To set the stage for long-term success in the financial advisory business, rookie advisors should continually look for ways invest in themselves as a way to build a stronger practice, says Michael Morrow, a certified financial planner (CFP) based in Thunder Bay, Ont.

“Not investing in yourself early in your advisory career is a big mistake many rookies make,” says Morrow, who also runs Ideas for Advisors, a company that helps advisors grow their businesses. “Not investing hurts your [potential] longevity.”

Consider the following tips on how you can make a timeless investment in yourself early in your career:

> Pursue designations
Young advisors cannot go wrong in pursuing benchmarks and recognized industry designations, Morrow says.

You might decide to pursue a financial planning designation, such as the CFP, conferred by the Financial Planning Standards Council, or the personal financial planner (PFP), conferred by CSI, the training arm of Moody’s Analytics Global Education (Canada) Inc. Alternatively, you might seek an insurance designation, such as the chartered life underwriter (CLU) or certified health insurance specialist (CHS), both conferred by the Institute for Advanced Financial Education.

For a detailed list of prominent industry designations, consult the Advocis designations page.

> Know your talents
As the old adage goes: “Know what you know and know what you don’t.”

Joanne Ferguson, president of Advisor Pathways Inc. in Toronto, translates it this way: Many “green” advisors don’t fully understand their talents and how they can become the most productive.

“Often, rookies’ focus is not aligned to do their best work,” Ferguson says.

For example, if you are entering the advisory channel and your strengths are in working with people and networking, don’t spend too much time in learning how to introduce yourself to new prospects. Instead, focus your training on other areas in which you are less talented, such as marketing or time management.

If you’re unsure of your talents, try taking a personality or skills assessment test. With those results, you can set up a more effective training plan.

> Strengthen your “social game”
Building a strong network is essential to ensuring long-term success in your practice.

“This industry is about relationships,” says Greg Pollock, president and CEO of Advocis. “So, you need to get out there are start building them early.”

The first five years of your career, Pollock says, are crucial for establishing the foundational relationships that will help you throughout your career.

If you’re shy or just not sure how to begin, consider starting with some funcitons within the industry, such as the “Under 5/After 5” networking events, to help you find your feet. These events, run by various chapters of Advocis, bring together both young and seasoned advisors to exchange ideas.

Once you feel comfortable with your peers, it’s likely you will be better positioned for effective networking at social events and conferences.

This is the third instalment in a four-part series on Rookie Mistakes.

Next: The perils of unrealistic client expectations.