Before current degree
I first applied to study Architecture at Queen’s and completed year one but it was not the right choice for me so I decided to take a year out and studied 2 more A-levels. I then applied to study Actuary in Queen’s and have highly enjoyed the degree.
What have you done in addition to your degree to enhance your employability and what do you feel you’ve gained from this?
As part of my degree program I completed a 9 month actuarial placement in Boal & Co - a pensions and consultancy firm in the Isle of Man. Following this I received the Ireland US Council scholarship and participated in a summer internship in America with accommodation provided in New York City.
Both experiences were invaluable. In the Isle of Man I was given lots of responsibility and got to work first hand with clients and financial advisors. My role involved technical calculations- helping with scheme valuations and pension transfers and administration tasks – explaining and vetting pension applications. Not only did my technical and analytical skills improve but I have become much more confident communicating in a professional situation and my IT skills – especially Excel, VBA and database - have improved massively. I loved my time working in the Isle of Man and the experience has assured me actuary is the career for me.
Living in Manhattan for the summer and working at Prudential was fantastic and a completely different environment than working in Ireland. I worked in the Group Insurance division and Participation in meetings and presentations to my VP made me more assertive and the intern networking events provided me with invaluable business contacts. The culture for career development within Prudential gave me a renewed drive and reminded me of the vast opportunities available within actuary. From this experience I was given a part time job when I returned home and currently work 15 hours a week for Pramerica – Prudential’s Irish subsidiary.
My experience at these two distinctive companies was very different but both have helped me improve my technical skills, commercial awareness and working in an office environment has equipped me with invaluable soft skills that have made me much more employable. From a small 22 person company on an island, with a population of 80,000 to a global company with 47,000 employees, whilst living in a city of 8 million, both placements have given me totally different experiences. Placement year has developed my confidence and capabilities more than I ever imagined possible.
Also volunteering as a Peer Mentor in my second year improved my leadership and teamwork skills. The role involved organizing meetings with fellow mentors to arrange social events and academic workshops for the first year students and meeting my mentor group; giving advice on any academic or social difficulties they faced.
Making use of Careers, Employability and Skills at Queen’s
During my time studying at Queen’s I have visited the Student Guidance centre on many occasions to make use of the Careers, Employability and Skills department. I have booked appoints for career guidance to help me with my decision to change course from Architecture to Actuary. The advisers helped guide me on how best to change course and the requirements I would need.
In first year I signed up to the Careers, Employability and Skills website and attended many events led by employers and Queen’s which were a great insight into the different companies and the skills employers are looking for.
The centre is a great place for advice on your CV and also to pick up brochures which helped me when making my decision regarding placement as well as when applying from graduate roles.
Any advice for other Queen's students?
If you are given the opportunity to participate in a placement – take it! It was a highly enjoyable year and prepares you for the working world. I now feel ready, and excited to take a graduate job and feel the skills I developed on placement have put me in a good position to secure a job.
Make the most of the resources at Queen’s. We are lucky to have such great careers services and it is important to know what employers are looking for in graduates as the competition is so high today.
Sign up for as many events and workshops as you can – be that developing your IT, writing, presentation skills, attending an employer led event or lecture, or booking a session to improve your CV. You will always pick up something helpful.