Why are soft skills important for actuaries?

As a student or qualified actuary, you’ve spent plenty of time studying for exams and developing “hard” technical skills. But most actuaries overlook soft skills - even though they’re arguably more important for your life and career.

In this blog, we’re going to cover the importance of soft skills and why you should think about working on them.

❤️ Empathy.

You probably decided to become an actuary because you were good at maths and you like solving problems. You probably didn’t choose this career path to learn more about understanding other people’s emotions! But here’s the thing - empathy drives every interaction you have with other people.

If you can empathise with your colleagues, you’re more likely to build meaningful relationships and mutual understanding. This means you’ll be able to work more collaboratively on projects, understand each other's perspectives, set clear boundaries and deal with any problems that might come up.

If you work directly with clients and you can empathise with them, you’ll be able to put yourself in their position, understand exactly what they’re asking for and solve their problems effectively.

⏰ Time management.

As an actuary, it can be difficult to plan and prioritise your time. You never know how long piece of work will take - a relatively simple looking analysis could end up taking much longer than expected and risk delaying other tasks.

The key to successful time management is prioritisation. If you aren’t absolutely sure about the priority order for your tasks, have a quick chat with your manager to make sure you’re both on the same page.

We can all get thrown off track by meetings, chatting, phone notifications and general procrastination. It takes 23 minutes to regain focus after a distraction, no matter how small.

👏 Teamwork.

You’ll need to get comfortable working alongside other actuaries (and potentially non-actuarial colleagues) in your career. Working alone and isolating yourself can create unnecessary pressure.

As well as reducing pressure, working in a team can be a great learning opportunity and help you to gain new skills that you wouldn’t have discovered working alone. Effective communication in a team is really important - if someone is struggling and needs help, they should be able to speak up.

🗣 Communication.

Actuaries are always learning, presenting or collaborating in some way.

Listening is the most important skill to develop.When you’re next having a technical discussion about actuarial work, remember that good communication only happens when everyone reaches a point of mutual understanding.

You might not be a confident speaker, but practice makes perfect. Try to make good eye contact with your audience and speak clearly at a volume that everyone can hear you.

🚀 How can I improve my soft skills?

Try to take on a role you’re naturally uncomfortable with.

If you’re always the one who sits back and listens in team meetings, make an effort to speak up more. If you’re naturally quite disorganised with your time, focus on ordering your tasklist by priority and giving your manager regular updates.

Developing your soft skills takes self-analysis and a willingness to get out of your comfort zone. You’ll become a more rounded actuary as a result.