Getting Financial Advising Experience

5 Ways to Get Financial Advising Experience (Before Becoming a CFP®) 

Preparing for a career in financial planning requires more than just completing the right courses and earning your Certified Financial Planner™ credential. You also need to practice working with clients and building financial plans. That kind of experience also matters when you’re looking for a job — most firms look for candidates with real-world financial advising experience (even for entry-level positions).

So, how can you earn that experience? We’ve talked before about some of the ways you can earn official experience hours that count toward your CFP® requirement. 

But you don’t need to limit yourself to opportunities that count toward your requirements. Instead, think about ways you get exposure to real-world planning and clients — you’ll learn how to act as a trusted advisor and serve your clients better.

Experience Opportunity #1: Internship or Apprenticeship

If you can find an internship or apprenticeship position, you’ll have the chance to gain real-world experience and get guidance from a seasoned professional. While many of these positions may count toward your CFP® Board hours, don’t automatically dismiss those that don’t.

Even an informal opportunity can help you see what it’s like to work in this profession. You’ll get a first-hand look at the daily work of financial planning. And you might be able to sit in on client meetings and observe those conversations. It’s a great way to see how an experienced financial planner handles questions, provides guidance, and creates customized financial plans.

Where can you find an internship or apprenticeship? Look for opportunities at wealth management firms, financial advisory firms, banks, or credit unions. 

If you don’t necessarily need paid work, you might even consider requesting an unpaid internship at a nearby firm. Or you could ask a financial planner you know if you can come in and shadow them a couple of times a week. On-the-job experience is valuable, even if it’s not an official program.

Experience Opportunity #2: Volunteer

Another option is to volunteer your financial planning skills. Many nonprofit organizations offer free financial planning assistance, and working in this capacity can be beneficial for you and the organization. You get a chance to practice your financial planning skills, and the organization can save resources.

Another benefit of volunteering is that you may have the chance to help a diverse range of clients. Many traditional investment firms and wealth management companies tend to cater to wealthy retirees. But you’ll probably work with a variety of different clients when you volunteer. That kind of experience helps you gain new perspectives and hone your creative problem-solving skills.

Experience Opportunity #3: Networking

You might not think about networking as a way to gain experience, but building professional relationships is crucial as you start your career. You can learn so much from your colleagues and peers. And they may even help you find additional opportunities for internships or jobs down the road.

As you work on building your network, look for people who have different skills and backgrounds from yours. You’ll get to hear unique perspectives and see different ways to work with your clients.

How can you build your network? Consider joining your local FPA chapter. Reach out to any financial professionals you may know. Join an online community, and introduce yourself at conferences and industry events.

Experience Opportunity #4: Mentorship

Do you have a mentor? Having a mentor might not be a big addition to your resume, but that doesn’t mean it’s unimportant. In fact, working with (or talking to) an experienced financial planner can be one of the most valuable things you do for your career. 

This is your chance to ask questions and get feedback on your work. Ask your mentor to share their experiences or their thoughts about specific aspects of this profession. Learn how they react to clients who are emotional. Ask your mentor how to build trust with a client.

These are things you can’t learn from a textbook. You’ll gain knowledge and insight as your own career progresses, but you can also benefit from getting an inside look at another financial advisor’s experience.

Experience Opportunity #5: Professional Development and Mentorship

Finally, think about educational opportunities beyond your official CFP® courses. Webinars, workshops, and seminars can all be beneficial. For example, consider attending a tax preparation webinar or going to a seminar about estate planning. There’s always more to learn, and focusing on specific areas within financial planning can help you serve your clients better down the road.

Gain Priceless Experience at The Externship

On-the-job experience is crucial for financial planners, especially when you’re just starting out. When you’re looking for ways to gain experience, don’t forget to consider “unofficial” opportunities that don’t necessarily relate to your CFP® requirements, like mentorships and volunteer opportunities.

If you’re looking for an opportunity that includes mentorship, networking, CFP® coursework, and hands-on work, come to The Externship! Over eight weeks, you’ll hear from dozens of experts, practice building financial plans, network with other professionals, and see inside various niches within financial planning — all online from the comfort of home! And you’ll earn 500 CFP® Board Standard Pathway experience hours if you complete all the work.