JustJob Interviews: Financial Advisor

JustJobs interviews professionals working in a variety of fields. The good folks there have given me permission to post some of their interviews here. So if you’re wondering what it’s like to work in a specific field, you might want to check in here frequently. I’ll be posting interviews as I get them.

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This female Financial Advisor has broken through the glass ceiling of a mostly male field and is going back to school to improve herself. If you’ve ever thought about becoming a financial advisor, this interview done by AllChicagoJobs.com will help you decide if this is the career for you. Other professionals in Chicago have also shared their stories, among them a Senior Paralegal and a Program Director.

What is your job title? How many years of experience do you have in that field?

The field of financial analysis and credit analysis covers a number of job titles and job descriptions. A credit analyst reviews financial information provided by a company to determine their credit eligibility to purchase, while a financial analyst reviews a company’s finances to determine if their business plan and method are on the right track. I have worked for the last fifteen years as a financial analyst and the last three as a credit analyst.

Would you describe the things you do on a typical day?

On any given day as a financial advisor I review current accounts payable and receivable information to determine which bills can be paid and in what order. I also maintain financial records for the company and make sure they are in order and up to date.

What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what response worked best?

As a female in the financial world, there is still a bit of a glass ceiling to break through. It is often difficult for companies to understand that a woman can advise them of appropriate ways to spend their money just as well as a man can. Though I have never been directly discriminated against because I am a female, I have had difficulty gaining employment due to the fact I have no accounting degree.

Do you speak any language other than English? If so, how has it helped you in your job?

I do not speak any other languages beside English and have found this to my detriment at times. Living in the Chicago, with a large population of Hispanic people, learning Spanish is fairly high up on my priority list.

On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What would it take to increase that rating?

On a scale of one to ten, I would rate my satisfaction with my career choice at a six. On the whole, I believe additional education would increase my job satisfaction. I am working toward a degree in finance and accounting to facilitate reaching my career goals.

What did you learn the hard way in this job and how did that happen?

One of the most difficult things to learn with this job is how to get people to take your financial suggestions seriously. I have learned, through trial and error, how to judge a client’s reaction and how to present information in a light that is understood easily by the client.

What don’t they teach in school that would’ve been helpful to you?

There are certain things that can never be learned in the classroom and can only be understood in the actual working world. One of the most significant pieces of information that is never taught in the classroom is how to read people and adjust a financial presentation on the fly. That can only come from on the job training and experimentation.

How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?

I entered into the world of finance early in my life, in my early twenties. When I got married to a contractor, I was recruited by my husband into the position of “All Things Office” almost immediately. If I had to do everything over again, I would apply myself toward a degree in finance right out of high school, instead of later in life.

What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?

Some of the strangest things that happen to my in this job are the conversations I have with clients. In many ways, a financial advisor is like a bartender. Whether you are advising the client on how to spend their advertising dollars or what information you will be including in their tax return, they will tell you some of their deepest secrets.

On a good day when things are going well, can you give an example of something that really makes you feel good?

When I am having a good day at the office, one of the things that makes me feel lighter than air is the gratitude I receive from clients that I have saved from significant financial hardship. Whether in completing their tax return or pointing out how they can save money with their retirement plan, a simple “Thank you so much” goes a long way.

When nothing seems to go right, what kind of snafus do you handle and what do you dislike the most?

Unfortunately, nearly everyone in the country hates doing their taxes. Part of my job as a financial advisor is to make sure the client or company is spending their money in the most economical and effective way. When I first show up and am handed three years of receipts and bank statements bundled into four or five small boxes, it can make my job look like a battlefield. Fortunately, making the most of the situation and organizing the client, while difficult and time consuming, is immensely satisfying and rewarding.

How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance?

This job is extremely stressful, especially in today’s economic climate. People often direct their anger at the one person who directs, or advises them, on their money issues. The way to relieve the stress is to leave the office at the office and never bring it home. Compartmentalizing the stress and not taking it home with me make my job much easier.

What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough considering your responsibilities?

Though I often feel as though you could never pay me enough money to deal with some of the problem I deal with, my salary is comfortable enough to maintain my household without stress. My salary fluctuates depending on what work I am doing and the time of year. During tax season I can make around $60,000, the rest of the year I work with individual clients and companies and make a little bit less.

What’s the most rewarding moment you’ve experienced in this position? Of all the things you’ve done at work, what are you most proud of?

One of the most rewarding moments of my job is when I turned a company around from being in debt by over $250,000 to efficiently operating in the black. One of the things I am most proud of is when I can teach others how to handle their finances and stay on track and out of debt.

What’s the most challenging moment you’ve experienced? What would you prefer to forget?

The most challenging moment I have ever experienced at work is dealing with the family of a deceased client and getting them to understand their rights and responsibilities at such a difficult time. Due to the fact I look at my job as a continuous learning experience, there are no moments I would rather forget, good or bad.

What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?

Of course, being good with numbers is an important skill, and having good common sense helps. If you can start working as a part-time intern for a company and they are willing to train while you work, it is fairly easy to get a foot in the door. If an internship is not an option, a certificate degree from a community college can help with getting an entry position with room to grow. However, if the goal is to start higher in the ladder, a college degree in finance and accounting are the best way to go.

What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?

As I tell all of my friends who ask how I do my job, the key is to diversify your talents. If you can make a living at financial advisement and have a knack for taxes, parlaying your talents and getting a CPA certification can make you a small fortune.

How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?

I have never been one to travel. I do, however, have no problem taking a “mental health” day off from work and hiding in bed. This is something I do once every three months or so to chill out and de-stress.

Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?

One of the most common misunderstandings about financial advisors and credit analysts is that we are the bad guys. We are not the bad guys; we can only work with what our clients give us. Taking what your advisor tells you to heart and giving them every detail of your finances can often make for an easier working relationship.

Does this job move your heart? If not, what does?

This is definitely the type of job that moves your heart and soul. When working for business clients, they depend on you to help them keep on track with their finances. This can often make the difference between a successful business and a failure. When dealing with personal clients in the financial advisement arena, their financial life is essentially in your hands.

If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?

If I was able to write my own ticket, in five years I would have my own consulting and CPA firm working with local clients. I would be diversified enough to do personal and business income taxes along with financial advisement.

Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?

One unique aspect of my personal employment situation is that I am 90% self-taught. On the computer and in business, I have little to no formal training and a wealth of on-the-job experience. Especially in today’s economic climate, even a simple CPA certification from a community college can make difference in a paycheck and a comfortable salary.

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