the country, and other than COL concerns, I don't have a problem with relocation.
    Then it's something you may want to consider. Coming in to start, there's a lot of people trying to get through the door with you ... but the field starts narrowing quite a bit after the 4th exam. Get 2 years of experience and 4 exams, and you're much more marketable than with 1-2 exams and no experience. Get even more exams and more experience, and you're even more marketable.

    Remember - every job you don't apply for is one you're guaranteed not to get. It's fine to say, "I don't want to go to ____" and limit somewhat, but if your set of choices is more like "I only want to go to _____ and _____, and that's it" then you're limiting your chances. You'd rather be one of 5,000 people trying to land any of 1,000-2,000 jobs, not 1 of 1,000 trying to land any of 20.

    Quote Originally Posted by cpowell View Post
    My coworker the recruiter mentioned that he got the name of the head of the department of insurance in our state, and that he is considered a great lead for all actuarial positions in the state. We'll see where that goes next week.
    Good luck! After all, what's the worst thing he can say - 'no?'
    "You better get to living, because dying's a pain in the ***." - Frank Sinatra

    http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blogger_ar...blogger_id=174 - where I talk about the Blues and the NHL.

  5. #5
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    It's hard to estimate salaries at times though; I guess I just had my head in the clouds hoping I'd get more.

    I guess I had also got it into my head that after I passed P, I'd be able to get a job. Perhaps I hadn't paid attention to the quantity of available applicants or advice to get two exams passed to help with getting an interview.

    I suppose I'll just continue with my plans and we'll see what happens. I'm nearly done with the other project competing for my time besides my current job and my studies for FM/2. After that point, I can spend some time doing some searching on my own.

    I appreciate the feedback. It's been very helpful.

  6. #6
    Actuary.com - Level VI Poster Ken's Avatar
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    There's a fair amount of places that will hire people with no exams passed. You shouldn't give your salary expectation. If you expect low, you could get lowballed. If you expect high, they could bump you down on the list of candidates that they would extend an offer to. Evaluate each offer on its own. A sweet 401k plan could more than make up any differences in salary. That survey is a decent guide, but I expect both the mean and median are lower than the midpoint of the 10/90 percentiles. It also doesn't tell you how much those people work. If I put in 80 hours a week for $70,000, is that more than putting in 40 hours a week for my $60,000?

    There's always a lot of entry-level candidates. The ones that don't apply for positions are the ones that are turned down first. We call people even without a good resumé since phone interviews are cheap.
    Whether you are the lion or the gazelle, when the sun comes up, you better be running.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the reply.

    I suppose the salary concerns me more than getting a job. I'm very committed to studying towards passing the tests, and so I'm convinced I'll get a job sooner or later. I'm more concerned about lowballing myself though.

    My first job, I suggested a very low salary because I thought it was the right thing to do. My next job was being self-employed, so I only needed to negotiate with myself. And in my current position, I asked for several thousand more to start than I had planned on, and they met me in the middle.

    This field is so unfamiliar to me that I'm just not sure what to expect. Additionally, planning on looking nationwide pretty much throws me for a loop for what to expect for a salary.

    Anyway, I spent several hours doing practice problems and I feel somewhat better.

    I do think my resume and cover letter boilerplate are ready though. It got rave reviews from my coworkers who are recruiters.

    My plan is to respond to the posted job advertisements as well as working through the membership directories and contacting actuaries directly. If studying for the exams has taught me anything, it's that persistence pays off.

  8. #8
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    Are you talking about beneficial? They definitely have low offers, I interviewed there before and I gave what I thought was a very low number vs. the dws survey, and they said they were offering something like 2-3 thousand less.

    Many jobs won't even ask however what your salary expectation is. Or they will have the question on the app but you can just leave it blank. My point of view however is that I just want to get my foot in the door somewhere and I honestly don't care what they pay me. It will all equalize when I get experience and exams, and if it doesn't I can always move on.

  9. #9
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    Somehow that story doesn't surprise me.

    I still haven't really started looking. I decided getting FM/2 passed is my new goal, and looking for a job right should only be secondary.

    I imagine that I'd be better off leaving Utah for a better salary, but honestly, with the low low salaries are a relatively low cost of living.

    I guess it helps too that I've got a good job now, and they are quite happy to keep me employed until I find my first actuarial position.

  10. #10
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    That's good. But don't make the same mistake of waiting to long, because then THAT will become another issue that you have to explain away in interviews.

    Anyways, I can understand wanting to stay in Salt Lake City, it seems like a nice place to live although it can be a culture shock for out of towners...however it sounds you don't have that problem as a native.

    I've heard many times that cost of living generally isn't a factor in actuarial salaries. Of course there are exteme cases like NYC, but I don't think people there are paid that much higher for the COL factor. I think the salary depends more on the company.

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