Women tend to be naturally suited to financial advisor careers, recruiter Mindy Diamond told an audience at the Women Advisors Forum in Boston today. But the same things that make them great advisors also tend to hinder them in terms of their own career growth, she cautioned: “Women tend to be so dedicated to clients and working in the business that they forget to work on the business.”

Kicking off a day of panels aimed at female financial advisors, Diamond told the audience five key mistakes to avoid -- and offered some better strategic alternatives.

1. Failing to Consider Options Earlier

Women should start considering options long before they actually need to, Diamond cautioned. They should understand the state of the industry and the options available for their practice.

Specifically, she suggested that women:

  • Educate themselves, every three to five years, about possible options.
  • Network with recruiters and colleagues at different firms.
  • Make sure they are in control of their own destinies.

2. Making a Move Without Clear Goals and Strategy

If you’re chafing at the limitations of a wirehouse job, independence may sound great, Diamond said – but “being a great financial advisor does not equate to being a great business owner.”

Understand the various business models available to you, she said. And be strategic and proactive: Know what you actually want to accomplish, set clear goals and only then develop a game plan.

3. Failing to Expect More

“Women put up with a lot of [stuff] in service of being loyal,” Diamond said. Part of the problem is competing personal priorities: An advisor who is focused on outside issues may not be demanding the most from her firm, Diamond added.

Don’t settle for mediocrity, she told the audience of advisors. But at the same time, be realistic: Don’t put off a career decision until you have found the perfect firm. Instead, identify the must-haves on your strategic list -- whether they’re about technology, a fee-based model or a fabulous office -- and then focus on getting those. “As long as you’re strategic, you’re more likely to meet your goals,” she said.

4. Failing to Think About Succession Planning

This is an issue for all advisors, Diamond said, but a bigger challenge for women than men. Advisors need to make succession planning a priority, regardless of age. She told advisors to:

  • Value yourself and your business, and protect the equity in your business.
  • If the appropriate successor doesn’t exist, expand the talent pool or investigate other options.

5. Being Too Trusting

Diamond told one story about a former broker who had joined an independent firm shortly before 2008 -- without asking hard questions about revenue sources, business stability, etc. When the market fell apart, she said, all the firm’s promises went out the window.

Women considering a jump to a new firm should trust their instincts, Diamond said -- but they also need to demand to see financial statements, understand where the firm’s revenue comes from, and understand just how the firm will be able to support an advisor’s own goals.