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Transitioning from student to professional life: The challenges

In this blog, Andrew Mason, Trainee Consultant at Barnett Waddingham, talks about the challenges in moving from a student to professional life, with some helpful tips to manage.

Andrew MasonThere are many types of students, from the studious to the sporty and the organised to the person who submits coursework one minute before the deadline. The transition from university to professional life is one of the biggest challenges faced by students and it is something that everyone will go through. The challenges when transitioning will differ from person to person depending on their lifestyle. However, there are a few that are very common. Below I will detail some of the challenges that I personally faced.

As a final year university student you understand most of the jargon you hear, but once you start working you will hear a whole new set, such as “SCR”, “Cover Ratio” and “Risk Margin”, which you have never heard before. It felt like the first time I sat in an analysis class at university and saw symbols such as “∈”, “∀” and “∄” with no understanding of what they meant; I realised that I had a whole new language to learn. You will soon pick up this jargon and will start using it without thought, you will try and explain your job to someone without simply stating “I calculate risk” and they will look at you as if you are speaking a different language.  There will always be jargon and theory that you do not fully understand as a new graduate, however your colleagues have all been there and will be more than willing to help.

Once you get to grips with the jargon and settle into your new job, your attention starts to divert towards exams. Studying whilst working full time requires dedication and takes time to get used to. After a long day at work the last thing you want to do in the evening is read countless pages on topics such as capital project appraisal or get lost in survival analysis calculations, luckily we have study days for this.  How you use your study days most effectively differs from person to person, some people prefer one full day per week whilst others prefer two half days. I would recommend experimenting with this in the beginning to find what works best for you.  Exams being four months away may seem like an eternity at university, this is not the case whilst working full time as you are not able to study all day every day when exams are near. The faster you come to this realisation, the more productive your early study days will be and hence the final few weeks before your exams will be more relaxed.

Ultimately, the challenges you will face will depend on the type of person that you are. This may seem daunting but I can assure you that there are many more perks to life as a new graduate working in the actuarial profession, such as interesting and mentally stimulating work along with reasonably standard work hours, than there are challenges.