Last year, a 28-year-old New Jersey tourist was traveling in Iceland and accidentally misspelled the address of his hotel into his GPS. He drove nearly six hours before realizing something was wrong. People became fascinated with this story, and it quickly became headline news. How could someone drive around for over six hours without realizing the mistake? As hard as it is to imagine, we have all heard stories about people getting lost following GPS directions.

Your career can follow the same misguided path if you aren’t intentional about how you pursue the course. We all follow a GPS system of sorts throughout our career — a set of directions that take us from point A to point B. Like the driver in Iceland, it's easy to get lost. In order to prevent wrong turns in your career, I have provided the following directions to help you navigate your path.

SET CLEAR CAREER GOALS AND COMMUNICATE
Take some time to think about what you want out of your career, and then be clear about these goals with your manager. Use your goals as a guidepost for engaging your manager and others about where you are headed and how they can help.

Three typical trajectories that define career paths at an advisory firm include: the advisory track; the operations or administrative track; and, for firms that have an in-house investment function, there can be a third investment track. Of course, not every advisory firm is structured the same way, so there can be some variations across firms. The advisory track consists of the support, service and lead advisor roles that lead ultimately to the partner level. The operations/administration tracks includes administrative assistant, client service administrator, operations manager, chief operations officer/chief compliance officer also leading to the partner role.

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Once you have some additional insight into your strengths and weaknesses, be sure to practice self-awareness.

our career goals should not only be defined by the different positions you pursue along the way, but also by a plan for progress, development, education and growth. Make sure you have the expertise and knowledge to handle the challenging financial situations and questions that you will encounter over your career. Some credentials to consider include: Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) or the Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIM), Retirement Management Analyst (RMA) established by the Retirement Income Industry Association, Retirement Income Certified Professional (RICP) offered through the American College, and the Certified Retirement Counselor (CRC) established by the International Foundation for Retirement Education.

DETERMINE YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
As you think about your career, take a step back to assess your strengths and weaknesses. The following core competencies are needed to be a strong advisor:
· Organization: plans, prioritizes, schedules and budgets in an efficient and productive manner.

· Analytical skills: structures and processes qualitative and quantitative data to draw insightful conclusions.

· Intelligence: learns quickly and demonstrates an ability to understand and absorb new information.

· Attention to detail: does not let important details slip through the cracks or derail a project.

· Persistence: demonstrates tenacity and willingness to go the distance to get something done.

· Communication: speaks and writes clearly without being overly verbose.

· Listening skills: lets others speak and seeks to understand their viewpoints.

· Flexibility and adaptability: adjusts quickly to changing priorities and conditions.

If you aren’t clear where your strengths and weaknesses lie, I recommend using an online assessment tool such as the StrengthFinders from Gallup and the CliftonStrengths assessment. Additionally, you may want to ask some trusted sources what you are good at (and not so good at). This is the easiest, and often times, the most difficult assessment to utilize. It's never easy to hear of our weaknesses from those we trust. However, we’re much more likely to take advice from those we admire and put it into practice. Remember to concentrate on what you’re best at, and what you have a passion for. Don’t spend an inordinate amount of time trying to turn your weaknesses into your strengths.

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Take some time to think about what you want out of your career, and then be clear about these goals with your manager.

Finally, once you have some additional insight into your strengths and weaknesses, be sure to practice self-awareness. Be clear about your values and live them, continually being mindful of your inner state, being aware of your impact on others and learning how to manage your emotions and thoughts. The latter can be the greatest contribution or downfall to your career success.

THINK ABOUT YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS DIFFERENTLY
Try to discuss your accomplishments in more quantitative terms than qualitative. Incorporating more quantitative speak into your vernacular will quickly define your successes for others without a lot of hyperbole. Think about it as if you're selling an asset to a client. They want to hear the nuts and bolts, and not much fluff. What numbers, examples, achievements and results did you produce this year?

GET INTO THE CONVERSATION
Read, read and read some more. Include industry publications, websites and blogs. Share the articles you like and make comments to your peers and colleagues to spark a conversation. This can apply to social media, as well as in-person formats such as industry meetings or just water-cooler talk.

Position yourself as an expert in the industry, or on a specific topic, and you will become a valuable resource within your firm and professional community.

RAISE YOUR HAND
When a new project comes up and it aligns with your goals, raise your hand and volunteer to handle it. Let your manager know that you want to learn some new skills or gain a deeper experience on a knowledgeable topic. Be clear on what you can offer to the project and get involved.

FIND A MENTOR
Hire a coach, or find an experienced person to give you counsel, preferably someone who is outside your firm. This will give you a trusted resource and a neutral ear where you can express your fears, hopes and dreams. This can be the same person for whom you asked about your strengths and weaknesses — a trusted mentor who can help guide you to the wisest decisions.

Admittedly, all of these recommendations will take extra time and effort beyond your normal job, but this is what is required to take ownership of your career. Start with a few hours a month reading and researching the industry and connecting with new people. Spend time building and maintaining your work files, documenting key accomplishments and maintaining and building your social media profiles.

Managing your career requires quality networking, earning a voice at the table, knowing your unique value proposition and being influential. If you are able to incorporate some or all of the directions I provide, you will most likely find your career GPS on point.

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Kelli Cruz

Kelli Cruz

Kelli Cruz is a Financial Planning columnist and the founder of Cruz Consulting Group in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter at @KelliCruzSF.