How to handle potential underdevelopment

I am seeking some advice regarding my general situation at my current job. I have been working for about 2 years (health), and expect to be ASA in about a year. Essentially, I am concerned that my development as a worker is starting to lag behind my experience.

Thus far, my boss has been very nice, and while this is good in some ways, I feel that it has also been to my own detriment. It seems that the other students I started with have been assigned more challenging work and have thus developed their skills further than I have.

I was in a bizarre situation where I never really did work for my actual boss; since I was never really needed in the role I was placed in I ended up working on some project based stuff with more tangential managers. It sounds fine in theory, but in reality there was never really communication between managers about who was assigning me what-so there were huge hunks of time where I wasn’t really working on anything at all. I would end up studying, and if there was no exam to take, mostly just watch TV or play xbox. In retrospect this was a poor way to handle the situation on my part, but I didn’t feel comfortable outing myself as someone who contributed nothing substantial. I feel that my manager certainly knew what was going on, but he didn’t want to expose me either because it would have reflected poorly on him for mismanaging me to some degree (I’m not sure exactly what that degree really was). I think that had I been in the office, there is little chance that this would have happened. Eventually I would have just been assigned more work.

The work I did end up getting always seemed to be mostly low level spreadsheet stuff. It was also under a somewhat unusual umbrella which makes it not directly transferrable to other roles. In other words, not pricing, valuation, ALM, etc. At a certain point I got get the sense that I was only being trusted with the lowest level work (saw a message about me on a coworkers IM, a comment from a consultant in a meeting, etc.). A bit later my manager had a discussion with me about how there was a general feeling that I was not really improving.

We discussed some of the things that I could work on. Shortly after, someone left the department for an internal promotion, and I had to take on more responsibility to fill that void. With a higher workload, I was forced to learn a lot more and I helped us finish a couple projects on time, even though we were short staffed. My manager said I had improved a lot and there hadn’t been any performance issues since we had that discussion. At the end of the year I received a typical meets expectations review, as I had in the previous year. However, I really feel that for the first 1.5 years, I was doing pretty much nothing and didn’t learn much at all.

As far as exams go I have passed each attempt since starting here so far. I am set to move to a new team in a month or two.

Overall, I really feel that there are other industries and situations in which I could have been fired, but nonetheless that never came close to happening. My company is doing well now, and I have heard that we have struggled with recruiting actuarial students, so I don’t feel my job here is in jeopardy.

I’m not sure how this all affects when I should switch jobs. I have looked for a job some, but despite quite a number of interviews, did not secure an offer. I feel that the reason is because I was outed for a lack of significant contributions in my current role; on the other hand perhaps I just did not interview well, I did not prepare nearly as much as I could have in hindsight. It could be a combination of both. I felt kind of discouraged because the other students I know have all at least gotten an external offer, though they did not all take it.

I see a few possibilities:

  1. Stay at my job and try the new team I am assigned in April. When I get ASA in 2023, switch to another company when my job prospects are better, and I have more options regarding a new position. My company seems pretty on board the WFH train, which is cool because it means I can live wherever, but I have heard that WFH can be career limiting, and thus far I can’t say that it has helped in that regard. The issue here is what if I land a new position but them am canned due to lack of real knowledge, because an ASA presumably has higher expectations. While I don’t feel I know much, I still have my boss and 2 acceptable reviews to back me. If I get into a situation where I am given more work now, I can learn more and maybe this won’t be an issue in a year or so.

  2. Find a new job in the next few months. Then I could enter a new company with a fresh start, and they would have lower expectations of me than if I waited until being an ASA to switch. Downside is I would have no backers there to start with either, but I would enter with lower expectations vs. an ASA.

  3. Continue to stay at my job indefinitely and rotate around a couple more times. I have some track record to back me up, as none of my actual reviews are negative. Compensation is in line with market, or maybe a little above. In this case I would likely remain remote, which might be harmful for my development, though. In a case where I switch, I probably would end up hybrid in some capacity. My concern with this is that I might continue to be underdeveloped, and thus never be able to switch to a new role. More and more time here might make switching more and more difficult.

Does anyone have any thoughts? I guess I feel like there is a risk of being exposed in a company switch, whereas if I stay where I am the risk isn’t there for now, but it might make it more difficult to switch later on.

Might want to read this thread

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Oh interesting, thanks for pointing that out

All those options look fine.

It seems like the real issue is that you worry you have somehow permanently injured your career by not working enough for that 1.5 year period. I think you should let go of that.

The last couple of years has not been the most productive for a lot of people.

And it’s been particularly hard on people like you who are starting a new job for the first time.

It sounds like you are doing fine. You are passing exams, your performance at work has been fine, etc. You should probably stop worrying so much.

And to be perfectly honest, a person with 2 years of experience isn’t expected to know that much anyway. Odds are the next thing you are expected to do will be different than that somewhat unique project you worked on. People will expect you to know how to get along within a business environment, and know some basic vocabulary, but they can’t expect you to know too much.

