Setting goals is an important part of any client's financial plan, but the benefits aren't unique to clients. They’re equally relevant for an advisor's own career development plan. If you are an Associate Planner with your sights set on a Lead Advisor role, here are ideas to help set and achieve your goals:
1. Take on managing the internship program for your firm. Depending on your own career development, you might not be far removed from the student/intern stage, so this task can be a natural fit. This will free up others’ time and hone your leadership and communication skills.
2. Choose one technical skill you want to sharpen. This might be dictated by the clients your firm serves and the services offered. For example, if your firm deals with younger clients, study up on student loans, college planning, and disability insurance.
If your firm works mostly with retirees, learn more about estate planning, long-term care insurance, Medicare and retirement distribution planning. There are hundreds of resources to gain additional knowledge, and a long list of post-CFP designations to pursue. Once you decide, check with your professional membership organizations for discounts before utilizing any outside vendors.
3. Free up time from the Senior Planner you work with. This could be achieved by simply moving from second chair on an established or new client, to the first chair. Work with your Senior Planner to determine one or more clients who can be comfortably and fully transitioned to you.
4. Perform trials of several different financial planning software programs to ensure what your firm uses is still best in class. With the speed new technology is entering the financial planning profession, you should be doing this each year without being prompted.
5. Develop new prospective client relationships. Consider attending conferences such as Leanstartup, Hustlecon and others that are geared towards younger entrepreneurs.
6. Run for a leadership post with FPA NexGen and/or NAPFA Genesis. These groups are great for networking and building relationships with the up and comers of the profession, and you can learn a lot along the way. Attend leadership training and learn to manage, mentor and delegate. If you can learn to be a leader with volunteers, you should not have as many difficulties with paid team members.
7. Start or join a study group. Leverage the contacts you make in the NexGen and Genesis groups to find a group of peers that you can go to for advice, will hold you accountable, and push you beyond your comfort zone. If you surround yourself with the right people, you’ll advance your career more quickly.
8. Take a communication course that will strengthen your listening, probing and overall client guiding strategy skills. The Money Quotient three-day training is a good place to start. Others include the Kinder Institute of Life Planning and Sudden Money Institute.
9. Seek out a client and/or co-worker you don't know well and work to begin building a relationship with them. It is easy to get caught up in your own work projects, but consider reaching out beyond your comfort zone.
Start with an interesting client who you would like to get to know better or with whom you have some shared interests. Co-worker wise, making a concerted effort to get to know the newer members goes a long way to building a cohesive team and creates loyalty.
10. Volunteer to serve on the board of directors or become a committee member for a local nonprofit. This is an avenue to give back to your community and model a behavior of service and volunteerism that others in the firm will respect. Trying to gain clients should not be your primary motivator for pursuing these activities, but it doesn't hurt that you are spreading the word about your firm with other influential people in the community.
If you want to continue advancing within your firm, or start your own firm someday, you need to enhance your skills across the four key domains of client relationship management, technical expertise, business development abilities, management and leadership. Setting some concrete goals each year, as outlined above, will help ensure your career is moving you closer to where you want to go.
Make sure the goals you set are reasonable and develop them in conjunction with your manager, assuming they know what they are doing, so they can balance your needs with the needs of the firm.