Sometimes, when it comes to your own career path, the traditional route is not the optimal one.
I had a lot of experience but not much formal education when I joined my current firm, Simply Money, in 2005, as assistant to the CEO.
Now, I am a CFP professional and the director of advisory services for the firm. I’m also past president and chairwoman of the Southwestern Ohio chapter of the FPA. How did I get here? By learning my way up the ladder.
I became intrigued with financial planning while working at my first job out of high school, as a bank teller. I took notice of one particular man who came into the branch twice a week and talked to people. When I finally spoke to him, he told me he did more than sell investments.
“I help people plan their future,” he said. I instantly knew I wanted to do the same.
Planning always appealed to me, possibly because my mother was divorced and remarried and we didn’t come from money. My parents worked two jobs apiece, and no one helped them figure out their finances. My sister and I were latchkey kids.
I knew I wanted to help people who were like my family, average people, perhaps parents who didn’t necessarily have a lot of money but who still needed to plan for their family’s future.
THE OBSTACLE COURSE
Even though I loved planning, I did not initially have great experiences while attempting to pursue this path. I wanted to become an advisor, but the people I worked for at the time weren’t interested in giving me that opportunity. Perhaps they thought that, because I was young and married, I would soon leave work to stay at home and raise kids. But that wasn’t what I wanted; I wanted the opportunity to help people.
Taking the first step in getting the chance to work with clients was a bit of a struggle. It took two years to reach that point at Simply Money, and I was raring to go after only six months. Another advisor kept telling me to slow down. In retrospect, he may have had a point. I was green, but I was also passionate.
After many milestones reached — including earning my CFP designation and a bachelor’s degree — I have now officially joined my firm’s leadership team. I’ve come a long way, but there’s still so much more that I want to do. I’m not a partner yet, but I know now that anything is possible when it comes to my career.
I’m lucky that I have an amazing team around me and, more important, that they also want to go above and beyond for clients. Like me, they have a thirst to learn and grow — which is an important component to the culture at any firm.
For example, an administrative assistant on our team wants to become an advisor. As you can imagine, I’m all for it. She’s not eligible for a CFP because she doesn’t have a four-year degree. But she is eligible for a ChFC. I plan to be her mentor as I help her pursue this career path.
Do I have advice? One huge point is to be open to possibilities and recognize the opportunity to create your own path. You may think that a certain job is not what you want — but it’s vital to be open to the idea that there could be more to it than you see on the surface.
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