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Thoughts:

  1. See if this can be moved to the Careers Section.
  2. I suggest setting a list of goals/expectations of yourself and your job. Then, see if you think you’ll be able to achieve them. It is hard for us to know what you want, if you don’t know. I don’t think you need to post them or anything, just make it for yourself, maybe ask us questions relating to them. For example: do you want to be in a position to sign Statements of Actuarial Opinion? Do you just want more money, more work, more respect, more friends/coworkers?
  3. Agree with M that the last two years has not been usual for the profession. Or, probably anyone’s.
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I don’t think I accomplished much in the first two years of my career. I’m not sure the next two were much better. My reviews were fine, but I didn’t feel like I was in the right role for me. It was about year 4-5 where I could start to see where I fit in and moved internally into a department that has been a really great fit since then.

I had good bosses and mentors to help me. Use them as long as they open to the discussion. I think most are.

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Done.

My bad

This may be an unpopular opinion, but I’d give some serious thought to option 2 if you don’t plan to stay at your company. Expectations definitely are higher with credentials. I imagine you’d probably be able to transition into a job with a slightly lower title than if you switched at Associateship. You’ll be able to learn more and outperform since expectations are more reasonable (and in this market you’ll still get more money). This will help your confidence a lot, and if you feel like you’re underpaid, you can always switch jobs again after some more experience. I did something similar with my last job change, although for a very different reason.

Generally most who are against this think to only switch jobs for the most money possible (which is usually when you get credentials) but they don’t consider the difficulty of the new job that comes with it.

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Yea, that is an interesting perspective. I kind of feel like I either should switch in the next 6 months or so, or not until another 2-3 years or even until FSA. It is hard to say.

Do you like actuarial work? Or any of the work you’ve done up to this point? Any of the options you’ve laid out sound fine to me but it doesn’t sound like you really like what you do.

My opinion is that you need to get some hustle. Early in my career I learned everything that I could, volunteered for every opportunity that was offered, and took on anything that was thrown even remotely in my direction. If I didn’t have enough work, I asked for some. If there wasn’t any available, I made some up. I wrote a program once to generate a rate manual from our rating system tables because I was in between rate filings. But this is really hard to do if you just aren’t interested. If you aren’t interested, changing companies might help. I’ve worked at a couple of real stinkers so that can sap your enthusiasm. It sounds like you are at a good company. Another option is to change industries, either to a different branch of insurance (health to life for example), a related field (health to a hospital system) or a different industry altogether (insurance to ice cream cone manufacturing). You are a smart person and have the ability to be successful in any number of positions.

If you want to stay in this career, DTNF has really good advice (they generally do). I’m going to expand on that a bit. Create a list of things you need in a job/career. Create an additional list of things you want. Create a third list of things that are unacceptable. After that, make a short list of your goals and expectations. Compare the goals to the lists. If something on the goals (like I want to manage people) conflicts with the unacceptable (like I can’t work in a group) then the goals and your expectations need to be adjusted. Once you are clear what your goals are, try to create a pathway of steps you can take to get there.

Being successful in this though is up to you wanting it and actively chasing it. If you wait around for your career to take you, it won’t happen. That’s what I mean by hustle (I know it is a coaching cliché) and it really does make all the difference.

Originally I wanted to do this career because I feel that the exam process offers the opportunity to make more money than other fields I could work in, unless I went back to grad school. Truthfully there were jobs I had in college that I enjoyed more, like working at a golf course, but I made 10 bucks an hour. Sitting at home all day working in my apartment can get kind of stale for me.

I’m not sure if I am really in danger of not being able to stay in the field or not. I think it would be good to create an environment in which I would feel more motivated, whether that be by creating a more productive WFH environment, seeking a new situation I found more interesting, or something similar.

I would not have been able to succeed working from home full time in my first actuarial role. I’m not self-motivated enough for that. I’ve been WFH for a few years now, and I still sometimes struggle with motivation during the day. It’s super easy to pick up my phone and watch YouTube instead of doing that hard assignment that I’m not positive how I should approach.

I needed ~10 years of in-office experience to have a chance at working from home successfully.

Thank you, Snake!
(He/Him/Guy are preferred.)

You’re welcome. I couldn’t remember and went with the neutral term. I’ll try to remember in the future. I’ll try to associate dr_t with Mr. T. Please change your profile pic to a mohawk to assist. TIA.

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Fools are to be pitied henceforth!

That’s his catch-phrase, right?

wrong answer.

If you don’t enjoy the work, money isn’t enough

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While I understand the sentiment I feel that very few people I know truly enjoy their jobs.

While you learn these technical skills, you should also be trying to learn the kind of work that you enjoy, are good at (these often go together) and why.

It is not uncommon very early in your career to not know this. It can make creating a list of goals difficult.

One thing you could do is to give this new team a try, since it’s only 1 month away. It sounds like at this point you have experienced being “extra” and also being “essential” to a team. You want to be essential. Some of whether that happens will be luck, but a lot may depend on the “signals” you send early on. You want to try to give it 110% right away. Do not “ease into it”, and wait for work to come your way. Volunteer for work. And be upfront when you aren’t sure how to do something.

If after doing that you still find yourself “extra”, where you can play xbox all day and nobody notices, or you are learning skills that don’t seem to apply anywhere else, then that is a situation in which you may want to start looking for another job.

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Yea that seems logical. It gives me the opportunity to gauge how I would perform on a new team without actually switching companies.