By Bob Beuerlein
March Madness is one of my favorite times of the year. People who have not followed college basketball throughout the season become rabid fans of the game, cheering for their alma maters or rooting for the underdog Cinderella teams before returning to not caring about college basketball.
But what about the players who make it into this year-end tournament? I would say that most players on these teams have been preparing to play basketball on the national stage for many years—possibly most of their lifetimes.
From learning the fundamentals to refining those skills during practice and deploying them in real-world situations, these basketball players have developed their skills over many years—and in fact are still improving their game.
As actuaries, our professional development has some parallels to that of successful basketball players. We began by passing a series of examinations that showed we possess the basic skills that made us actuaries. And through our experience on the job, we became qualified to practice as actuaries by working with more senior actuaries who assisted us in applying what we learned in our basic education to the real world of actuarial work.
But these achievements only allowed us to enter the profession. In order to stay in our profession, we have an obligation to take seriously our continuing education requirements under the U.S. Qualification Standards. The knowledge and application of actuarial science is a constantly evolving discipline. If we are to provide high-quality actuarial services, we need to remain current on emerging advancements in relevant actuarial practice and science.
Think of the last time you attended a seminar or meeting for which you intended to receive continuing education credit. Did you notice a few people in the room who were more involved with emails and texting than with the speaker? Or in a webinar, was someone working on a hot project? If these people had been on a basketball team, would they have been playing in the next game, or would they be riding the bench?
Most actuaries don’t have a coach who can determine whether they have completed their continuing education conscientiously. But it is important that we remind ourselves of the need for continually developing our skills as actuaries. Our work and necessary job skills now are most likely much different than those when we completed our actuarial exams. It is important that we consider ourselves to be “2017 actuaries” and not actuaries from the year we received our actuarial designations. This can only be achieved by remaining current on emerging advancements in our area of practice.
Each of us is different and has our own personal needs for continuing education. Relevant continuing education includes not only technical topics, but also business and consulting skills topics and professionalism topics. Client relationship management, presentation skills, communications skills, project and personnel management are all relevant topics that actuaries may need in their continuing education. Just as each basketball player may need to work on different skills during basketball practice, we are encouraged to recognize our needs as actuaries and work on them.
I would challenge each of us to take some time to strategically plan our continuing education goals and activities over the next year. We spent a lot of time early in our career planning how to pass the actuarial exams, and throughout our career we may look at new opportunities to enhance our career. We should also consider regularly what it will take for us to continue to be good professional qualified actuaries.
I’m sure that you will see a lot of amazing plays by skilled basketball players during March Madness. But consider whether these amazing plays could have been made without the countless hours required to acquire and continuously enhance the skills of the basketball players. And while you’re marveling at the basketball players, I encourage you to also take the opportunity to marvel at the amazing work that you will be able to continue to do by continuously and conscientiously developing your unique actuarial skills.
Our work is meaningful and important, and it will make a difference to the public long after this year’s March Madness tournament is over.