If you are thinking about a career as a financial advisor, there are a few steps you should take first to make sure it’s the right choice for you. Financial advising is a relatively new career. In fact, the job didn’t even exist a few decades ago. However, the good news is that it’s one of the fastest growing jobs in the finance industry and is in need of young, new talent.

A quick search of a financial advisor’s job description can tell you a lot about the tasks and responsibilities that come with the job, but unless you spend some time job shadowing or working as an intern, you’ll never truly know what the job entails. (For more, see: Pros and Cons of a Financial Advisor Career.)

How to Shadow a Financial Advisor

Job shadowing has a reputation as being something that only students do, but adults looking to change careers would be wise to do the same before investing a lot of time and money in pursuing a new profession. According to a recent poll by the Financial Planning Association, 88% of financial advisors had a different career first. This means that more and more adults are making the switch to this popular career.

If you are a student, ask your finance professors if there are available internships or shadowing opportunities that they might know about. You have the option of doing a summer internship, which you can find by asking your college advisor or with a quick online search, or you can shadow a financial advisor during the school year. For example, if you have a flexible college schedule or get out in the early afternoon as a high school junior or senior, you can often drive to a financial planner’s office and spend the last few hours of your day observing them and learning what their career is all about.

If you are an adult looking for a career change, it can be harder to shadow an advisor because you likely have your own work schedule. Some alternatives might be asking your network of friends if they know of an advisor who is friendly and willing to share their insight of the field. You can offer to buy them lunch or dinner and use the opportunity to ask them lots of questions about the industry. Then, if it sounds like a good fit, you can take paid time off from your current job to spend a day or two actually being in the office with your new contact. (For more, see: Financial Career Options for Professionals.)

The Benefits of Job Shadowing

The main benefit of job shadowing is that you are able to see what the job really entails. Although a job description might sound great to someone who has an interest in finance, when you job shadow you’ll get to see what it would really be like to work one on one with clients. Not every client is going to be organized and follow all of your advice. When you shadow someone, you will get to see the highs and lows of their day and also some of the more complicated issues and financial plans that only come up from time to time in their practice.

Secondly, job shadowing also allows you to network with people in your prospective new field. Even if you decide not to pursue a job change or a career in that field after shadowing, you are still growing your overall business network and will at a minimum be able to contact them with your own financial questions in the future.

The Bottom Line

Doing a summer internship or even working part-time at a financial advisor’s office during college will allow you get a good feel for what the job is like. Similarly, if you are an adult looking for a career change, meeting with financial advisors and following them during a day in their office will help you to know if it’s worth the time and effort to make the switch. Remember that these networking relationships are important because you might even be offered a full-time job at that firm once your education is complete. (For more, see: Career Advice: Stock Broker vs. Financial Advisor.)

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