By Christopher Stroup
Tony Gaskins’ quote, “The doors will be opened to those who are bold enough to knock” is the bedrock to the career vision I have crafted. As a career-changer, the financial planning profession was not my original home.
That was working the oil fields of California’s San Joaquin Valley as a petroleum engineer. Taking a leave of absence from engineering to study for my MBA, I ultimately pivoted professionally into wealth management. One of the first questions I pondered as I charted this new course was, “How do I make the most of this fresh start in my career?”
Feeling at home when developing plans, my answer meant establishing a personal career vision, now known as Christopher’s Career Construct. As a new financial planner seeking momentum, this Career Construct serves as my guide to the destination I hope to arrive at professionally in the next decade.
This Career Construct consists of five main sections, beginning with one of the most critical questions an advisor should ponder.
Who Do You Serve?
As a planner, have you taken a moment to ponder the question, “Who do you serve?” If not, please do. A few probing questions that helped guide me were: What lights my fire? Working with which type of clients would excite me? Is there a type of client that does not bring me joy?
When identifying who you serve, specificity is your friend. For example, I am excited at the thought of working with LGBTQ+ venture-backed startup founders. Be as specific as possible in pinpointing whom you wish to serve because a psychographic profile of this client should be built that includes values, goals and money pain points.
From here, you can begin to develop recommendations to address their needs. By taking the time to answer, “Who do you serve?”, you establish the North Star for your Career Construct.
Building The Competencies
Although it is important to know what you know as a planner, it is equally important to know what you do not know in order to best serve your clients. This is where the ‘building the competencies’ and ‘constructing the team’ sections of your Career Construct factor in.
For this section, I identified the credentials, industry groups and core competencies that would help me meet the needs of my client. For example, I found a Venture Capital University Certificate sponsored by Cal Berkeley’s Law School and the National Venture Capital Association.
This program allowed me to understand the world of a venture-backed startup founder, including incorporation, founder’s equity, term sheets and raising capital. Maintaining a focus on the long term is key when developing this knowledge because certain credentials can take years to complete while also having minimum experience standards.
Constructing The Team
It is critical to understand that not one person can be everything for a client. It takes a small village to serve the needs of your clients, especially if your client brings complexity to the table. I have subdivided my team into primary and secondary advisers who would be key in helping serve the client holistically.
These primary and secondary advisers could be quite different depending on the client you hope to work with. Nonetheless, this professional Rolodex of external advisers that bring specialized knowledge can be a key differentiator for an up-and-coming financial planner.
Marketing And Outreach
It is here where you can begin to demonstrate your value. The marketing and outreach methodology I like to use has four factors: follow, engage, publish and speak. The “impact density” varies for each action. Follow is least impactful, engage has slightly greater impact, while publish and speak carry the highest impact weights.
With this framework in mind, I turn to developing my professional footprint consisting of the avenues that will allow me to establish meaningful relationships with my ideal client. For example, my footprint includes six outlets: LinkedIn, Medium, Twitter, a personal website, affiliations and conferences.
Keep in mind, your marketing and outreach strategy should meet your clients where they are. It is only there where they can begin to see your value as a financial planner.
Specialty Wealth Planning
Building on prior sections, it is in the ‘specialty wealth planning’ section where I began to develop solutions to the client’s planning needs. At Abacus, we view holistic planning as the ‘shape of planning,’ which covers goals, money, safety, taxes, death and impact.
With this framework as my guide, I walked through each domain to outline how I could address their planning needs. By the end, I had a solid blueprint specifying how I could begin working with these clients. More importantly, it gives me concrete talking points in front of this client, which is a confidence builder.
A Parting Word
If I could leave you with a closing nugget, it is this: share your Career Construct with as many people who will listen! Whether it is a teammate, your firm’s CEO, a mentor, or your mom, informing your network about the vision you have set for your career is critically important, and not to be overlooked.
The shockwaves of sharing your Career Construct will be far reaching. Before you know it, the doors may begin to open for having been bold enough to knock.
Christopher Stroup, MBA, CFP® is an LGBTQ+ financial advisor working for Abacus Wealth Partners in Santa Monica, CA. He focuses his work on LGBTQ+ members of senior leadership across emerging and Fortune 500 companies.
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