Elizabeth Malgari, CFP® – Wealth Advisor & Director of Client Experience
Five years ago, I found myself in the all-too-common position of being a woman removed from the workforce. It is not an American secret that we often see a career gap for woman. With the exorbitant cost of childcare and the lack of maternity leave options, women often become the default caregivers in their homes.
After choosing to stay home with our daughters, I found myself struggling to forge a path back into the workplace once my children started elementary school. I had loved my Wall Street job before kids, but now I was craving a different speed. I enjoyed chatting with my friends and family about money and investments and I was confident that financial planning was my calling, but how could I make it happen? I did what we all do – we pivot and search for opportunity.
A Mom’s Workplace Re-Entry
Reentering the workforce at 35 is a very different game than being a wide-eyed 20-year-old. I knew my value and I knew the atmosphere in which I didn’t want to work. If I was going to start on the bottom rung of the ladder again, I wanted clear metrics to advancement and an opportunity for growth. I also had to check my ego at the door. It is a humbling experience starting over, and I wanted to get it right this time.
Finding opportunity was the first step. Most firms won’t have internships, but they may have open positions. Having open conversations with hiring managers about what you are looking for and why is a great start.
When I met with Abbey Henderson, the CEO and founder of Abaris Financial Group, I knew I had found the firm and the person I wanted to work with. This small financial planning office outside of Boston was different in its planning philosophy, and it was where I wanted to be. I was honest about my background and my interest in planning.
I instantly connected with Abbey, and it was clear our values were aligned. Together, we mapped out what the job would look like today and what the opportunity path would be. This was essentially a paid internship, and I was thrilled!
The Importance of Feedback
Starting an internship provides full immersion in the field in which you think you want to be. I was encouraged to ask questions and learn from someone with more than two decades of experience in the field.
After each project or deliverable, Abbey would provide feedback on what was done well and what areas needed improvement. Not all managers are willing to spend this kind of energy teaching others, but if the expectations are up, the structure is there for learning. I suggest asking for regular check-ins from the start (once a week for 15-30 minutes).
Most internships last three to six months, and having a clear end date is recommended. This time frame provides a defined end to your internship and an exit opportunity if it isn’t a good fit. In my instance, we had a six-month meeting where we clearly overviewed my strengths and weaknesses and charted out how I could move into my new role, which involved taking classes at Boston University and passing an exam.
There are clear benefits to firms that engage in adult internships. Older interns have previously worked and there is no learning curve to answering phones and general office expectations. Each firm has its own culture, but an older intern better understands office politics and working life. Being the same age as other employees helps them integrate better as a team. The same can be true with similarly aged clients. In my experience, I found it easy to connect with clients and I was never viewed as too young.
I wanted to be taken seriously and I was established in my community with responsibilities and a mortgage, so there was minimal risk to my firm that I would be flaky or unreliable. If it is a positive fit, these older interns will give their time and energy to make this internship work and create a future job for themselves.
A Successful Career
I obviously had immensurable luck and good fortune finding the perfect firm and mentor. I benefited from having a planner mindset and working with a financial planner to create my own internship and life plan. Abbey not only outlined a clear career path, but she also overlooked my career gap and saw value where others often saw fault.
Five years later, I am an established Certified Financial Planner® at the firm with which I interned. Having a career gap and changing the course of your life doesn’t have to be a negative. Clearly outlining your goals and values helps foster honest conversations about what is possible and what it will take to make your goals a reality. My hope is that others will be as successful as I was in turning opportunity into success with some thoughtful planning, hard work and having open-minded hiring managers.
It’s never too late to start something new. Contact us to schedule a conversation about steps you can take now to increase the odds of reaching your future goals.