I recently emailed my fellow authors of this blog, Bryan and Luke, three questions pertaining to college, interviewing, and working as a financial planner. After getting back responses, they asked what my opinions were on the questions. Below are the questions and each of our responses verbatim. I know it was beneficial for the three of us to reflect on our experiences, and I hope it is helpful to others as well.
1) If you could experience college again starting with your freshman year, what would you do differently as it relates to your career and professional development?
Bryan: Not focus on social aspects, teach myself to read sooner than I did, find multiple mentors
Luke: If I could experience college again starting with my freshman year I would would spend a great deal more on self-education. It has not been until recently that I have begun to treat education as an ongoing process - one that does not start and end at specific periods of time (the common work-day, a college course). I would treat college and the courses I took as almost supplemental to my overall common goal(s).
Joe: I would take two specific actions. One, look to outside resources for information. A majority of my learning came from the text or the professor. I would reach out to professionals, read blogs, etc to gain a more complete understanding of a subject area as opposed to a solely academic understanding. Two, develop better relationships with my professors. While I did meet with some professors outside of the classroom, I would meet more one on one and seek out their advice more often.
2) What is your number one piece of advice for the interview process?
Bryan: There are a set number of questions that I can almost guarantee will be asked: “tell me about yourself?” “why do you think this is a good fit for you?” Learn to answer these questions in your sleep. I call it “the pitch.” After you’ve made your pitch, you can focus on listening to the interviewee’s reactions and trying to see if there is a connection, similar to dating.
Luke: My number one piece of advice for the interview process is to make it absolutely clear what you are looking for, as long as you know what that is. The genuine explanation of what you want to dedicate the next stage of your life to will go an incredibly long way if it aligns with your future-employers views. In my opinion, having the "I'll settle for anything" attitude is a waste of time from both parties perspective.
Joe: Prepare for non-financial questions. Admittedly, in my very first interview the question “tell me about yourself” caught me a bit off guard. I was prepared to talk about my investment philosophy, the type of business model I was looking for, the role and development track of the firm, etc, but I did not consider basics until after my first experience. In my limited interviewing experience I came to learn that employers are more concerned about finding out if they want to work with you as a person compared to your technical skills. In summary, based off what I faced my number one piece of advice for the interview process is to be prepared to talk about yourself in a more conversational manner, and less the formal “where do you see yourself in five years” type questions.
3) What is the most significant thing you have learned, general speaking, since starting your current job?
Bryan: All the branding and technical skills in the world can not make a client like you or trust you. It doesn’t matter your firm name or your job title. Yes, clients now have teams to work on their cases; but they signed up initially because they liked and trusted the individual advisor whom they first met. When referrals happen, they aren’t normally referring the business entity; they are referring the individual they trust and like as a person.
Luke: The most significant thing I have learned since starting my current job is the importance of communication and empathy. So much emphasis is placed on the academic side of the business and not enough at figuring out how to resonate with people and build lasting relationship. I have found participating with seasoned individuals in the field to be the best way to accelerate the learning process.
Joe: Peace of mind is what clients want most. Whether they have $100,000 or $100,000,000, they are looking for an advisor that they can trust and enjoy working with. A close second would be that it is your own responsibility to take the initiative. While a good mentor will be helpful and keep you in mind, sometimes you have to find opportunities to add value to the firm yourself.
When I emailed these questions to Bryan and Luke, I was not planning on sharing them, and I would guess they didn’t factor that in when writing their responses. We did this exercise for our own reflective purposes; however, hopefully these unedited thoughts are even more insightful because of their spontaneity. While many of our posts take days to develop, this one is a bit less dressed up, and for that reason I would imagine it is extremely candid - something we strive for when writing this blog. Additionally, Bryan, Luke, and I have all taken different paths to a similar point so hopefully that makes this question-and-answer post that much more beneficial for others.