10 Essential Steps to Fast-Track Your Financial Services Career

Journal of Financial Planning: March 2021

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Just starting out in the financial planning profession? Follow these 10 steps to fast-track your career.

(1) Do Your Homework

Research. Use Google, YouTube, and other platforms. Michael Kitces reported on Nerd’s Eye View in 2018 that Cerulli found there were more than 300,000 financial advisers, but that’s likely across the RIA, broker-dealer, and insurance channels. Also, there are approximately 85,434 CFP® professionals, according to CFP Board. Figure out which career path works for you where you can practice “real” financial planning. Follow industry experts and thought leaders like Kitces, Bob Veres, Carl Richards, and George Kinder, just to name a few. Publications like the Journal of Financial Planning, Financial Planning, and Wealth Management are also good sources. Keep notes and utilize productivity tools like Evernote to organize your findings. Discuss your findings with industry peers and other professionals to draw conclusions and see additional perspectives.

(2) Join a Professional Organization

The Financial Planning Association publishes this digital publication you’re reading right now. And they’re only one of many professional membership organizations (others include the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, The Society of Financial Service Professionals, and the Association of African American Financial Advisors).

You can often join as a non-member at a discount. FPA also has a member referral program where you can save some money on your dues and pass some savings on to your peers.

Not all professional organizations are created equal. Find the one that will help you advance your career and help you serve the clients you want to serve. These organizations won’t necessarily help you get new clients, but the time you spend networking inside the organization can really pay off. Strike a balance that helps you.

(3) Form or Join a Study Group

Make sure it’s a highly motivated group of five to seven people. Study groups can be formal or casual. By that I mean formal study groups will usually be sponsored by or through larger professional organizations. Don’t be afraid to move around and find new groups. Sometimes, the mix of people in one group won’t suit your needs. If that happens, don’t waste time hoping things will get better because time is precious.

(4) Find a Mentor

This is someone you can look up to and “copy.” Be direct and don’t be timid. Have an agenda when you meet with mentors. Don’t let their advice fall on deaf ears. If they tell you to do something you don’t understand or you don’t agree with, ask “why?” This will provoke a conversation where you can get more context around what they are talking about. You don’t want them to feel like you don’t listen to them.

(5) Prime Your Online Portfolio

Avoid connecting with more people than with whom you can develop meaningful relationships. For example, if you are trying to get a job with company XYZ, it makes sense to connect with the regional recruiter and their boss. Work those relationships first by reaching out and asking the right questions before you move on.

Also, remember that social media is social. By that I mean that people post things so they can be seen, talked about, and engaged with. Make sure you do yourself a big favor by spending time engaging with the posts of your connections—not just clicking the thumbs up! Take time to respond to their posts. It will pay off.

(6) Pursue a Designation

You need to find a designation that suits what you want to do for your career. For example, I started down the path of CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) but then switched to CFP®. Other designations to consider are: SIE (Securities Industry Essentials), Series 65, ChFC® (Chartered Financial Consultant), AFC® (Accredited Financial Counselor), and FFC® (Financial Fitness Coach), among others.

(7) Grow Your Network

I’ve been in several groups over my time in the industry and although they are helpful, nothing really replaces the “belly-to-belly” camaraderie of a peer-to-peer relationship. You will likely not have many of these during your career because they are more special and take time to build. The benefits are obvious, though—you get to have industry-specific dialogue with someone who understands you. You have to give yourselves more opportunities for success.

But choose your network wisely. Sometimes, these relationships will end and it will be time to move on. That’s OK also. If you outgrow your relationship, be brave enough to cut the cord because your time is valuable.

(8) Attend Events

Most organizations I mentioned previously will have local chapter and/or national events and, currently, many of those events are being held virtually.

Attending industry events is great. You can meet new (and old) friends and gain tons of insight, but you can also spend too much time and money, if you’re not careful. Make sure you use events for a specific purpose and have an aim before you book your flight and hotel. Always remember that if you’re building a business, your clients will not likely be at these events, so make sure you’re still using your efforts to bring in clients.

(9) Reach out to Employers

I cannot emphasize the importance of this enough—especially in combination with priming your online profile. Your stellar opportunity will usually not walk up to you and tap you on the shoulder. You have to go find it. You should be reaching out to potential employers all the time about opportunities they have available. Let them see that you are looking and that you are interested and want to stay in touch. Don’t be shy. The worst they can say is no.

(10) Hustle. Hustle. Hustle

Never stop investing in yourself. If you don’t invest in yourself, you can’t expect anyone else to invest in you. Doing the little things—like getting up an hour earlier five or six days per week to read, study, or expand your network—will help you get ahead

Dominique Henderson, CFP®, has spent over two decades in financial services building a diverse skill set in strategy, data analysis, investment research, portfolio management, financial planning, and business coaching. He is the founder of DJH Capital Management LLC and The Jumpstart Coaching Lab. He holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from Prairie View A&M University and a master’s in securities analysis and portfolio management from Creighton University.

This article was originally published in the February 2021 issue of the FPA Next Generation Planner. If you are interested
in writing for the FPA Next Generation Planner, which is designed to provide relevant and helpful information to professionals in the first 10 years of the profession, email Ana Trujillo Limón.

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