Five Secrets to Success: Tips for Interns, New Graduates, & Ambitious Young Professionals

 As summer rolls in, graduates take off the cap and gown and enter the working world. Students put away the backpacks and take their dress clothes out of mothballs for summer internships. This is an excellent time for some success tips for ambitious young professionals.  

Green in the working world? Thirteen years ago, I was in your shoes, starting as an assistant in a 2-person financial planning firm. Since then, I worked my way up the professional ladder, one step at a time, so that today I'm Partner and Director of Investments at a 20-person financial planning and wealth management firm which manages $700 Million in assets. Here are five strategies that helped drive my success.

1. It's all about credibility. The ability to present yourself in a believable, respectable manner to managers, peers, and clients is a critical skill that cannot be overlooked. To understand your effectiveness when it comes to credibility, you may need to ask for some feedback or assistance from people you interact with regularly. It's also important to recognize that credibility may be different things to different audiences. Tailoring your message and approach to the individual or type of group or person you’re working with may increase the power of your messages and hence the way people think of you. 

2. Know your strengths and play to them. We all know we have strengths and weaknesses. But what are those strengths? This is not as much about what you think your strengths are as it is about how others perceive your strengths. As you learn about your unique skills and abilities, work to feature them when interacting with important influencers in your career. 

3. Extraordinary responsiveness. As you're learning the ropes, old-fashioned hustle can go a long way (and don't forget that as you move up the ladder). Whether you're finding some facts for your boss or returning a voicemail to your firm's client, your desire to respond accurately and promptly can set you apart in a world where many people lack the ability to prioritize unique requests with their day-to-day to “to-do” list. 

4. Have the right people on your team. It's never too early to have a mentor. Often, simply asking someone you respect to fill this role will be all it takes. People, especially leaders, love to help people! If you don't know who would be appropriate, your manager may have some ideas. As you grow in your profession, taking this one step further with a sponsor who will actively work with you to create and find career openings and opportunities can be your secret weapon. Just as your friends mattered in high school and college, hanging out with the right crowd as you grow your career can be a key to success. Your peers are a great sounding board for you and also will help push you into new areas of opportunity. If your chosen peers lack ambition or professional skills, this may reflect poorly on you. 

5. Take appropriate risks. As you grow to be a leader in your chosen profession, you will almost certainly be asked to take on something that seems challenging and risky. By volunteering to work on difficult projects, bringing new "outside the box" ideas to the table, or having your own point of view early on, you may be able to demonstrate your capabilities and initiative. Not every idea may be welcomed, so make sure that you've established credibility and know when to back off from a dead-end idea. If you know how to execute, though, your success will be noted and you'll be more confident and comfortable the next time you're asked to take on a difficult task.

These tips were adapted from a recent presentation I did along with Dan Boyce, CFP®, Scott Williams, CFP® and Todd Sanford, CFP® at the Raymond James Financial Services national conference in Orlando, Florida. For more on our session about integrating younger partners into wealth management practices, click here.