Another strong article by Annmarie Geddes Baribeau which fits well with Protagion’s enthusiasm for active career management. Focused on consulting, particularly actuarial consulting, and the skills needed, it originally appeared in Spring 2018. It formed part of a supplement to the Contingencies magazine of the American Academy of Actuaries, called Actuarial Job Seeker.
We particularly appreciate the style of personal stories and views Annmarie uses, and the insights of those who’ve experienced consulting underlie its authenticity. While this post concentrates on her discussions with consulting actuaries, readers may recall we previously shared our takeaways from 8 wider-fields General Insurance actuaries who spoke with Annmarie about their experiences.
Consulting is a topic we at Protagion have written about before, although those articles have been broader than one profession. They include:
[The] skills and even personality traits required for success [as a consultant] often do not come easily for those attracted to quantitative work. Actuaries who want to become part of the consulting world need to know themselves – and the expectations of the firms they join. Fortunately, there are a variety of consulting roles available and infinite opportunities to improve the skills necessary for climbing the consulting career ladder.”
For her article, Annmarie spoke with a range of actuaries:
As the pace of change increases, we find ourselves, more and more, in unfamiliar situations. Different forces can push us into uncharted waters at different times in our lives. Yet at Protagion we urge our members to practise doing things they’ve never done in order to feel at home with the unknown. For us, elements of this are staying curious, consciously pushing ourselves, and embracing new experiences.
In the context of this belief, the focus of this post is on how to learn at the same time as demonstrating expertise. The risk of feeling insecure is high in new situations, but we must learn to embrace this feeling in order to keep learning and growing. Also, as we become more senior, we are less likely to have breathing space to learn and become experts before needing to demonstrate our understanding. The speed at which things evolve means that time out to build expertise is more of a luxury than a reality. Often too, learning is a result of interaction with others, and in order to be accepted into the group, we need to demonstrate some credibility first.
In previous posts, we found that successful people often have some consulting experience in their careers (e.g. Routes to the Top – Investment Management). So, we looked at what we could learn from management consultants, who find themselves in new situations regularly. At a high-level, the mindset of a consultant can be described as a problem-solving one, where they gather data about the specific problem, formulate solutions, test these with their clients, and then repeat the cycle many times to refine their proposals. This cyclical approach means that consultants learn a lot about their industry and the players within the industry within a short period of time.
But, this post is not only relevant to consultants. Others who need to learn and deliver at the same time include:
- contractors (IT, programme management, actuarial, marketing etc)
- existing team members allocated to a project
- analysts and professional advisors
- freelancers and
- others trying to learn something new on-the-job.
Like consultants, these types of workers have to adapt to a different setting with each new project or client and rise to dynamic challenges from the start. They also have to prepare carefully, signal their competence, understand the environment they’re in, and cultivate acceptance from others.
In the consulting world, becoming partner is seen as “the pinnacle of a professional’s career”. Rob Thomas, in a LinkedIn article in November 2017, described it further as follows: “Making partner is about getting as far as your skills will take you, and being rewarded for it.” Rob is from Cavendish Stuart, and is an “executive search consultant specialising in partner and team acquisitions” which gives him broad understanding of the professional services market, and specific insights into the journey to becoming partner.
This post shares thoughts from Rob’s article, as well as Protagion’s experiences in working with our members from professional consulting environments, including at the Big 4 (Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC) and more broadly at other major and specialist consultancies. It is intended as a resource for those who are currently working in a professional consulting firm and those who are considering moving into one (recognising that it can take many rounds of discussion, interviews and vetting to join).
The appeal of becoming partner can include:
Among potential drawbacks are: