Finding an actuarial internship can really be one of the most crucial steps in your actuarial career. The experience that you can get will really improve your (actuarial) employability in the future and it gives you a ton of valuable experience.
I was fortunate enough to get my first actuarial internship without even having any exams passed, so I know that these steps can work if they’re followed closely and correctly.
Step 1 – Fix up your resume
This is actually the most important part. You have to make sure your resume stands out among all the other resumes the employer gets. In my opinion, one of the top reasons great candidates aren’t able to find a job is because they’re resume just isn’t very good.
The good news is that this means you can stand out even if your experience and achievements aren’t way better than everyone else’s. What you really need to do is just make sure that your resume makes your true value show. Your resume has to sell employers on YOU and why they should want to hire you for that actuarial internship and not someone else.
So it’s super important that you spend lots of time fixing up your resume and making it the best it can be. You can get tons of job search tips & resume advice by signing up for my regular emails (you can sign up to get those here or at the bottom of this page).
Those emails will give you lots of insight into how to make an awesome actuarial resume that really stands out.
Step 2 – Look for openings
There are lots of places to look for actuarial internship positions. The problem is that many of them aren’t even advertised.
The first place to start looking is online using Google search. Some schools have internal postings too. If you can’t find them, you should ask a career advisor where they are. That same career advisor may even be able to help you fix up your resume.
In those situations, there will likely be a lot of competition since the postings are made available to everyone. That’s OK though – it’s a good place to start and you may as well try for them.
Next, you can look for actuarial firms and insurance companies that don’t have postings up. They often have the option to submit your resume even if they’re not a specific posting that you’re interested in. The worst case is that you apply and they can’t use you right now, so really there’s no harm in doing that and it may just land you an internship.
Next it’s time to get in touch with your own personal network. Do you know anyone that works at an insurance company? Many people are willing to help others in getting a job within their company and it really gives you a ‘leg up’ on the competition.
If you do have some contacts, connect with them and see if they would mind passing your resume onto a manager in the actuarial department. If that doesn’t work, maybe they’ll at least be OK with you mentioning them on your cover letter when you submit a resume.
It’s important that you be open to opportunities outside of your comfort zone. Try not to limit yourself in any way. Look for internships in other cities, other states or provinces, maybe even other countries! Be open to positions that are closely related to the actuarial field too, like underwriting, data analysis, investments or risk management.
You need to be flexible in the type of work too – consulting, life insurance, P&C, health – anything!
By applying to more places, you’ll significantly open up your options and ideally you’ll have internship offers at more than one company and you can choose the one that works best for you.
Step 3 – Apply to openings
Now that you’ve found a bunch of places to submit your resume to, it’s time to apply to all of them.
This process is pretty time consuming, but tends to go the smoothest if you have all your cover letters and resumes ready before you apply to the postings. This way, you can just zip through the application process with each company without having to stop to work on your resume and cover letter between each application.
Personally, I don’t think you should send a cover letter unless it’s asked for in the posting or if there is something on your resume that really needs to be addressed. But if you do submit one, the cover letter should always be personalized and reviewed/edited by someone other than yourself.
Step 4 – Following up
This is an important step that shouldn’t be skipped. It could get you an interview that you wouldn’t have got otherwise.
I understand why some people don’t feel that following up is a good idea, but my logic is that if you haven’t heard back after a certain amount of time, there’s almost no harm in doing so.
Employers are busy. Maybe they didn’t see your internship application for some reason. Or maybe they thought they found someone but it didn’t work out. Following up may just get you the opportunity that you need to get that actuarial internship!
So how long should you wait?
There’s no right or wrong amount of time to wait, but I think that waiting a minimum of 2 weeks before following up is fair. But really, it’s going to depend on several factors such as when the application deadline was and your method of applying.
For positions posted online where an application deadline was specified, you should wait until a week or 2 after the deadline before following up. But if the deadline is more than 4 weeks away, I think it’s safe to assume that this is an ongoing posting and you should follow up a couple weeks after applying.
Of course, use your own judgement on this… there is no right and wrong.
Step 5 – Prepare for the interview
OK so great! Now hopefully you got an interview… now what? You need to do some preparation!
If you’re anything like me, interviews make you nervous. I’ve learned a few tricks over time though that really seem to help calm my nerves. Hopefully they’ll help you too.
First – you have to do some research. Go to the company’s website, look around, and get to know them a bit better. You don’t need to know a whole bunch of facts and statistics, but pick up on a few things that truly stand out to you. You may be able to mention them (casually) during your interview.
But more important in your interview preparation is to review some common actuarial interview questions and prepare some good responses for them. I don’t recommend that you memorize word-for-word what you’d say if any specific question arises. Instead, just have some bullet points in your mind about things that you could talk about.
I like to go through tons of practice interview questions, and naturally build up a collection of possible experiences that I could talk about when they ask “Tell me about a time when…” or “how would you handle this…”.
It’s best to practice answering these questions out loud too, not just in your head. That can make a huge difference!
Step 6 – At the interview
The easy part here is to make sure you’re not late. Being about 10 minutes early is ideal. If you’re earlier than that, it might be a bit “too early” so just wait in your car or somewhere (if possible and not awkward) until you’re 10 minutes early.
Try to stay calm and relax. I know that’s easier said than done. But interviewers know that this process is nerve wracking and I’m sure they’ll understand. If they don’t, maybe they’re not the type of people you’d want to work for during your internship anyway.
The best situation is if your interview is more like a conversation rather that just a question and answer session. But depending on your interviewer, that’s not always possible.
Interviewers for actuarial internship positions are typically more likely to hire someone that they feel they can relate to and connection with. That’s why a conversation is better. You can show them, first-hand, that relatable and likable.
Hopefully, they’d be able to see that your personality and character would fit in well with others that already work at the company. If they see that, then things look good for you! Hopefully you’ll get the job.
Step 7 – Follow up after the internship interview
Again, everyone has different opinions on this interview follow-up, just like the resume application follow up I talked about earlier.
If you do follow up after the interview, you need to be extremely confident in your ability to write a good follow-up email. It should be professional, summarize some of the key points that you talked about during the interview, and your include your contact information.
Personally, I usually skip over this step. I’m never sure about the best timing, and I don’t want to accidentally ruin any ‘good feelings’ the interviewer may have. You may feel differently though, so I’ve added this step for completeness.
So those are my 7 steps to getting your first actuarial internship. If you want more resume tips and job search advice just sign up for my regular email tips by entering your email address below.