A small misstep will not make or break your career. In fact, people who fail and learn from their mistakes can bounce back with dividends. But a build-up of tiny mistakes left unacknowledged can sabotage your career, just as the steady work of termites can destroy the very structure of a home.
Here are a few of the small missteps experts see financial professionals making that can have a negative impact on a career in the long run.
Neglecting potential connections. Acquaintances, friends, and colleagues are always recommending that you talk to “so-and-so”, but people rarely take them up on it. Maybe you think you don’t have the time, you’re embarrassed, or you simply don’t know what you would talk to the person about.
San Diego-based Amber Setter, CPA, who is also a professional coach certified by the International Coach Federation, makes a habit of following through on those suggestions, and it has landed her career opportunities, not to mention a wealth of new information and connections.
“There’s a reason they said you should meet that person, and it’s likely because there’s something you can learn from that conversation,” she said.
By making a habit of vocalising what you’re interested in, what you’re working on, and what your goals are, you can increase the odds that someone will hear that and be able to connect you with the right people and opportunities.
Placing soft skills on the back burner. Setter hears many people talking about how financial professionals need to develop nontechnical attributes, but in actual practice, she doesn’t see people actually investing in that effort.
“I’m a huge proponent of developing the whole person because all of that nontechnical stuff that gets put on the back burner is going to become the Achilles’ heel,” she said. “If you know all the technical stuff, great, but if you can’t communicate it to your client and team, there’s no value in it.”
Developing that human side can also help you get past HR when you’re applying for a new job.
“When you are being screened by an HR professional, you are often speaking with a ‘nonfinance’ expert,” said Tracy Stuart Kautzmann, a Paris-based director of global client services for global business coaching company IMPACT Group, which is based in the US. “They need to see your human side. Being polite and pleasant is key, and if you add in the ‘numbers’ side, efficiency, and competency, you will stand out for ‘also having a personality’.”
Disappearing within your organisation. Especially with her female clients, Kautzmann stresses the importance of corporate visibility, meaning the level of recognition your name has within your company.
“Men have a tendency to do it better than women do,” she said. “You gain corporate visibility by figuring out the key people who you need to be engaging with, networking with, and bragging to, in a way, about what you’re doing and accomplishing.”
The person who is more visible is the one who will get the promotion when both candidates submit identical CVs, according to Kautzmann.
Having an inconsistent personal brand. Financial professionals are routinely trusted to make financial decisions and maintain clients’ privacy, which makes it essential that they come across as consistent and trustworthy. When you say one thing about yourself on your website, another on your CV, and something entirely different in person, that trust can be tarnished.
By being authentic and aligning all aspects of your brand, from your LinkedIn profile to your business cards and website, you can help ensure that people will have confidence in who you claim to be. Along those lines, it’s a good idea to have anecdotes to illustrate any claims you make on your CV or website.
“On your CV, for every single point you put down, whether it’s a competency or leadership skill, have a story behind each one of those claims,” Kautzmann said. “If you say ‘I’m a team player’, Give me an example of how you solved a problem for your team.”
Forgetting to send a thank-you note. One of the most common mistakes Kautzmann notices professionals making during the job search is failing to follow up with a thank-you note.
“It doesn’t have to be long, but a personal note acknowledging the time of the interview, something they appreciated, or that they are still very keen, is so important, and only 25% of jobseekers follow up with a thank-you note,” she said.
— Hannah Pitstick is a freelance writer based in the US. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Drew Adamek, an FM magazine senior editor, at Andrew.Adamek@aicpa-cima.com.