Career Advice/Can I Bounce Back?

If there’s anyone familiar with my position, I would greatly appreciate some advice.

Earlier this month, I was dismissed for poor performance from my job. I had been working at my company for two years, my first actuarial position other than an internship (that had gone fine). My first performance review after seven months on the job was a “Meets Expectations”; a year later it was “Partially Meets Expectations.” The gist of the criticisms was that I asked too many questions about things that had already been discussed, that I was too slow on too many assignments, and that they had to spend too much time checking my work before relying on it. One incident cited involved a dumb mistake I made with a report, where a data paste to a wrong location delayed submission. I agreed with my boss that I had to do better, and I was given a performance improvement plan that involved a list of tasks to complete over the next few months.

I tried to improve on my problem areas and sincerely thought I succeeded to at least some extent. I also competed the task list, and emailed my boss to keep him updated. However, he never responded to that, even when the ostensible deadlines for the tasks passed. I wasn’t sure what to think about that, but he also wasn’t showing up to the team’s weekly meetings, with the explanation that things were busy for his role this time of year. I also believed that the report in particular had been handled well next iteration, as it was submitted on time and without it being rejected for any reason. However about two months after submission, my boss told me that he didn’t see improvement and that there were too many “issues” with the report (we had a consultant who would check the status of reports being worked on and give recommendations/point out problems while it was being worked on) and fired me.

For a while I had been worried I wasn’t learning enough or doing well enough on the job, and now I have confirmation that that wasn’t impostor syndrome. I have two problems. The first is explaining away getting fired for poor performance for potential future employers. The second, bigger problem is that I may simply not be competent enough for this line of work. I don’t know if actuarial work isn’t cut out for me, or if I’m just not good enough for any job involving data. I like to believe that I just have to approach a future job with more concentration and determination and I can pull it off, but I’m not sure of that, and I think two firings would be the end.

The debits here are that I’ve passed every preliminary exam, the VEE’s, and the APC. However, half an hour ago I got word that I failed the FAP Final Assessment second time in a row, something that hasn’t made this month any better. Did anyone else have this sort of experience while starting out? If not, can you please give me an honest assessment of what I should consider?

My first real actuarial-student type position, I didn’t have a freakin’ clue. I didn’t understand the big picture, or the details, or how anything fit together.

I was in and out of my bosses office repeatedly - sometimes THREE TIMES for the same question. that’s what it took sometimes before I actually understood. “Can you please explain that again to me?” was a routine phrase.

I don’t think that’s uncommon. There’s a lot of technical stuff, a lot of moving parts, and a lot of indepth knowledge that there’s no way you’d have. And it is not instant to absorb all of that.

I dunno your resume, but I really think your struggling to learn is common. And if you got turfed over that, I’d say it’s possible the problems is management, and not you.
And frankly, firings are somewhere between often and always the fault of management. Managing people is their job, they basically admitted failure when they let you go.

That being said, being fired is a complete bludgeon to your self-asteem. Don’t let it get you down :).


That’s rough, sorry you’re going through this!

Lets address the 2nd issue first. Are you cut out for the job. That’s easy - I have no idea Only you know if you can detail oriented enough for this job. We are an anal retentive people and expect others we work with to be as well. Only you know if you can succeed.

If you interview and they know you were terminated - no excuses. No blaming others or environment. It doesn’t fly well. You seem to have a good and realistic sense of what transpired. Admit you messed up, but have been working on your office skills. You fully understand what went wrong and feel you have improved your skills. And even better look into some business classes, enhance the skills you feel are missing.

Also, what are your skills? You talk a lot about what went wrong, but little about what you do well. There are many areas within Insurance where someone with exams can exceed. Particularly in IT.

As long as the AM in your name doesn’t stand for AMy Cooper, I think you can bounce back. Actively woik to improve where you are weak and define your skills and look for jobs where that is a strength. Not everyone is suited to back room valuation and number crunching and not everyone is suited to pricing work or dealing with clients.

This is a blow for sure, use it to grow from

I’m familiar with SAS, SQL, and Excel to a functioning degree and do not believe deficiencies with any of those contributed to the situation. R I’m familiar with insofar as it’s required for Exam PA (and I took a class on it years ago).

My second performance evaluation stated that I never said I could not or would not help someone, never turned down an assignment. It’s hard to describe in detail when the issues aren’t as tangible as not knowing x,y,z.

Did you find you’re particularly slow? Do you goof off a lot during work?

And do you take notes when someone is showing you a process?

