'People skills' crucial to get ahead

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Develop your 'people skills', emotional maturity and empathy levels to build success as a financial planner, says specialist financial planning recruiter Libby Mitchell.
Throughout her lengthy career, she has met “great people with exceptional technical skills” who have struggled in the industry because they had not worked out how to connect appropriately with collegaues and clients.
“The analogy I often use is to think about someone going to the gym and only lifting weights with their right arm for a year. They're going to look physically lop-sided. A great financial planner stands out when they can demonstrate an equally strong left arm – their people skills,” she says.
As well as working at AMP, Mitchell runs AdviserHead, where she helps financial planners work on their “vision”, goals, and communication skills.
“If they're in a leadership role in a business, I help them to develop additional skills to help them to better manage their team, increase productivity and build better relationships with their clients. I help them work on techniques to understand their own behavioural and leadership style and how to work with a range of other styles in their team in order to motivate, inspire and retain them,” she says.
Mitchell said she quickly learnt the importance of managing and protecting her finances and assets early on as a single, professional woman, and this was reinforced once she had children, which her husband took care of while she returned to the workforce.
“This is why I'm so driven to ensure people are getting good advice on their financial situations. It's also why I'm driven to help people make really good career decisions. Your job and your income are the building blocks of your financial future. Without a good, strong career you can't make plans to build a fabulous life for you and your family into the future.”
To build a successful financial planning career from the start, research is the key, says Mitchell.
“Some days it feels like I've spoken to thousands of people about a career in financial planning. Surprisingly, I've noticed the vast majority of them have done very little research into what the career is really about.
“Through AdviserHead I help people to really dig a bit deeper into what the role and industry is all about, so they have a much more realistic view before committing themselves to the time and expense of studies.”
The best career advice Mitchell has is to seek out as many reputable and knowledgeable people as you can to learn from them.
“I realise this can be a very daunting process. In my own career, I've been exposed to the good and bad stories of hundreds of people in financial planning. AdviserHead is my way of being able to collate all of that information into very specific and useful learnings that I share with anyone interested in it.”
Mitchell has noticed a shift towards using technology to build business, as social media platforms are fast becoming an important part of how financial planning businesses are engaging with their clients.
“Yet at a personal level, many people have not yet completely embraced these tools for managing their own personal profiles. For me, it seems as if many people have not yet totally made the connection between how their personal presence online can impact their careers,” she says.
“For example, one business owner told me recently that he decided not to interview a person because when he checked their LinkedIn profile it was very basic. His reason was that this demonstrated they weren't a good networker and that the basic profile also demonstrated they weren't comfortable with technology.
“As a professional recruiter I found this response really interesting as I wouldn't have made this leap without further investigation, but clearly there are employers taking a different approach.”
 Libby Mitchell’s recruitment tips:
  • Do your research on the licensee you’re looking at
  • Have your qualifications and compliance records ready
  • Be ready to demonstrate your performance track record
  • Be prepared to demonstrate your competencies and business acumen
  • Smile