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A Mentor’s Pointers Toward Success

chalk drawing of a handshake on a blackboard

Editor’s Note: This summer our firm added several new staff members, and others have taken on new roles. A critical component in getting newer team members up to speed has always been the guidance of their more experienced colleagues.

Recently, I was copied on an email to some of our newer staff from Stephen Grady, a financial planning assistant (internally an “FPA”) who has been with Palisades Hudson in Atlanta since 2012. This email represents exactly the sort of mentoring that helps someone in a new role to thrive, and I asked his permission to share it with our blog’s readers. While the email below was originally intended for an internal audience, the advice it contains should serve anyone well.

– Larry Elkin

As relatively new FPAs and Client Service Associates, you have been assigned a variety of tasks and have been given a lot to learn, so we wanted to highlight some important concepts as you continue learning and growing in these roles. Many of these tips may have been (or will be) discussed verbally, but this email will give you something to reference.

  • Accurate, clear and well-organized notes. I've found it to be very helpful to not only take detailed notes when learning a new task or concept, but to later go back and make sure that the notes are organized so I can tell what my notes actually mean. For example, it’s one thing to have a formula written down in your notes, but if one doesn’t know the right situation to apply it, it becomes just a random formula. Also, if someone elaborates on a topic after you’ve initially gone over it, it is helpful to add it to your original section of notes on that topic to keep like things together.
  • Attention to detail.This is an area that is extremely important in our line of work, so we want to be sure to take our time and be as accurate as possible when completing any given task. If you ever have other things to do that are making you feel the need to rush through a particular task, therefore reducing the amount of detail you give to it, you should bring that to the attention of a manager or your station chief [our firm’s term for the manager or executive in charge of a particular office location – ed.]
  • Prioritization. You will be asked to handle a variety of tasks and you’ll want to complete them all in an efficient manner, so prioritization and focus are extremely important. If you ever find yourself in a position where you feel you’re not sure what to do first on your to-do-list, or if there are two conflicting deadlines, you should discuss this with your station chief. He or she will help guide you in the right direction or speak to mangers to get things shifted.
  • Time management. Sometimes there will be situations where you thought you would be able to get something done by a given deadline and then, as it gets closer, you realize that it may not be realistic, so you’ll want to communicate that to either your station chief or the individual that gave you the assignment as soon as possible to avoid putting everyone in a time crunch and difficult situation. With experience, time management will become easier and there will be fewer of these situations, but communication is key nonetheless.
  • Self-review. This is a very important step for everyone. While mistakes are inevitable and all of your work is reviewed, you should make sure you catch avoidable mistakes. You’ll want to make sure that you’ve done your own self-review before letting a reviewer/signer know that a project is ready for them to review. This step goes hand in hand with having a clear understanding of the assignment and why you are doing it, so if that is ever unclear, you should ask for further clarification. When you are learning a lot of new things and taking on new responsibilities, you will have notes and feedback from whoever has given you the assignment, but the goal with self-review is to eliminate the small mistakes or oversights from when you initially finished the task, so that feedback can be focused on the more important aspects of the assignment.

Hopefully you’ll find these tips to be helpful. If there is anything mentioned above that you would like to discuss further, please let me know.

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