It is no secret that I am an advocate of the next generation of financial planners, and consistently rebuff efforts of those who try to stereotype all of the ~ 80 million members that make up Generation Y (Millennials) as lazy, arrogant, entitled, and overall, just bad, etc.
I am realistic, though, and in speaking to dozens of candidates from these generations each week and seeing some struggle in firms (even though lots more succeed), I will acknowledge that there are certainly a few out there who do not shed such a positive light on the rest! There is certainly still room for some Millennial advisors to step up regarding their basic professionalism.
Accordingly, this month's article is actually for the next generation of contributors to the financial planning profession, and the steps they might take to improve. Ideally, you can just send this directly to any next generation team members in your organization, and use this as a conversation starter, especially if improvements need to be made.
The Next Generation Team Member Pledge
• I will observe and monitor how others in my organization are dressed and always dress at that level and/or strive for a higher level. Insight: If you are the new hire and everyone else wears long sleeve shirt and slacks, you should target that, plus a tie. This applies to clients as well - no one should out-dress you. After you have proven yourself like Mark Zuckerberg has, then you can call your own shots and consider dressing like him.
• I will be at my desk and ready to work and available to clients at the specified time. Insight: If work hours at your firm are 8-5pm, show up half an hour ahead of time to get your chit chatting done before you need to be fully engaged for your clients and other team members. Additionally, everyone usually cannot take a lunch break at the same time, so be flexible and offer to go whenever no one else wants to. You might not think so, but someone is keeping a mental record of this, and your team-supporting deeds are building a favorable balance in your ‘trust bank’ with those you work with.
• I will not let my cell phone become a distraction. Insight: Respect your employer's time and work at least for the time they are paying you. Understand that you are in a service business and you might have to work longer to take care of the clients who are your ultimate boss. Even if you are worried about missing something, incessantly checking your phone will only make it worse.
• I understand that all of my actions are a reflection upon my employer. Insight: Anything you put on social media can be tracked by clients or potential clients back to your employer. No one is saying you cannot have fun on the weekend, but if you do and feel the need to take pictures of it, make sure you are only sharing with friends whom you have accepted and not the general public. Furthermore, be diligent about your behavior at industry conferences, because the financial planning profession is small and word travels fast.
• I will watch my use of profanity. Insight: It does not matter how well you know the person, be careful going here and, frankly, you should probably just avoid this altogether while in work situations with clients, strategic alliances, and colleagues.
• I will treat the members of my organization who are of the opposite gender with special respect. Insight: Keep in mind, this is not the weekend frat party. If you are looking for romance, it is likely going to work out better for all involved if you find it outside of your organization.
• I will not expect my employer to make special exceptions for me due to a change in my personal and financial situation. Insight: Realize any change in relationship and/or financial status is not your employer’s issue. It is your job to figure out how to live on a budget if necessary, the same way you instruct your clients.
• I will respect people in my organization who do not have the same educational background or credentialing that I have. Insight: Acting like you are the boss and mistreating the existing teams members who might be at a different career level is no way to win friends, and is sure to get one or more people trying to sabotage your new gig. Treating people kindly and showing a little humility will get you to where you want to go much faster.
• I will maintain a positive attitude and not complain. Insight: If you are just starting your financial planning career, you are probably not adding much value in terms of revenue, AUM, profit, or any of the financial metrics that firm owners value. In fact, someone is teaching you the business, letting you work on their clients, and paying you wages as well. This is infinitely more than what a lot of other people had when they entered the profession.
• I will not be disruptive to my fellow office mates. Insight: Your cube pals have a lot of work to get done as well, so be aware that your loud music, food/drinks, chewing and smacking gum might be a distraction for them.
• Finally, I realize that I am responsible for my own actions and it is not someone else's job to hover around me. I am not a college student any longer, but a professional who must always look and act like one. Insight: If you cannot do this, you cannot make it in the financial planning profession and it is going to be a tough life for you whatever profession you choose.
There are obviously many more situations out there to address so I encourage you to send me ones that you have encountered for consideration the next time we cover this topic. Feel free to send directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.