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Life isn’t something you can plan

Your life and your career can look a bit like a stock market index. It’s hopefully going in an upward trajectory but it’s not a smooth path. There will be some bumps along the way. Some may be small, others pretty significant, many will be unexpected.

Change happens, things never stay the same for too long. And especially for your career, there’s not really any such thing as a job for life anymore like previous generations experienced.

So we better be ready to handle the changes when they come.

And these bumps in the road, whether they be challenges or changes to your personal or professional life, they help to build us as a person. How we cope with them, builds our resilience and our confidence. And that in turn, is what helps us to become even better Financial planners.

I’m going to share with you a few lessons I’ve learnt. Some of the challenges that we just can’t plan for and some of things we can do to help us cope with change and build resilience.


The markets, political influences, recessions. Look at the situation we’re in now. No one could have foreseen this pandemic and the effect it’s had. The markets took a big hit, many companies are struggling, we might be entering the worst recession, or depression of our generation and jobs will be lost. Right now we don’t know the ultimate price of this pandemic, we don’t know how many more jobs will be lost, or companies that will go bust. Some of you may be sitting there now wondering if your job, or your partner’s job is going to survive this. It can be tough and we have to be adaptable.

Our clients right now will also be facing these same worries, over their jobs, their security, their health. Their investments and pension will probably have seen a significant fall when the markets crashed. For those in or near retirement needing the draw an income from their assets, they may be worrying about whether they can retire as planned, or weather their pot is going to last. This is where we add value, drawing on our own resilience and empathy, we need to reassure them, show them the cashflow projections that show they’ll be ok, or that markets do and will recover.

For some of you this might be the first market crash you’ve experienced in your career, and there will undoubtedly be many more. Speak to your peers, mentors, let them guide you and in turn you can guide your clients.

Births, marriage and death

I’ll share some of my own experience here with you. So, some of you listening may already have children, some will be ‘planning’ children and others will say ‘yuk’ no way. My husband and I wanted children, we got married then a few years later we decided to start trying for a baby – thinking it would just happen, it was part of the plan. But, it didn’t just happen. It took 3 years. 3 stressful and very emotional years. Then, we were blessed with our beautiful baby girl Matilda. We felt truly lucky, but it certainly wasn’t the way we planned it and the timing wasn’t ideal either. I was 3 years older that I’d intended to be when having my first child, and Matilda had abnormalities on her lung that needed an operation when she was just 5 months old – and I was at a place in my career where I need to change jobs.

So, all of this happened at the same time. When Matilda was 7 months old, just 2 months after her traumatic but successful operation, I went back to work to a brand-new job. It was probably the most challenging time of my life so far. Getting used to being a parent, the stress of the operation, lack of sleep and then getting used to a new workplace, new colleagues, new processes and pension freedoms had just happened so I had a lot of learning to do. But, I got through it and came out stronger.

Careers breaks

This might be a sabbatical, maternity or paternity leave, or you may have been furloughed. And what tends to happen when we take time out from our careers, is that we lose some of our confidence. When I came back to my new job after 7 months of maternity leave, my confidence was at a real low. I’d left my previous job as a client facing financial planner, and returned in a technical paraplanning role. The aim was to return to client facing advice, once I’d caught up on my knowledge. But I was terrified, I remember sitting with my line manager almost in tears saying I didn’t feel capable of doing that role anymore, it filled me with dread and I just couldn’t do it! Luckily for me, I had an amazingly supportive line manager who gently coaxed me back into client facing meetings. And looking back now, it seems silly that I had these feelings, I’m more than capable of being a financial planner, and sitting in front of clients is where I’m at my best. But back then, those feelings were real and I had to face and deal with this crisis in confidence.

If you’re not a business owner yourself, you’re at the mercy of your firm’s decisions

There’s a lot of consolidation going on in our profession right now and this is something as an employee we have no control over. We might find ourselves one day employed by a new firm, with different strategies and ways of doing things. We’re in a rapidly changing profession and nothing stays the same for too long. We need to learn to be adaptable and embrace the change.

Now on to a few things we can do…

Build up your support network, be that friends, family, colleagues or mentors. Have people you can turn to when things get tough, make sure there’s someone you can confide in and if like me to hit a point where your confidence takes a nose dive, speak about it. There will be people who can help you.

Look after your own wellbeing. This can be different for all of us, I do yoga and meditation every morning, try to eat well and sleep well. Find what works for you and make sure you’re taking steps to look after your mental health as well as physical. This all helps to make you more resilient and better able to cope with life’s challenges.

Reflect and learn. This is something resilience experts (which I am not!) call ‘Framing your thoughts’. If a client meeting doesn’t go to plan, maybe you didn’t say the right things, you weren’t on top form, you failed to build rapport, you didn’t listen well. Whatever it is that didn’t go right, reflect on it, and imagine yourself doing it differently, using better words. Don’t give yourself a hard time about it, we’re not always at our best and especially when you’re just starting out you’ll have these blips. Just know you can learn from reflecting and do it better next time.

And finally, my best piece of advice is to challenge yourself, put yourself out of your comfort zone. This is something I’ve done constantly since I started out in this profession, whether that be public speaking, taking on more senior roles, dealing with that complex high net worth client. Just keep stepping out. It might seem daunting but each time you do it, but you’ll become stronger as a person.

And why do I share all of this with you? Well, I believe that by building our resilience over time, learning these lessons, we become better financial planners. We have more confidence in ourselves and our abilities, we’re better able to cope with challenges and bumps in the road. And in turn, we can better help our clients navigate the bumps. We have more empathy and understanding. We can guide them through life’s decisions and challenges in a more assured way. They can come into the office (or zoom call!) feeling worried and after the meeting with you, go away feeling at ease, reassured and confident that their plans are on track, in safe hands. This job is amazing, we get to help people make key decisions in their life, it’s humbling and so rewarding.

So, go on, go out there face your challenges, build your own confidence and be the brilliant financial planner your clients need you to be.

Carly Dunningham, Pavis

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