Chart­ing Your Ca­reer Course

Here are a set of di­rec­tions to fol­low to keep your pro­fes­sional goals on the right track, Kelli Cruz says.

Financial Planning - - CONTENT - By Kelli Cruz

Here are a set of di­rec­tions to fol­low to keep your pro­fes­sional goals on the right track.

IN 2016, A 28-YEAR-OLD NEW JERSEY tourist was trav­el­ing in Ice­land and mis­spelled the ad­dress of his ho­tel in his GPS. He drove nearly six hours be­fore re­al­iz­ing some­thing was wrong. Many peo­ple were fas­ci­nated with this story and it quickly be­came an in­ter­net sen­sa­tion.

How could some­one drive around for so long with­out re­al­iz­ing the er­ror? As hard as it is to imag­ine, we’ve all heard sto­ries about peo­ple get­ting lost fol­low­ing di­rec­tions.

Your plan­ning ca­reer can fol­low the same mis­guided path if you aren’t in­ten­tional about how you pur­sue the course. We all fol­low a GPS sys­tem of sorts through­out our ca­reer — a set of di­rec­tions that take us from point A to point B. Like the driver in Ice­land, it’s easy to get lost. To pre­vent wrong turns in your ca­reer, I have care­fully pre­pared the fol­low­ing di­rec­tions to help you nav­i­gate your path.


Take some time to think about what you want out of your ca­reer, and then be clear about these goals with your man­ager. Use your goals as a guide­post for en­gag­ing your man­ager and oth­ers about where you are headed and how they can help.

Three typ­i­cal tra­jec­to­ries that de­fine ca­reer paths at an ad­vi­sory firm are: the ad­vi­sory track; the op­er­a­tions or ad­min­is­tra­tive track; and, for firms that have an in-house in­vest­ment func­tion, there can be an in­vest­ment track. Of course, not ev­ery ad­vi­sory firm is struc­tured the same way, so there can be some vari­a­tions across firms.

The ad­vi­sory track con­sists of the sup­port, ser­vice and lead ad­vi­sor roles that lead ul­ti­mately to the part­ner level. The op­er­a­tions/ad­min­is­tra­tion tracks in­clude ad­min­is­tra­tive as­sis­tant, client ser­vice ad­min­is­tra­tor, op­er­a­tions man­ager, chief op­er­a­tions of­fi­cer/chief com­pli­ance of­fi­cer also lead­ing to the part­ner role.

Our ca­reer goals should not only be de­fined by the dif­fer­ent po­si­tions you pur­sue along the way, but also by a plan for progress, de­vel­op­ment, ed­u­ca­tion and growth. Make sure you have the ex­per­tise and knowl­edge to han­dle the chal­leng­ing fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tions and ques­tions that you will en­counter over your ca­reer.

Some cre­den­tials to con­sider in­clude: cer­ti­fied fi­nan­cial plan­ner; char­tered fi­nan­cial an­a­lyst or cer­ti­fied in­vest­ment man­age­ment an­a­lyst; re­tire­ment man­age­ment an­a­lyst, es­tab­lished by the Re­tire­ment In­come In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion; re­tire­ment in­come cer­ti­fied pro­fes­sional, of­fered through the Amer­i­can Col­lege; and cer­ti­fied re­tire­ment coun­selor, es­tab­lished by the In­ter­na­tional Foun­da­tion for Re­tire­ment Ed­u­ca­tion.

Take some time to think about what you want out of your ca­reer, and then be clear about these goals with your man­ager.


As you think about your ca­reer, take a step back to as­sess your strengths and weak-

nesses. The fol­low­ing core com­pe­ten­cies are needed to be a strong ad­vi­sor:

Or­ga­ni­za­tion: plans, pri­or­i­tizes, sched­ules and bud­gets in an ef­fi­cient man­ner.

An­a­lyt­i­cal skills: struc­tures and pro­cesses qual­i­ta­tive and quan­ti­ta­tive data to draw in­sight­ful con­clu­sions.

