If you're not currently recruiting, you might not be aware of the recent surge in interest in financial planning as a career.

    For some outside our sector, the events of the past year may have meant uncertainty over their job or perhaps a negative experience of being on furlough.

    This seems to have prompted many people to look at our profession and consider a role in financial planning as potentially the next stage of their career.

    Through our recent recruitment drive at Plan Works and through my work mentoring paraplanners, I have seen exactly this.

    People from all walks of life are deciding to study the level 4 diploma as a way into the profession. They are also getting in touch through various forums to understand the skills they need and what they need to work on.

    As anyone who has been in financial planning for some time will know, the study we do is only the foundation - the real learning comes with practical on the job experience. 

    The mentoring need

    There are established mentoring programmes available through various bodies such as the Personal Finance Society and the London Institute of Banking & Finance, as well as newer groups like Financial Adviser Mentoring and The Paraplanner Club (which I recently helped set up). 

    Mentoring within financial planning firms is often overlooked as a formal need. Yet unofficially, many senior paraplanners or planners will be mentoring in some way, perhaps by supporting newer colleagues. 

    With the surge in people joining the profession without practical experience, the need for mentoring is greater than ever across both paraplanning and financial planner roles.

    On the paraplanning side of things, those who want to break into paraplanning often start as administrators within financial planning firms.

    Some then start to study for the diploma either with support from their employer or off their own back, in order to increase their technical knowledge and understanding of the overall financial planning process.

    In my experience, there's been little formal support for those individuals, but I’m hopeful my work with The Paraplanner Club will help to change that.

    It tends to be the mix of an individual's personal skills and their ability to apply technical knowledge that leads people to the financial planner role. 

    For future financial planners, they may well need an equal level of support.

    This might depend on how much support they have within their firm, as it may be that a great paraplanner is well placed to provide the informal mentoring that often takes place.

    Looking outside

    Having a mentor outside your workplace can also offer different benefits, such as independence and the space to have confidential conversations unrelated to your employment.

    Formal mentors have usually gone through some training or had experience in mentoring or coaching other.

    This means they should be able to provide constructive guidance to those that need it without judgement, as well as building accountability in the relationship.

    Of course, as anyone who has been in the profession for a while can attest, we are always learning. Assuming you know all the answers can be a dangerous place to be.

    That's why mentoring isn't just for new entrants or individuals with less experience.

    I believe everyone can benefit from working with a mentor, as we can always look to find ways to improve. 

    Much of the focus within our field is on passing exams, and obtaining credits and letters after our name.

    But if we don't shift some of that focus towards personal development, alongside the more formal technical learning, I'd argue we would be doing both the profession and our clients a disservice.

    All this is why I believe everyone should be thinking about seeking out a mentor, and why it's worth considering mentoring those seeking support within the financial planning profession. 

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