How to Network as an Actuary

Tips for building your network effectively and efficiently Ronald Poon-Affat

This article was inspired by “Artificial: The OpenAI Story,” from the Wall Street Journal. This particular episode of “The Journal” recounts the rollercoaster tale of Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, who experienced a swift firing and even swifter reinstatement—an incident that underscores the profound impact of having strong connections. While leadership, vision, technical prowess and entrepreneurial acumen were unquestionable qualities in Altman’s arsenal, the podcast journalist attributes Altman’s four-day boomerang comeback to the deep strength of his network. This compelling anecdote demonstrates the unparalleled power of professional ties.

Networking is often underestimated in career advancement, and it demands patience as it unfolds gradually. In this article, I’d like to share some ideas that have been helpful throughout my professional journey in navigating the intricacies of networking.

Who’s in Your Corner?

Career coach Julie Bauke asks us to imagine a scenario in which you have just lost your job, are feeling low and are looking to reach out to your network to gain a new job. She suggests that you be realistic regarding how much your contacts might be willing to help you. Bauke succinctly defines networking as a career-long activity that focuses on building mutually beneficial relationships that support your goals. Her sage advice has been a game-changer for me.

I suggest you begin your search with a list of high-potential networking contacts—people you are convinced truly care about you and will move heaven and earth to help you. But be prepared for disappointment. In my experience, some of the people you believe are your best contacts will not come through, while others you don’t expect much from will pleasantly surprise you.

I believe it’s best to calibrate expectations of your top networking contacts. Some will provide great moral support and encouragement. Others will make calls on your behalf. Still others will help you think creatively about yourself and your search or give tough feedback when it’s needed. Let’s classify this group as your A team, your cheerleaders. If you have been honest with your assessment of your network, you will have fewer A-team cheerleaders than you have fingers.

While some of your contacts might not be willing or able to help, you will meet new people during your search. You may reconnect with people you don’t know well or haven’t spoken to in a long time. Some of them may go out of their way to help you, refer you to others and support you.

Of course, your A-team classification might still not be 100% accurate, but now you have a framework to start. Here are a couple of tips to help you become a networking superstar.

Prioritize Your A Team

Let’s circle back to your A team. A golden rule is that if anyone in your A team reaches out to you for a meeting, dinner, lunch, catch-up and so on, you should cancel whatever else you are doing to meet them. The only exceptions to decline an invitation from an A-team cheerleader are if you are running a marathon, no babysitter is available within 50 miles, you are hospitalized, you are contagious with a nontreatable communicable disease or a close family member is hosting a milestone event. This obviously is not an exhaustive list of reasons to decline a meeting with your A-team cheerleader, but hopefully you get the picture regarding the importance of fostering these critical connections.

You must nurture the relationships with your A team. If you only reach out to your cheerleaders once a year, they probably are going to be less inclined to help you.

The rest of this article applies to anyone who has made your networking list and is not just limited to your A team.

Attend All Work-related Social Events to Which You Are Invited

Work-related social events are the precursors of speed dating. They are the best way to network, in my humble opinion. Work get-togethers are much better (and cheaper) than business meetings, breakfasts or lunches where you must spend at least one hour at the meeting. For meet-and-greets, you can spend as little as 30 minutes at each event. Of course, if you want to spend more time, that’s totally fine. Once you are OK with only spending 30 minutes at an event, you will find that you can attend a lot more events than you thought you could.

In addition to attending every event, to really maximize your time at these gatherings, you should aim to be one of the first guests to arrive. The upside here is that the absence of other attendees increases your chances of speaking to the hosts of the party. Once the room is full, the hosts will be flitting from guest to guest with limited attention spans.

What to Expect of Your Professional Networking Interactions

As a reinsurance actuary, I always try to remember these three things when I’m meeting a client or potential client:

  1. Is this an actual or potential source of business success?
  2. As a reinsurer, data is key to pricing risk. Having a contact who asks me to quote their portfolio and consistently provides detailed data that will help me calibrate my risk model is very valuable, even though I might not win the business.
  3. Will I be privy to reliable behind-the-scenes information about trends, new developments and regulations in our sector?

This is not an exhaustive list, but the point is that every business meeting should have a purpose.

Diverse Personalities

I was fortunate to attend a seminar that uses Carl Jung’s typology as a framework to evaluate personality profiles. This typology is a personality theory that describes how people make decisions based on information—with introversion and extroversion attitudes; the four functions of thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition; and eight combinations of attitude and function that define human personality. The seminar I attended was based on Insights Discovery and delved into two main models of human behavior:

  1. Some people are more extroverted than introverted.
  2. Some people are more task-oriented while others are more people-oriented.

The exercise concluded by using four primary colors to classify behavior, as outlined by Jung’s personality color theory. The suggestion of the classification is as follows:

  • Fiery red. People with a preference for fiery red energy are extroverted and have high amounts of energy. They are action-oriented and always in motion. They will approach others in a direct, authoritative manner, radiating a desire for power and control.
  • Sunshine yellow. People with a preference for sunshine yellow energy are strongly extroverted, radiant and friendly. They are usually positive and concerned with good human relations. They will approach others in a persuasive, democratic manner, radiating a desire for sociability.
  • Cool blue. People with a preference for cool blue energy are introverted and have a desire to know and understand the world around them. They prefer written communication to maintain clarity and precision, radiating a desire for analysis.
  • Earth green. People with a preference for earth green energy are also introverted and focus on values and depth in relationships. They want others to be able to rely on them. They prefer democratic relations that value the individual and are personal in style, radiating a desire for understanding.

The use of four primary colors in this typology is intuitive, memorable and a lot simpler than many other similar tests I have taken. It reminds me of the colors on recycling bins that nudge you to change your habit (recycle) using behavioral economics.

Once you have figured out the dominant colors of the people in your network, I suggest the following to improve your one-on-one interactions when networking with your colleagues based on these behavioral temperaments:

  • Fiery red. Focus your attention on the task at hand and never, ever be late when meeting them. Their motto is “be brief, be bright, be gone.”
  • Sunshine yellow. Ask questions. Stay open to new ideas. Their motto is “involve me.”
  • Cool blue. Present your ideas clearly and with structure. Their motto is “give me details.”
  • Earth green. Practice active listening. Give full attention to their need and concerns. Their motto is “show me you care.”

What High-Impact Networking Isn’t

Social media posts and interactions via LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, X, WhatsApp, TikTok and so on are not what I consider to be high-impact networking. In my opinion, face-to-face interactions always will have a greater impact and trump virtual discourse.

Don’t get me wrong, I think social media is an excellent resource to receive timely news about your industry, colleagues, competitors and market trends. But if you are interested in reinforcing your brand and developing an A team, I suggest taking the high impact road.

To build your brand, I believe your time could be best used getting articles published in your industry’s trade publications or lobbying to make presentations at industry conferences. If either of these activities intimidates you, consider signing up for a business writing course or joining a Toastmasters club to build your confidence.


In the end, networking is not about collecting business cards. It’s about building genuine connections. A quote popularized by famed poet Maya Angelou, among others, sums it up, “I have learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Ronald Poon-Affat, FSA, FIA, CFA, MAAA, is life and health director at the IRB Re, based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He is coeditor of SOA Reinsurance News and a past SOA Board Director. He also was recognized as a SOA Outstanding Volunteer and was a recipient of the SOA Presidential Award.

Statements of fact and opinions expressed herein are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the Society of Actuaries or the respective authors’ employers.

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