My first year in financial planning


June 21, 2018

When I started looking for a job in the financial planning industry, my first thought was, “What on earth have I done?”

I felt uncomfortable with the idea of commissions, a concept we were never introduced to at university. I also felt uncomfortable with selling products. Before starting as a paraplanner at Horvat’s [Horvat Financial Advisors] I had lasted about two months in a job until pushing product became intolerable.

Another thing I felt largely uncomfortable with was the amount of sleazy men I’d come across in the interview phase alone.

Suffice to say, my initial perception of the financial planning industry fresh out of university was not exactly a positive one.

I am new to this industry, so by no means do I want to hop on a moral high horse and condemn those who are comfortable with commission payments and product sales. However, I think the Royal Commission [into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry] hearings speak volumes about the aforementioned concerns.

It was only after meeting like-minded people that I saw a glimmer of hope, and felt there was possibly a future for me in the industry that didn’t necessitate compromising my values.

Into the real world

There are two key things I feel graduates in any profession learn upon entering their chosen industry. You don’t know as much as you thought you did and you have absolutely no idea what the industry entails – only the university version of the industry.

Not only is the realisation you don’t know as much as you thought you did confronting, it can suck the pride right out of you.

Being top of the class doesn’t mean you’ll walk into your first position and blow everyone out of the water. It takes time coming to terms with the fact the transition phase may not be as flawless as you once hoped.

That confident, knowledgeable professional you had images of ingrained in your mind is still years off, and your so precisely thought out 10-year plan might seem all but ruined. These things can begin to eat away at you, and it might not be long before you’re knee-deep in uncertainty, questioning whether you’ve chosen the right path.

Luckily, there’s a solution to finding your feet in your chosen profession. I’ve found it’s as simple as surrounding yourself with people who embrace you. Although perhaps that’s not so simple in today’s competitive world.

From burden to opportunity

Upon commencing my position at Horvat’s, where I’m now a year in, I soon felt at ease with my small collection of knowledge. My lack of expertise wasn’t viewed as a burden so much as an opportunity – if I already knew everything, then there was no ability to learn and grow! Why had I never looked at it this way before?

It’s important for new entrants to the industry to find an environment where their values are not compromised and where honesty is encouraged and celebrated, a place where you never have to pretend to understand a foreign concept. In my role now, I’ve never been berated for making a mistake, nor has my frustration ever surfaced. Why? Because it’s acknowledged that I’m human, and thus mistakes are not only inevitable, but also a means of learning.

I think it’s also important to be in an environment where honestly is encouraged, not just behind closed doors, but in front of clients as well.

Have you ever watched a professional talk dribble because they’re too ashamed to admit they don’t know the answer? I’ve learned there is no humiliation involved in telling a client you’ll have to do some digging before getting back to them. We can’t expect ourselves to be a bunch of walking textbooks, just as our clients certainly don’t know everything in their field of expertise.

Another important lesson I’ve learned on the job is that mistakes happen, and owning up to them shouldn’t be difficult, but honourable. To admit an error to a client doesn’t make you unprofessional or unintelligent, it demonstrates a level of humanity and respect.

Choose the right setting

There have been moments I’ve doubted myself and had the “there must be something I’m better at” thought appear in my mind, as I’m sure is the case with many graduates entering a new profession. The education system is notorious for expecting us to learn concepts in days, or weeks, after which we’re tested and we pass or we fail. This can sometimes lead to a sense of overwhelming hopelessness, potentially followed by a big fat fail, and you wonder why it would it be any different in real life.

Fortunately, that’s not the way it works ‘on the outside’

Being in a setting with people who look at your knowledge deficits as an opportunity to teach you, who give you enough responsibility to make mistakes and learn from them, and don’t ask you to compromise your values – these may be the deciding factors in whether you enjoy the journey, or run from the industry at full speed.

Ivy Aitken is a first-year paraplanner with Horvat Financial Advisors and a graduate of Deakin University, based in Geelong.

TOPICS:   Deakin University,  graduates,  Horvat Financial Advisors,  Ivy Aitken,  paraplanning

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