3 Career Development Tips for Success

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What should financial planners be doing in professional career development for success in 2019? Here are my top three tips.

1.) Use the Power of Weak (and Strong) Connections

The familiar adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” assumed well-known associates are the key to professional success. However, psychologists have been debating the success of networking with people you don’t know (weak connections) versus people you do know (strong connections) for the last four decades. So what works?

Let me summarize the research. Weak connections multiply your chances because of their extended reach. At the same time, your immediate colleagues are individually more powerful because of your close relationship. As a result, weak connections provide more opportunities and close connections provides more advocacy.

The smart strategy is to use the combined power of both. If psychological journals thrill you, read “The Paradox of Weak Ties in 55 Countries,” which was published in Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

2.) Ask and Listen

Psychologists and certified coaches are trained to ask strategic questions and listen perceptively. This sounds simple, but most of us are trained to be experts in talking, not experts in asking and listening.

Asking powerful questions and listening is an ideal strategy with both weak and strong connections. Here’s how:

  • Ask open-ended questions: Open-ended questions prompt the most information. Questions that start with what, how, when and who are ideal. Here are some examples:
    • What do you recommend?
    • How would I go about that?
    • Who do you recommend I contact?
    • When shall I follow up?
  • Listen reflectively: Ask, listen, then follow-up with a summary statement. The speaker will confirm (or correct) your perception. Then continue delving deeper with more open-ended questions. An example might be: “If I understand, you recommend contacting your colleague as a good resource. I would appreciate your guidance. What’s the most helpful thing I might learn from making that connection?” In addition to uncovering information, there are psychological and strategic benefits of asking and listening:
    • You make a good impression. We automatically like those who are interested and listen attentively.
    • You boost their self-esteem. People like feeling knowledgeable and important.
    • You increase motivation to help you. Human beings get an endorphin boost from altruism and we value helpfulness. They will want to be helpful.
    • You protect your image. We are less likely to make a mistake if we listen first. For more communication tips, download the PDF Speak Success: 7 Communication Tips to Achieve the Goal.

3.) Kill Brain ANTs

Even the most successful professionals struggle with confidence. Brain ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) are very common, especially during times of professional growth and transition. Check out the successful cognitive psychology technique for how to kill brain ANTs.

Editor’s note: This blog post is an excerpt from the FPA Coaches Corner whitepaper, “Make 2019 Your Year: Business and Career Tips to Get the Most out of 2019.” See the full whitepaper here.


Barbara Kay, LPC, RCC, president of Barbara Kay Coaching, is a business psychology and productivity expert who coaches and speaks nationwide. She specializes in growth, productivity, teams, clients, change, women and leadership. Joining the FPA Coaches Corner in 2019, she now offers free coaching to FPA members.

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