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In the July 2020 issue of the FPA Next Generation Planner, I talked about developing your personal brand. Much of that was in context of how you can stand out as a financial planner, whether you have your own firm or work as part of a team.
This month we will focus on how you can build a sustainable career.
Stand Out and Shine
In the financial services industry in general, as well as the financial planning profession, the ability and the desire to “work hard” is a table stake. This is a competitive field full of individuals equally committed to doing the best they possibly can for their clients. The good news is there are many things you can do to develop yourself so you can stand out and shine. And today, when so many are consumed with 24/7 access to information through various technological mediums, it is the more low-tech areas that can be tapped to help you on this journey.
Give Yourself Space to Breathe
It’s no secret that some of the most successful leaders find time to meditate on a daily basis. Allowing yourself time to think not only helps to ground you and quiet your mind, but it can also help you set your intentions for the day, the week and beyond, bringing clarity to your plans, your purpose, and your goals. Many apps can help you begin your practice. If meditation isn’t your thing, identify something else that’s restorative for you. It could be exercise, painting, hiking, cooking, or gardening. Sometimes it can be sitting still in nature, or wherever you can, to allow yourself to listen to what your mind is telling you. Whatever the activity, be intentional about it and set time aside to practice on a daily basis. Now breathe.
The beauty of our profession is that we see so many of the good and bad situations our clients face. I know personally the last few months have made me much more grateful and conscious of what I have. Think about what you are grateful for, and the people in your life who helped make it possible. Take a few minutes each day to think about and maybe write down your gratitude in a journal. If you’re feeling particularly grateful to someone, take it a step further and send them a handwritten note to let them know. Science is on your side with this one—according to research from the University of California, Davis, people who practice gratitude on a daily basis experience improved mood, energy, and substantially less anxiety as a result of lower cortisol levels. I think we can all be grateful for that!
Find a Mentor, Be a Mentor
I would not be where I am today if it were not for my mentors—and those whom I have been mentoring. Most of my mentors have been “unofficial”—which means I didn’t find them through a formal program. There is an element of connection for a mentoring relationship that can’t always be assigned. Mentors will help you see possibilities you don’t see yourself, they provide encouragement when you don’t believe in yourself, and they provide vision through their unique lens, especially those with more diverse backgrounds and perspectives, allowing you to better understand alternate journeys. They helped me network and introduced me to leaders who I may not have otherwise met. And because you may be newer in your career doesn’t mean that you can’t be a mentor. I expect those I am mentoring to do the same for me. Mentoring can provide more benefits than being mentored—not only is it fulfilling, it will provide insights into what today’s workforce experiences. So don’t be afraid to ask someone to mentor you—it may just be the best thing they’ve ever been asked to do.
Be a Sponge
Read that Wall Street Journal or other industry publications, follow “FinTwit” on social media, listen to that podcast, ask those burning questions that you’re afraid will make you look inexperienced. Asking questions does not equal inexperience, rather it demonstrates a genuine interest in the topic that is being discussed and your ability to think critically. The more curious you are, the more you will learn. The more you learn and absorb, the better you will be at holding meaningful conversations and creating memorable connections with prospective employers and leaders who can help further your career. And the better financial planner you will be to your clients.
Know Your Story
We are all unique in our own way. A big part of selling ourselves hinges on our ability to understand and articulate the qualities that will set us apart and ensure we leave an impression on those we’ve encountered.
Crafting your story not only helps you to communicate with others, it also allows you to reaffirm for yourself your strengths, purpose, and your goals. Your story can be a few sentences, but overall should describe how you help others, the value you add, and your “why,” or what gets you out of bed in the morning. The July AdvoKate column in the FPA Next Generation Planner can help you start. You may also want to take a self-assessment, such as Clifton StrengthsFinder or DISC. These types of assessments can help bring to light areas in which you naturally excel and can add value.
Plan Your Path, and Be Prepared to Veer From It
Take the job that interests you, that you know you are going to learn from, even if it’s not on the path to your BIG. GOAL. JOB. Because the BIG GOAL JOB will still be there—or may never exist. Long-term goals are important, but short-term detours can help you grow and introduce you to new people and skill sets you may never have acquired. At the very least, it can help you become more focused toward your goal—or help you change direction to a new path. Over the course of your career you will have jobs that don’t yet exist—don’t be so focused on today’s goal that you miss tomorrow’s opportunity.
Get Out There
Networking can be a huge boon for your career, but it can be tough. There are so many people, in person, on LinkedIn, on Twitter—everywhere—it can be difficult to know where to start. It’s important to have a networking roadmap that works for you, especially if you’re an introvert.
Here’s where that July AdvoKate column on developing your personal brand helps: go back and review the steps and you’ll have your elevator pitch. Having something to talk about can ease your anxiety. Remember to ask questions; networking is a two-way street. You want to build relationships that will help you throughout your career. And you can network anywhere—some of my best relationships happened because of plane delays or a boat with no wind in the sails!
While it may be a little tougher to network online, sharing interesting articles, events, or even memes can help you create relationships. Don’t miss out on the communities in your association like FPA NexGen or the FPA Connect, which are full of helpful colleagues.
Don’t think of networking as a “to-do,” think of it as discovery for all the information and people you don’t know…yet.
Your career starts with you and your belief in yourself. Once you build a strong base founded on self-worth, you can begin to navigate throughout your professional journey with a fearlessness and sense of self that no one can take away. Good luck!
Kate Healy is managing director of Generation Next at TD Ameritrade Institutional. Follow her on her blog, AdvoKate, where she examines the challenges facing the sustainability of the RIA profession and shares her insights on creating the future of financial planning and the diverse people and opportunities to ensure it.
This article appeared in the October 2020 issue of the FPA Next Generation Planner, for which Healy writes a regular column. Access the FPA Next Generation Planner via the FPA Publications app in the Apple App Store or Google Play.