Development in a Virtual World

We have all had to adjust to unprecedented times recently and the typical workplace model has been completely flipped upside down. While we have all adapted to working from home, virtual meetings, and various interruptions, one topic that seems to have lost focus is how to continue to work on development items to help advance your learning and career. Typically, a development plan would include mentoring sessions, trainings, conferences and various other options to help grow perspectives and skill sets.  However, given the state of the current environment, these items need a renewed focus. As with any development plan, first understand your goals and what the ideal career path is for yourself, and work to achieve those goals that best serve you.   

Seek out mentors.  And yes, I mean mentors as a plural.  It is always good to have multiple perspectives to bounce ideas off of and even better if you seek out the perspectives of someone with a completely different career path.  For example, if you are interested in being a technical modeler, find a mentor who manages a team and understand the perspectives of what they look for in hiring those individuals.  The CAS has a great mentoring program that can allow for mentors outside of your own organization, in addition to the mentors within your current environment.

In a virtual world, always try to have a video conference with your mentors at least once a quarter, or even more frequently if both of you find it beneficial or impactful.  This allows you to simulate an in-person meeting, and allows participants to see each other’s reactions and body language.  In addition, text messaging one off questions or scenarios is also a great way to stay in touch and get real-time advice, especially if a video meeting isn’t available.  

Attend virtual conferences and take advantage of virtual networking. Seeing new presentations, learning new ideas and meeting peers that have different techniques or perspectives can open up your toolkit and provide you with knowledge necessary to develop and advance your career.  This has always been true of in-person conferences, but virtual conferences take a more concerted effort.  Turn off your email, step away from your “work” desk or even attend the conference in a different room of your home.  This allows you to be more engaged in a virtual conference akin to an in-person event as you would be if it were in person and not slip into the ease of working a full day while attending the virtual conference on the side or in the background. 

Network with peers and individuals within in your organization.  Create time to virtually network with individuals across your organization to better understand their goals and how your skills or involvement can be used to help achieve these goals.  Often new ideas are born out of this, and items such as a new training, software or reading can evolve and enter your development plan.  As with mentors, try to schedule video meetings to best get a feel for the right topics to discuss, but also utilize instant messaging and text messaging for quick ideas or one-off questions and issues.  Having multiple ways to communicate in a virtual world is critical to creating and maintaining relationships as well as growing your skill set. 

These are just a few ways to help navigate your development and career growth in today’s virtual world. While times have changed, your career path and development will always be a vital part of your passion and success, and with a slight shift in techniques, can still be achieved in today’s climate. 

Editorial Note: This blog post was originally published in the CAS Leadership Development Committee’s second newsletter. You can find this column and others on the topic of leadership here.


About Minesh Patel

Minesh Patel, FCAS, is the Director of Pricing & Analytics at Texas Farm Bureau Insurance companies. He also volunteers on multiple CAS committees and serves as a mentor to actuaries seeking career advice or growth opportunities.