Slower than I wanted, but I don’t think “particularly” so. During the “lull” in work, I admit that I got distracted easily (we had been working from home for over a year), but whenever I got a hard deadline, I finished it in time. If the workload was heavy enough, I would work late nights and/or weekends to make sure I’d get it done.

Yes, I did take notes. In fact, for some of those processes, I wrote the process documentation for the company.

Sounds a lot like my first job.

A lot of the same feelings at the time. Wasn’t sure if I was cut out for actuarial. I wasn’t passing tests very well. Work product didn’t feel appreciated or was being done very well.

Ended up switching jobs before getting fired, and found out pretty quick the culture and managers at my old job were just terrible. It’s really hard to evaluate how bad a company/team is when it’s basically all you know. There are a fair amount of really bad managers in the actuarial industry.

I’ve probably only worked with one person (non-intern) that I would really say wasn’t cut out for actuarial work which was more due to attitude than anything (though his actuarial skills sucked too).

Based on your post I’d say you’ll probably be able to have a fine actuarial career if you can land a job that’s a better fit.

Best of Luck.

Note - they should NOT know this, unless they check references, or if HR slips (not really even sure if they can say you were fired or not, just the termination date).
Lots of companies don’t do background checks, and and even more don’t check references.

You don’t need to lie, but don’t feel like you need to be completely transparent about it either.

I think most companies at this point will confirm dates of employment and little else. I doubt many will even answer the question “Would you rehire this person?”

how do u explain why u suddenly left though? especially if not for another job and you’re currently not employed

Plenty of reasons. Medical reasons, family reasons, layoffs, etc. Or just say it’s private and it’s not something you’re comfortable discussing.
There’s no way that they should be able to confirm this. If they do, they’re in the extreme minority, and they’re likely the kind of backward old school culture that you don’t want to involve yourself with anyway.

“It wasn’t a good fit.” is quite effective AND true.

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So you got in trouble because you would never say no to an assignment or someone asking for help?

I guess I could see how if you never let people (specifically your boss) know when you had too much work going on and it put other deadlines at risk that could be bad. But from your other posts it doesn’t seem that was the case.

I was let go from a position while on a TN Visa in the middle of peak pandemic. I had 60 days to get a new job or risk waiting 5-7 months with no income while my green card processed (also the government was closed at that time). Yes, it was performance related - however - I was struggling with mental health issues at the time and the manager knew this. In retrospect, I was bored AF with the tedious spreadsheet work I wasn’t expecting I would be doing in a director level role. The fit was garbage and the manager was a prick.

I bounced back, you will too.

Thanks everyone again for your feedback.

So you got in trouble because you would never say no to an assignment or someone asking for help?

No, that was stated as a positive. There were certainly times when I had a lot on my plate, but it’s hard knowing when it’s “okay” to refuse an assignment.

That’s what I was thinking! As an entry level actuary, I would blame your boss if people were coming to you and giving you tasks that put other deadlines at risk (though communicating that to your boss would be on you). Glad that was a positive!

My typical approach would be to go to my supervisor, tell them what I had on my plate and ask to set the priorities and tangible guidelines… Managing your manager is a skill all need to learn.

I agree with all the other advice on here that only you can tell if you are cut out for this roll. Here is what I know: you made some mistakes that I would expect entry level people to make and you were managed out. I can’t tell you why you were managed out and you may never know but I can tell you that almost everyone I know who was ever fired for performance has ended up in a better place. What you need to do now is figure out what your skillset is and what roles you want to take that use that skillset.

Your story reminded me of a teammate I had some time back. He was driving me nuts by asking the same questions over and over and I kept finding issues with his work. Accidentally, I figured out that he really didn’t process verbal instructions well and that I needed to email him with what I needed him to do. His questions became less frequent and his quality improved. Unfortunately, he rotated off the team shortly thereafter. I do believe he got his ASA but last I heard he left the actuarial field for something else (I don’t recall what). My point with this story is that some of your difficulties may be with the way you process information and not with how you do the work. If you can figure that out, you can figure out accommodations that will improve your work and actually make your life better.

Finally, I’m sorry this is happening. I don’t know you from Gus but you will be able to make this work and you will probably come through to a better spot. Your previous boss sucked or he would have worked to actually improve you. Also JSM is right that you don’t need to tell a prospective employer why you were fired. A general “XYZ was a not a good fit” should be all you need. If the interviewer presses it, you don’t want to work there anyway.

I’m getting several people saying that I should not explain why I was fired. However, the advice I got from looking things up says that I should be honest about what happened, or else they’ll think I was incompetent and won’t bother improving. Can I reconcile these?