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FA Center: Taking part in the Great Resignation? Consider a career in financial advice

The “Great Resignation” continues to sweep America, creating challenges for employers and raising questions about where transitioning workers will land in the months ahead.

Almost 4½ million people quit their jobs in September alone, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s a stunning trend driven by a pandemic that has changed the way we view the world and motivated millions to take a step back, rethink their careers and pursue a professional transformation.

Choosing a career path is no easy task, especially in a period of uncertainty. For those grappling with this choice, a career in financial advice could be the unexpected opportunity that offers what they are looking for. Several trends are coalescing to make financial advice a particularly attractive career choice:

Opportunity is knocking. Long-term trends — including a rapidly diversifying client base, the aging adviser workforce, and the impending transfer of trillions in wealth from baby boomers to their heirs — have been driving demand for financial advisers for some time. The pandemic has added fuel to the fire by bringing financial worries to the forefront for many people and raising awareness of their own mortality. As a result, more Americans are turning to professionals for financial advice to combat those concerns. Nearly 4 in 10 Americans (38%) currently work with a financial adviser, a significant increase over the pre-pandemic level of 29%, according to Northwestern Mutual’s Planning & Progress study. It all adds up to a vibrant job market for new entrants, especially for younger people, women and people of color who will be well-positioned to take advantage of traditionally underserved markets that are now emerging.
Finding a purpose. Changing professions isn’t just about pay. Many people are increasingly driven by the quest for something more meaningful. The Millennial Impact Report found that an overwhelming number of millennials — 94% — want to use their skills to benefit others. That collective mind-set will transform the American workforce, and financial advice fits that evolving perspective perfectly. Advisers are in a position to make a tremendous impact on clients’ lives. When adviser-client relationships are at their best, advisers serve as deeply trusted counselors who help clients establish financial security and protect themselves and their families from potential bumps in the road. They also help people realize life dreams — from launching businesses, to paying for their children’s college education, to fulfilling philanthropic goals, and more.
Choosing your own adventure. Independence and entrepreneurism were watchwords for the job market well before the pandemic hit, with the rise of the “gig economy” and crowdfunding to help fledgling startups get off the ground. Financial advice is far from a no-strings-attached gig, but it offers many compelling opportunities for those with a strong entrepreneurial spirit. Advisers can customize their own journey in myriad ways, deciding for themselves what types of clients they want to serve, what services to offer (e.g., retirement planning, risk management, college planning, legacy or charitable giving, debt management, etc.), and what kind of team and culture they want to create. Financial advice offers a compelling combination of independence and flexibility that can challenge you to grow and learn as an adviser and as a leader.
Not just for finance majors anymore. Financial advisers are no longer just number-crunchers or rainmakers. Financial acumen certainly still matters, but successful financial advice firms increasingly value a wider range of skillsets, including operational and business know-how, familiarity with data and technology and, importantly, interpersonal skills that can foster trusting relationships with clients. As client expectations change along with client demographics, doors are opening to people of varied backgrounds who can fill differing roles. I’ve seen career-changers from a wide range of industries as well transitioning military vets build successful careers as financial advisers. Finding successful advisers from so many walks of life will only continue to grow in importance in the years to come.

The world is rapidly changing around us, fueling new perspectives on how to live and work. For the 20-something employee who is still considering their options, to the midcareer professional exploring a life-changing transition, a career in financial advice may be the answer they have been looking for. It’s a career of purpose that offers the opportunity to build something uniquely yours that has the potential to create an impact and a legacy that will live on for generations.

Tim Gerend is chief distribution officer and executive vice president at Northwestern Mutual. He is responsible for the growth and success of Northwestern Mutual’s exclusive distribution system of more than 20,000 financial advisers, representatives, leaders and team members.

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