One of the first questions we ask our clients, typically in an initial meeting, is what their long-term financial goals are. Once we understand that, we can start determining our path, our strategies, our shorter-term goals, and identifying and preparing for any potential obstacles. It’s pretty straightforward goal setting that seems second nature to many of us. But, when it comes to setting financial advising career goals, we tend to not always apply the same mindset.
Whether it’s getting caught up in the day to day, zeroing in on our clients’ goals, or simply not knowing where we’d like to go or be in the future, the impact of poor career planning and goal setting can be the same as when we have a client who lacks a budget, investment strategy, or a financial plan. The results can be stagnation or worse. So, let’s start talking about your goals!
Career goals, regardless of your field or industry, are the targets you set for yourself or milestones you’d like to achieve. Goals should be both short and long term, meaning identifying the long-term goal, then the smaller goals, or steps, that will help you reach your endpoint.
Goals for financial advisors may include steps from one role to another such as moving from financial and estate planning to investment advising. You may also wish to include moving from working for someone else, or a firm, to eventually breaking away and becoming an independent advisor.
Your goals need not be related to your job title either. You can set earnings goals or the accumulation of knowledge and experience while moving through various roles. The goal is up to you and your wants. Because there are so many options for advisors, so many roles, and so many potential institutions, the only risk is not setting any goals.
At some point in your life, you’ve likely been exposed to thought pieces and research regarding goal setting, including setting S.M.A.R.T. goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely). Setting S.M.A.R.T goals is a great way to ensure you reap the benefits of goal setting as they provide a practical framework for setting reasonable goals. However, there’s more to it than that.
You’ve probably heard before, there are immense benefits to setting goals, that include:
However, on a more practical level, according to a Harvard business study, only 14% of people set goals, but those people are 10 times more likely to achieve a greater level of success than those who don’t. Further, of those who set goals, those who actually write them down are exponentially more likely to achieve them as well.
In short, you are far more likely to achieve career success if you establish clear goals, write them down, and then create a plan to work towards them.
One of the great things about goal setting is that as you achieve goals, you can create new ones. They’re constantly forcing you to reassess your standing and grow. That means that at different stages of your career, your goals may differ. In fact, it’s more reasonable to develop goals by considering your career stage, especially if you’re following S.M.A.R.T. goal principles.
*With the last two, you can, as your career grows, year over year, set higher goals, challenging and motivating yourself
Once you have gained considerable experience and expertise in your chosen niche, but still have quite a ways to go in your career, it’s time to narrow down how you’d like to spend that time. Here’s where you may see a dramatic shift in your long-term goals. You may have learned and explored new areas that have piqued your interest. You may have discovered strengths you’d like to leverage. Whatever the situation, you’ve grown and so it’s time to reassess your goals, add new ones, and perhaps adjust others.
Earn a leadership role in your organization or a new title
Learn a new aspect of financial advising or refine existing knowledge to build expertise
Learn a new technology to leverage in your firm or practice
Explore career opportunities outside of your existing firm/affiliation
Set client acquisition and retention goals
Set managed portfolio asset goals
Set revenue goals
Set marketing and pipeline goals
Many folks make the mistake of assuming that a late-stage career means that goal setting is over, that by late stage, you should have achieved all your goals and it’s an opportunity to rest on one’s laurels and enjoy the rewards of a successful career. However, in your late-stage career, you’re likely beginning to think about your legacy, succession plans, and what there is left to achieve. If you’re thinking about one or all of those things, then there are still goals to set.
Regardless of your career stage, goals are essential. One of the things you may gain from a mentor relationship in the early stages of your career is a keen understanding of how to set the smaller goals that will help you achieve the larger goals you set. Additionally, mentors can guide you in the skill development you’ll need as well.
Once you hit mid-career and late-career, you’re hopefully achieving some of the early career goals you’ve set for yourself and are able to shift your focus towards bigger dreams and more significant achievements and milestones.
Even with examples, it can be difficult to know what type of goals you want to set, especially early in your career. However, there are some guiding principles (beyond S.M.A.R.T goals) to goal setting that can help you figure out, or refine, your goals.
Setting goals that are unrealistic can be demotivating and demoralizing. The temptation is certainly there to set lofty goals, but you should definitely come back to the A in S.M.A.R.T- Attainable. To set attainable goals, you need to be honest with yourself about where you are. Reflect on past success as well as missed opportunities and build your goals from there.
We’ve said this before, but it almost always bears repeating. Know what you want and be honest with yourself about that. For example, if work/life balance is important to you or you and your family, then setting goals that will require you to work 80-100 hours a week to achieve them are self-defeating.
What is a goal if you’ve got no way to know when you’ve achieved it? Again, this comes back to the M in S.M.A.R.T.- measurable. How will you know unless you’ve got a specific metric to gauge your progress or success? For example, “I want more clients” isn’t likely to be as effective as “I want to acquire 3 more clients each quarter” or breaking it down further, “I’d like at least one new client per month.” with a specific number attached, there’s no way to measure your success and “more” may be elusive.
As noted earlier, adjusting your goals is realistic and doesn’t denote failure. Staying adaptable is essential as there are sometimes forces beyond your control that can significantly shift the landscape. Whether you need to adjust your approach or strategy or your goal to reflect new obstacles, be realistic. If, for example, there’s an economic downturn, investment managers may realize that, rather than investing, more folks are saving, managed asset goals or new client goals may suddenly be out of reach. Adjust and press on.
Know what barriers or obstacles may present themselves. For example, if you have your eyes set on a promotion as a goal, but the promotion requires a certification you don’t yet have, then the first goal should be getting that certification. If you set a managed asset goal but existing clients have no more to invest, then new client acquisition should be the goal. While these are obstacles that will certainly require you to stay flexible and adaptable, you can and should still prepare for smaller obstacles.
Not only does talking with a mentor, a colleague, a supervisor create more accountability for your goal, but these individuals may have valuable insights, feedback, or even strategies. As you work towards your goals, they may send you opportunities, especially if you’ve communicated clearly the goal and your desire to achieve it. People in a position to help often want to help.
This one is hard and, certainly, there are and will be exceptions to this “rule,” but, when it comes to things that may interfere with your ability to achieve your goals, saying no is the right thing. Of course, there will be opportunities that may delay your goal but ultimately help you achieve it, such as sitting on a committee or attending an event, but discerning between delays and detours is a skill you’ll want to develop.
Not only is it suggested that you celebrate your wins, even the small ones, it’s expected. Celebrating helps keep you motivated and helps you manage your expectations while improving your goal-setting skills. If you’re not celebrating, ever, it’s time to review the goals you’re setting and make sure they’re achievable and measurable.
If you’re looking for someone to discuss your goals with, especially if those goals include career moves and changes, the FA Match team is here to listen and help. Our experience in the financial services industry means we’ve got valuable information, strategies, and a vast network we can share with you.
Let’s talk about your goals today! Get in touch with our team and we’ll help you create an action plan to make them a reality.