In­tel­li­gence: learns quickly and demon­strates an abil­ity to un­der­stand and ab­sorb new in­for­ma­tion.

At­ten­tion to de­tail: does not let im­por­tant de­tails slip through the cracks.

Per­sis­tence: demon­strates a will­ing­ness to go the dis­tance to get some­thing done.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion: speaks and writes clearly with­out be­ing overly ver­bose.

Lis­ten­ing skills: lets oth­ers speak and seek to un­der­stand their view­points.

Flex­i­bil­ity and adapt­abil­ity: ad­justs quickly to chang­ing pri­or­i­ties.

If you aren’t clear where your strengths and weak­nesses lie, I rec­om­mend us­ing an on­line as­sess­ment tool such as the Strength­find­ers from Gallup and the Clifton­strengths as­sess­ment. Ad­di­tion­ally, you may want to ask some trusted sources what you are good at (and not so good at). This is the eas­i­est and, of­ten times, the most dif­fi­cult as­sess­ment to uti­lize.

It’s never easy to hear of our weak­nesses from those we trust. How­ever, we’re much more likely to take ad­vice from those we ad­mire and put it into prac­tice. Re­mem­ber to con­cen­trate on what you’re best at. Don’t spend an in­or­di­nate amount of time try­ing to turn your weak­nesses into your strengths.

Fi­nally, once you have some ad­di­tional in­sight into your strengths and weak­nesses, be sure to prac­tice self-aware­ness. Be clear about your values and live them, and be aware of your im­pact on oth­ers and learn how to man­age your emo­tions and thoughts. The lat­ter can be the great­est con­tri­bu­tion or down­fall to your ca­reer suc­cess.


Try to dis­cuss your ac­com­plish­ments in more quan­ti­ta­tive terms than qual­i­ta­tive. In­cor­po­rat­ing more quan­ti­ta­tive speak into your ver­nac­u­lar will quickly de­fine your suc­cesses for oth­ers with­out a lot of hy­per­bole. Think about it as if you’re sell­ing an as­set to a client. They want to hear the nuts and bolts. What num­bers, ex­am­ples, achieve­ments and re­sults did you pro­duce this year?


Read, read and read some more. In­clude in­dus­try pub­li­ca­tions, web­sites and blogs. Share the ar­ti­cles you like and make com­ments to spark a con­ver­sa­tion. This can ap­ply to so­cial me­dia, as well as in-per­son for­mats such as in­dus­try meet­ings.

Po­si­tion your­self as an ex­pert in the in­dus­try or on a spe­cific topic, and you will be­come a valu­able re­source within your firm and pro­fes­sional com­mu­nity.

Once you have some ad­di­tional in­sight into your strengths and weak­nesses, be sure to prac­tice self­aware­ness.


When a new project comes up and it aligns with your goals, raise your hand and vol­un­teer to han­dle it. Let your man­ager know that you want to learn some new skills or gain a deeper ex­pe­ri­ence on a knowl­edge­able topic. Be clear on what you can of­fer to the project and get in­volved.


Hire a coach, or find an ex­pe­ri­enced per­son to give you coun­sel, prefer­ably some­one who is out­side your firm. This can be the same per­son whom you asked about your strengths and weak­nesses — a trusted men­tor to guide you to the wis­est de­ci­sions.

Ad­mit­tedly, all of these rec­om­men­da­tions will take ex­tra time and ef­fort be­yond your nor­mal job, but this is what is re­quired to take own­er­ship of your ca­reer.

Start with a few hours a month read­ing and re­search­ing the in­dus­try and connecting with new peo­ple. Spend time build­ing and main­tain­ing your work files, doc­u­ment­ing key ac­com­plish­ments and main­tain­ing and build­ing your so­cial me­dia pro­files.

Man­ag­ing your ca­reer re­quires qual­ity net­work­ing, know­ing your unique value propo­si­tion and be­ing in­flu­en­tial. If you are able to in­cor­po­rate some or all of the di­rec­tions I pro­vide, you will most likely find your ca­reer GPS on point.

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