Young Advisors: I Made Mistakes, So You Don’t Have To

Graduation season is finally here, which means the time has come for the young aspiring leaders of the next generation to translate all of their hard work into a career. For some of you, that career might be financial planning, portfolio management or back office operations. Whatever it is, be mindful that there is a huge adjustment period ahead of you that will require time and patience. And that will continue throughout your career, any time you try new things.

Take me, for example. After a decade in the industry, I started blogging. I’ve enjoyed adding a new skillset to my resume, but it hasn’t come without a few bumps along the way. If you’re looking for some advice on how to get through that first year of working in financial services, maybe you can learn from some of my blogging mistakes.

Play long ball

Blogging mistake: My first order of business when I started blogging was to take every good idea, funny story, catchphrase, bad experience and good experience and put all of that into my FIRST blog. As I ticked off ideas in one of our monthly content meetings, my peers looked at me with a smile as if to say, “You’ll learn.” And learn I did.

What I realized is that I can’t put all of my ideas into one blog, but instead I should break them up into multiple posts. You may like some more than others, but my goal is for you to take something away from each piece of content.

Career advice: If you’re the new associate with your practice or firm, resist the temptation to put all your great ideas on the table Day 1, because they may not come as easy on Day 10. Be confident, but pace yourself.

Read efficiently

It’s not uncommon during your first week (or even weeks) in your new position to read a ton of stuff. But what’s frustrating is that you don’t always know if what you’re reading will be important to your day-to-day responsibilities. There is nothing worse than reading instructions about a manual process, only to find out later that “we haven’t used that process in 2 years.” Not only do you feel like you wasted your time, but you will quickly realize you need to be sure you’re reading the right things going forward.

Blogging mistake: When I initially started researching what I wanted to write about, I was spending hours reading white papers, other blogs and book chapters – but I wasn’t really being efficient with my reading agenda. I took a step back and realized I needed to align my reading with my writing ideas. In short, plan what I’m going to write about, then allow the reading to support those ideas.

Career advice: You should align your reading with what you need to know and where you want to go. If you’re a new advisor, here are a few suggestions:

It’s not a competition

This one is hard for me, because I am ultra-competitive. I have brothers who continue to set high bars, a wife who challenges me to foot races (she ran track at Bradley University), and I work in a sales organization, so my competitive appetite is fed often.

Blogging mistake: There is so much content at our fingertips via websites, blogs and social media. Early on, I would measure the success (or failure) of one of my blogs by the number of “likes” or “shares” I received from my peers and the industry. While that acknowledgment is extremely important to building credibility, it’s certainly not a competition to see who can get the most likes- it’s about providing helpful, relevant information. If you’re a doctor, your goal isn’t to see more sick people than other doctors, your goal is to provide quality care to the sick people that you see!

Career advice: As a young financial planner, your goal early on isn’t to produce a large number of plans in Year 1; your goal is to understand the goals of your clients so that you can give the most efficient financial planning services possible. Keep your eyes on that prize and it will set you up nicely for the future.

The world is your oyster

In the past year, I can say I’ve picked up some valuable nuggets that have rounded out my skillset, but I’ve made some mistakes (which I’ve learned from) along the way. That will happen to you, too. You have the chance to bring in a fresh perspective and new ideas – take advantage of it.

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