The importance of a mentor!

By Kimberley Malin DipPFS Cert CII (MP)

I am not entirely sure that people do fully understand the importance of a mentor for paraplanners, and I guess I didn’t until I had my own experience with a mentor, who I feel is taking me to levels I never thought I would reach just a few short years into paraplanning.

Although I have spent around 10 years in the industry now, a few short years of those have been fully paraplanning – I spent many years in admin roles of varying seniority and then a few years in ‘hybrid’ roles between admin and paraplanning.

I have had an ‘unofficial’ mentor for a few years now. The ways that she has and continues to inspire me, there is no question that she has kindled my passion for the industry and particularly the role of a paraplanner.

I will share with you some ways that she has personally helped me to grow and flourish as a paraplanner, which can hopefully help you too.

Exams are not everything

Find your why! One of the biggest lessons she gave to me was focused around finding my why. I had a few of the Diploma exams under my belt when I met her, but with a young family and working almost full time, I kept telling myself I needed to complete my Diploma. She asked me to consider my why. Why did I want or need to complete my Diploma. She asked me to really consider the benefits of being Diploma-qualified and what doors that may open for me, and as soon as I found my ‘why’, I completed CF6 and the final three Diploma exams in the space of 15 months!

My why was clear and my plan was set – I experienced a level of focus and discipline like never before. I was studying for each exam every night, six days per week, to achieve my goal, whilst working and raising two children, something I only felt possible once I had got my ‘why’, which fuelled my motivation!

Ways of working

Only the other day my mentor reminded me about how linking every piece of a suitability report back to the client objectives makes for a much better reading report for a client. Off the back of this, she also asked me to explore the ways that client objectives can be picked up from a file even if the planner hasn’t written their objectives down clearly.

This may all seem like basic stuff, but if you have ever tried to write a report where the client objectives are not there in front of you, sometimes it can be tricky to pull out the exact client objectives so you can write a report that is based around everything they are trying to achieve.

When a financial planner writes “Recommending an ISA to make the portfolio more tax-efficient” as an objective, let me tell you, rarely will a client ever come to a financial planner and say this, so we have to have the skill to make this into a client objective. This is where my mentor has added so much value, as she has encouraged me to ‘look outside the box’ and also do some ‘homework’ on client objectives and how these can be extracted from a financial planner’s notes and/or a case to make them really client specific and meaningful.

Sharing knowledge with others

My mentor is to thank for why you see me taking over LinkedIn with my posts and passion for paraplanning. She taught me the importance of sharing knowledge, skills and, most importantly, passion with others. The only way we see change, growth and enhancements in a profession is by being part of that movement. Creating a personal brand on LinkedIn has not always been easy and still, to this day, I doubt that people want to listen to what I have to say.

I once went to an event and was identified as “that Kimberley from LinkedIn” – what a moment that was. This presence has led to an array of opportunities such as speaking at events, writing articles and creating content about paraplanners on behalf of an exam training provider company for their website, which I could never have imagined would have happened to me.

One day, I would love to become a mentor with The Paraplanner Club, knowing that I can add value to someone’s future, as there is no greater privilege or achievement that that!

Working ethics and morals

My mentor has taught me another very important thing I will always carry with me. She taught me about sticking to my morals, and it is ok to politely ‘challenge’ a financial planner should you feel it necessary to achieve the best outcome for a client.

The only way we can improve the standards in the profession is by changes that improve them, such as paraplanners feeling confident enough to raise a case that they feel needs to be re-considered. Whether this is through your manager or the financial planner directly – it is ok! You do not have to just ‘do as you are told’. Paraplanners and financial planners should work collaboratively, as this is the way to achieve awesome client outcomes.

She has also shown me that it is better to take longer on a case and be right than complete a case the fastest but be wrong. Quality over quantity. If you are being challenged and rewarded on the number over the quality of your cases – this says something about the culture of the firm you work in.

Career guidance

With my mentor’s experience over the years at different firms, before becoming a director and business owner, she has been able to give me insight into how different firms work, the pros and cons of ‘restricted’ vs ‘independent’, and the different skills and progression that can be sought from ‘in-house’ vs ‘outsourced’ paraplanning.

She once gave me pointers on how to get the most out of a situation, even if you are not enjoying yourself, and how the ‘right time comes’, even when you feel like you don’t want to wait around anymore. All invaluable advice that has ultimately led me to where I am today and helped me decide the paraplanner I want to be/become and what I ‘stand for’.

Would I recommend you get a mentor?

There is no doubt when I tell you that I would not be where I am today without the mentoring I have received. I also have no doubt some of you will be reading this thinking how cheesy it is, but at a time when I almost left the profession, for feeling like I was going in circles and working a string of jobs I was unhappy in, my mentor supported me through this patch, and my passion and love for the profession came back!

She has given me so much more than the examples I have given above, but, hopefully, this gives you a flavour of how mentoring can be so beneficial to your future as a paraplanner.

Every mentor at The Paraplanning Club has their own little pockets of knowledge, experience and wisdom they are just waiting to share with you, and you can get all of this for free!! So, what are you waiting for?!

I hope this helps anyone struggling to feel the love in their role or paraplanning generally, and for anyone in this position, I have summarised the things I’ve learnt below:

1.     Find your why, and that will give you the fuel to succeed.

2.     Exams aren’t everything, although they help.

3.     Experience cannot be bought and makes you different from everyone else.

4.     Always think deeply about what you are doing.

5.     Be open to and encourage feedback on your work.

6.     Share your knowledge and your story to encourage others.

7.     Understand your values and stick to them.

8.     Create your network and personal brand, as those relationships can change your course.

9.     Get a mentor – find someone you know and respect or ask for a match through a scheme such as The Paraplanner Club . You will not regret it!

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