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Surviving your first year as a financial professional

Industry experts share some ideas how to get through the early part of your career

Starting a new career is one of the most challenging experiences we all share — everyone can relate to the stress, anxiety, and uncertainty surrounding that first year at a new job. This is certainly true for many financial professionals, who have the added layer of having to develop a reputation, earn the trust of their clients, and prove themselves as someone to whom other clients will seek advice from. Whether you’re an independent agent setting out on your own or the member of a large team at a firm, surviving your first year on the job can seem daunting. The good news is that there’s a long list of successful financial professionals who have been there, done that, when it comes to making it through your first year. Here’s a closer look at their advice and how, if you choose, you can put it into action.

The biggest challenges

There is tremendous opportunity for young financial professionals to break into the industry. Baby boomers make up a considerable proportion of the workforce, and as many retire, that opens a lot of space for younger, first-time financial professionals to create some opportunity for themselves. However, while opportunity abounds, that doesn’t mean getting your start is not without its challenges. And although each person’s experience is different, there are some common threads that those building a nascent career can relate to.

Staying organized

You can relieve some of the stress and difficulty of your first year by prioritizing organization. Having a sense of order can help you focus on the things that matter most — coming to client meetings confident and knowledgeable. Oberon Copeland, the founder and CEO of Very Informed, says that organization goes beyond creating a filing system (though that is important).

“It’s also beneficial to create an intricately detailed budget plan,” Copeland says. “Which you can use to track projected incoming cash flow accurately and compare with actual earnings at the end of the year. 

This is a sentiment that Jasper Smith, founder of The #BuildWealth Movement echoes. When it comes to prioritizing your day, he says it’s crucial to keep the money-making opportunities at the top of your list every day. And more than anything else, having an organizational system that works for you, is what’s most important.

“Whatever system you need to adopt is effective, but not having any type of organization will kill you,” he says.

Spreading the word

One of the most difficult parts of establishing yourself as a trusted financial professional is getting the word out. After all, you could be the most talented and adept financial professional, but if nobody is aware of your skills, it could all be for naught. So how do you start to spread the word and market your services? The best thing you can do, Smith says, is make it known that you’re eager to get to work.

“You are probably literally hungry for business, and all the top producers in your office need to know that” he says. “I learned later on that they will help you when they see you trying, you don’t have to be great, unless you’re coming in with a relationship and someone’s guiding you, you’ve got to go press for it.”

In addition, you have to be true to yourself. If you’re an introvert by nature, you can’t try to position yourself as an extrovert. For example, if you’re drawn to more technical aspects of the job, you could try to carve out a focus on technology-related projects and issues among your peers.

“You can create your own little niche,” Smith says. “Stay creative on how you do what you do, don’t ever think it’s got to be one particular way.”

Relationship building

Creating those foundational relationships can be one of the biggest obstacles for first-time financial professionals. All relationships must start somewhere, but it can be difficult to prove to your clients that you are someone they can trust. That’s why it’s essential for you to put in the effort to prove that you are thinking of them, are in their corner, and will ensure they achieve financial success.

“Focus on building relationships,” says Daniel Kroytor, CEO of the fintech platform TailoredPay. “Your business is built upon relationships, and the first year is when you lay the foundation for your success. Make sure to stay in contact with your contacts — send emails and thank you cards, stay up to date with their news, and make sure to be responsive when they reach out.”

The value of networking

It’s also important to find guidance from those who have more experience. Kroytor recommends taking advantage of your network and resources; this is always a key aspect of doing business, but it’s especially impactful in your first year.

“Your first year as a financial professional is the time to tap into all of the available resources — mentors, advisors, industry events, and more,” Kroytor says. “Take advantage of these opportunities to broaden your knowledge and grow in your career."

This is a sentiment that’s echoed by Jake Hill, CEO of DebtHammer.

“During your first year, you should be a sponge — learning and taking in as much information as possible. Observe your colleagues, ask plenty of questions, and find a mentor. While learning and absorbing information is always important regardless of how far along you are in your career, it’s especially important during your first year because it helps you build a more solid foundation.”

Taking the next step

Once you’ve made it through your first year, it’s important to keep the momentum. Smith recommends forming a core group — he refers to it as a “mastermind group” — and you can advance through your career together, helping you along the way.

“You form a mastermind group, two or three good people, one who’s maybe at the same level as you are and one maybe slightly senior — having that small cohort that’s going to grow together, there’s no way you won’t be successful – now you’re trying to level up,” he says. “Iron sharpens iron. Stay connected to the people who are going where you want to go. “

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