By Ian Harvey
In the mid-nineties, the Harveys were perpetual road trippers. We would pack the bags in the trunk of our Jeep, slide the cooler on the floorboard in the back seat, and drive.
We would play games, sing songs, the car was loud most of the drive. Of course, this is before GPS was in our pockets; at that time we were printing directions from MapQuest before the drive, never truly sure where the road may take us, yet always optimistic.
Mom would say, “turn left and we’re on this road for (flips page), looks like 87.4 miles.” Dad would check the odometer and calculate the increase in mileage before the turn. About five miles from the turn we would hear, “alright everyone, keep your eyes peeled!” In the words of Sherlock Holmes, the game was on! All of us looked out the window to spot the turn.
Every once in a while, we would confidently merge to the next highway, listen for the mileage, and prepare for the next turn only to watch the mileage pass without the arrival of our expected next direction.
Dad would reach for the volume and suddenly there would be an eerie silence; we were lost. Mom would flip through the directions and together they would refocus the drive to get us back on track.
As I think about these trips, I am reminded of the journey that is my financial planning career and the everyday noise life brings. At the start of my senior year at Virginia Tech, I had already accepted an offer in the finance track of a well-known firm. I remember feeling excited when I received the offer, after all, for me the goal of college was to be employed post-graduation.
While back on campus for my senior year, Lauren Stansell and I had the opportunity to co-lead the creation of the FPA Student Chapter at Virginia Tech. Through this process I realized I did not want a traditional finance job; I wanted a career in financial planning. By then it was March, graduation was quickly approaching and career wise, I was lost. It was time to turn the volume down and focus.
From that point forward I have applied for dozens of financial planning positions, interviewed at many, been rejected, and received various offers; some which I turned down, four that I accepted. Having been through this process many times, I would like to share with you a framework to get started whether you are searching for your next or first opportunity.
Explore What You Want
The beginning of a job search comes with an exciting opportunity to reimagine your foreseeable future. Set aside time to sit alone with paper and a writing utensil, and consider the following questions:
• How much time do you have to make a decision?
• Where do you want to live and work?
• What are you searching for in a firm?
• How important to you is work-life balance?
• If you are successful, what will you learn along the way?
As you spend time with these questions (or any other relevant questions you may have for yourself), listen to what comes up and write down the attributes you hope to find in your next career decision. Knowing the answer to such questions allows you to analyze career opportunities with clarity and promotes decisive, confident action.
Make A List
Once you have clarity regarding what you are looking for, begin researching to find firms in your desired geographic area(s). If you are comfortable working remote, also keep an eye out for those opportunities where location is not a factor.
Start with the available databases: FPA Planner Search, NAPFA’s “Find an Advisor” platform, LinkedIn, etc. filtered on the specific locations in which you are interested. Then move to your preferred search engine and continue looking for financial planners, financial advisors, and wealth management firms in your preferred location or who offer remote opportunities.
Once you have done a bit of research, you may consider reaching out to trusted colleagues to let them know you are beginning your career search and are interested in any helpful insight they can provide.
As you find firms that seem to align with what you discovered in the exploratory phase, make a list, review their websites, and take note of specific characteristics (i.e. business model, leadership demographics, intra-firm experience, firm size, etc.). In addition, record contact information for individuals in the firm or general inbox email addresses.
Search For An Opening
Once you have compiled your list, it is time to search for an opening. I typically start with firm websites (career pages) and profession-based job boards such as:
• FPA Job Board
• NAPFA Career Opportunities
• CFP Board Career Center
• New Planner Recruiting
• ECG Resources
• Simply Paraplanner
The opportunities on these pages are likely going to be financial planning focused and present the most relevant results.
I then search LinkedIn, Google, and websites such as Indeed to find as many potential opportunities as is possible. It is important to note that these types of searches take a bit more work. For example, if you search for “Financial Planning,” you may find the results include pages of opportunities under the heading “Financial Planning & Analysis,” which is likely outside the parameters of which you are interested.
When you find an opportunity that interests you, apply! Be sure that you have updated your resume and take the time to answer any questions they may ask prospective candidates to respond to as part of the initial application. Once you have submitted your application, allow the firm a couple of days to respond.
Keep in mind that many firms are quite busy (especially now). If you do not hear back within a week, respectfully follow up with an email or call to ensure they received your application.
If opportunities seem scarce or you are simply interested to meet more firms, you might consider informational interviews. Go back to your list and reach out to firms which you would like to learn more about and ask if they are open to speaking with you.
While they may not have an opportunity at the moment, the goal of an informational interview is to network with professional peers, learn more about their firm, and explore how they serve their clients. Your expectations for these discussions should be to remain curious, ask questions, and learn as much as you can.
Through the course of the conversation, you may find an opportunity to ask whether they know of any firms in the area who are hiring at the moment though, the main goal is to network.
Once you have a meeting scheduled, research as much as you can ahead of the conversation. Whether for a specific role or purely informational, preparation is key to a successful meeting. The following list will help you get started:
• The firm’s website
• The firm ADV (which can be found at https://adviserinfo.sec.gov/)
o A goldmine for great questions for you to ask
• LinkedIn profiles of those you expect to meet
• Any writing they have done or interviews they have participated in
o Blog posts, articles, features, etc.
Through this process, you will learn more about the firm structure, how they intend to serve their clients, as well as information about those who are interviewing you. This information allows you to instantly connect with the interviewer and demonstrate your commitment to a worthwhile conversation.
After your meeting, be sure to send a “thank you” note authentic to you (i.e. a hand-written note or simply an email to the individuals you met) thanking them for their time.
My hope is that the steps outlined here act as a starting point and provide you with one potential framework to strategize your search.
Regardless of how you approach your search, be patient with yourself and the process; unfortunately, there is no secret sauce to finding your next opportunity. In time, you will find the best next step that is aligned with who you are and what you need from your next career move. Good luck!
Originally from the Jersey Shore, Ian lives in Manhattan. A graduate of the Financial Planning program at Virginia Tech, he earned his CFP® in 2014 and has always operated as a fiduciary advisor for clients. He co-founded the Financial Planning Association’s (FPA) Student Chapter at Virginia Tech, which grew to be the largest student organization in the country in its first year.
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