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How to become a Financial Advisor or Financial Planner

4/25/2016

By Rob Fichter, Senior Partner at Skylight Financial Group.  Rob is based in Skylight’s Columbus office and heads up the firm’s recruitment division.

I often get asked the question “How do I become a financial advisor or financial planner*?”  So I’ve laid out below what I identify as the key steps for anyone considering this rewarding and fulfilling career choice. First and foremost, always remember this job is about being of service and helping people improve their lives.  Just think about that.  What a privilege to be able to make a real difference to someone’s life – whether it’s a person, a family or those in a business.  With this privilege comes a lot of responsibility, so the desire to help people is something that all financial planners need to be passionate about.

* At Skylight, we refer to our advisors as financial planners

Step 1. Carefully consider if this career is right for you

I can’t encourage people enough to take time and reflect if this career is right for them.  It’s a career that’s best suited to someone who has an entrepreneurial spirit, who wants to be their own boss and take control of their career. If you are the kind of person who likes to punch in and out, sit at your desk all day and be told what to do, then this job definitely isn’t for you.  This job appeals to people who want to have full control over their income, their career path, what they do, when and how they do it. 

Also you’ll need to be the kind of person who can balance multiple tasks to cope with the demands of the job and the freedom it offers. It may sound great to have the freedom to set your own schedule but it does mean you need to be highly organized and disciplined. Typically, when we are interviewing we ask candidates what extra-curricular activities they were involved in, like sports, student councils or community work to gauge their ability to juggle different priorities.

Finally, the most crucial skill you need to be a successful financial planner is the ability to build relationships with your clients and in your community. You need to like people, feel at ease connecting with them, be a good listener and be able to understand what makes them tick.

I’m often asked do I need to be good at math or analytical. While these skills certainly help, an ability to form personal relationships always trumps. 

Step 2. If you’re a student, apply for an internship

If you are still a college student then I’d encourage you to apply for an internship as this will give you greater insight into the industry, hands-on learning experience and could jump start your career.  Many financial firms offer intern programs – some paid and some unpaid.  Skylight offers a paid summer intern program for college students moving from junior into senior year in college.  Over the summer our interns get to experience what the first 90 days in a financial firm would be like.  If it goes well there could be a permanent job offer at the end.

Step 3. Talk to people in the industry

Do your research and talk to friends or acquaintances who work in the industry to find out what it’s all about.  Ask probing questions about what they like or dislike about the career.  Also reach out to financial firms by going to career fairs and outside visits. You could even pick up the telephone and talk to recruiters or visit company websites.  We often organize socials after career fairs, where you can come along and chat about the job in a more informal environment.  Find a way to learn about the industry, what the career entails and about the individual firms. Talk to as many firms as you can to find one that is the best fit for you.

Step 4. Get your qualifications

Start applying for your chosen financial firm(s) and get familiar with their requirements and training that they offer to get your qualifications.

At Skylight, ideally, we look for candidates with a degree but it’s not a requirement.  Some people feel intimidated by the fact that they didn’t major in finance (don’t worry I didn’t either).  Again, it helps to have this but it’s not a requirement and many of our most successful planners majored in other subjects.

In Skylight, once the employment offer has been made, you will need to pass the Ohio Life and Health Insurance exam and the FINRA Series 6 exam before you take up your position.  You will be connected with our transition team who will hold your hand and take you through the training and materials to pass these exams.  The cost of the exam and the training material, on the first and hopefully only occasion, is covered by the firm.  It typically takes people between 10-12 weeks of study to pass these exams.  Then you are qualified to start working as a financial professional and begin our two year development track.

Hopefully this plots out the key steps in your journey to becoming a financial planner.  If you have any questions or would like to find out more about how to become a financial planner, please reach out to me rfichter@financialguide.com or visit Join our Team


At Skylight we welcome applications from all walks of life - college students, recent graduates, experienced financial planners or those looking to change careers.  Positions are available in Cleveland, Columbus, Akron and Toledo.

Robert Fichter is a registered representative of and offers securities and investment advisory services through MML Investors Services, LLC Member SIPC 2012 W. 25th Street, Suite 900, Cleveland OH 44113. 216-621-5680

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