Financial planning is a great place to start a career, but it can be hard for students and grads to find their place. (Illustration: Richard Mia Collection/Theispot.com)

Spring is almost upon us, and though there are plenty of important tax issues for us to be thinking about, I would much rather talk about another major part of the season for us at my firm — recruiting! There are more and more financial planning degree programs turning out bright, capable students with a passion for financial planning; it’s our goal to attract the best talent not just for full-time hires, but also for our long-standing internship program. I have been on both sides of this process, so I hope to offer a few insights that will help students and graduates find the right opportunities.

Students

Start thinking about how to differentiate yourself from your peers now. It’s not enough to go to school and get decent grades. We look for well-rounded individuals with a breadth of life and work experiences. Find opportunities to develop leadership and interpersonal skills. Get involved as a leader in campus organizations, attend networking events, go to industry conferences and highlight meaningful work experiences. When you consider internship opportunities, evaluate what your primary job responsibilities will be.

Are you being given the opportunity in your internship to experience life as an associate advisor? We call our interns “summer associates” because the primary objective of the internship program is to afford individuals the opportunity to step into the shoes of our associate advisors: preparing for client meetings, sitting in those meetings, helping implement recommendations and completing follow-up activities.

Our summer associates also have some financial planning or investment-related projects to complete during the summer, but we make it clear from the start that those projects are secondary and should be worked on during down time. We also include our summer associates in committee meetings and hope to give them a window into the business of financial planning, too.

Graduates

A degree in financial planning opens a very wide door because there are so many different avenues you can pursue. My best advice is to leverage past experiences (i.e., internships) to begin narrowing your search. If you are passionate about financial planning, consider firms that emphasize planning over money management. Do you want to start building confidence by doing work in the background or is it important to you to meet clients right away? Take time to do some self-reflection so that you have a clear vision of where you want to be, and then narrow your search to opportunities that can deliver. (And be prepared for recruiters to evaluate whether you are a match for them on these topics, as well.)

I received career advice from a mentor many years ago that I carry with me today. When evaluating opportunities, consider the potential for development professionally, personally and financially. You have to determine what these mean for you, but I will share how I have applied it in my career.

  • Professional development allows me to grow within my chosen career field. I want to learn from mentors and peers in my profession and beyond; I need a firm with an open-door policy where intellectual curiosity is valued. I need to understand how to master my role and how to advance from one level to the next.

  • Personal development provides me with room to grow outside the office. I play many roles in my family and in my community. A firm that appreciates well-rounded individuals needs to allow me to find the best way to integrate work and other priorities. I give 110% (or more), and I need a firm where managers support and successfully model work-life balance.

  • Financial development provides recognition of a job well done. I need to know that my firm’s compensation structure will provide incentives for me and all team members to reach beyond baseline expectations and do great things for our clients and our business.

The financial planning profession is an amazing one in which to start a career. As recruiting season gets underway, be intentional about exploring where your best fit will be, and do not be afraid to articulate your passions and desires in each conversation you have. I have never met a more open and honest group of professionals who truly want to help one another succeed.

— Check out “Next-Gen Panelists Talk About How They Became Advisors” on ThinkAdvisor.