Young Professionals: Career Planning with the “Background, Blueprint, Build” Model
We are colleagues and associates at Wealth Architects, an independent wealth advisory and financial-life planning firm. We have worked in multiple roles and office environments prior to this one, and have taken away some lessons that we think will be helpful for other young professionals – in any industry – at the early stages of their careers.
The “Background, Blueprint, Build” Model
When we begin working with new clients at Wealth Architects, we go through a three-step process with them. First, we need to gain a strong understanding of the client’s values, financial circumstances and life goals; with that, we create a financial-life plan that addresses their goals and priorities; and then, we work with our clients to execute that plan successfully.
We’ve found this values-centric model is not only helpful for financial planning, but for planning any major life endeavor. Below, we’ll walk you through how the “Background, Blueprint, Build” framework can be applied toward career planning.
PHASE 1: BACKGROUND (Information-gathering)
As advisors, we start by gathering as much pertinent information as possible from our clients. We can best advise them only when we have a true understanding of their values, goals, priorities, and specific circumstances.
We encourage you, as a professional launching your career, to ask yourself similar questions to get in tune with your own values, goals and priorities. Then, you can find a career that complements them.
Questions to ask yourself when considering your professional path
What are your career growth goals?
- Do you eventually see yourself in a leadership position? Is it important to you that your employer offers you benefits such as mentorship, hands-on experiences and a clear career path at the company?
What is your working style?
- In school, did you like to work individually or in a group? Do you want a position that allows you to work independently or one that involves regular collaboration and engagement with colleagues or clients?
Is flexibility or remote work important to you?
- Do you need a flexible schedule to fulfill other obligations or passions outside of work? Would you prefer the quiet of working from home more independently and via technology or the in-person camaraderie and collaboration of going into an office? Do you want the option to live in a city outside of where your company is based?
What are your social values?
- Is it important that you work for a company whose purpose is aligned with your beliefs? This might be a business or nonprofit with a product or mission you feel is important or a philanthropic company that supports causes you also believe in.
Is income a top priority?
- Perhaps securing the highest-paid job is most critical to you right now or maybe you’re willing to take less pay for a position you find more enticing with greater development opportunities.
I learned that having professional development opportunities and a clear career trajectory was imperative to me when considering joining a company. Wealth Architects was the first firm to provide me with that type of support and guidance. My previous jobs didn’t offer these things and I felt lost as a result.
One of the other values I hold now is working for a philanthropic company. Wealth Architects has a strong sense of community and care and we’re all asked to give input on how the company gives back with our time, money and knowledge. In previous jobs, only upper management made those decisions so I never felt I had any agency in their giving philosophy.
I’m a firm believer that being happy with what you’re doing and where you’re heading is more important than getting the highest salary you can. Of course, more money is hard to turn down in the Bay Area, but there’s also value beyond dollars to taking a long-term approach. It’s about finding the right balance, where you can feel both financially secure and fulfilled. Maybe you’ll make less at a given company at first, but if you love the culture, its values align with yours and you’re passionate about the product or service, then you’ll likely be healthier, happier and more successful in the long-run.
PHASE 2: BLUEPRINT (Planning)
In our first few meetings with clients, we capture the Background information they’ve shared and present it back to them in a personalized document that includes a comprehensive strategic plan, along with a one-sentence wealth purpose statement that sums up their “why” behind wanting to achieve their financial and life goals. This serves as a blueprint for our work with them. We revisit the purpose statement together periodically to ensure their decision-making remains in alignment with their stated goals and values.
Once you’ve asked yourself some Background questions about what you’re looking for in a career, you can develop a career plan by outlining your own strategic plan with the steps you’ll need to take.
Write a plan and mission statement
Your plan may include networking, researching, reaching out to prospective employers and preparing for interviews to increase your odds of getting one or multiple compelling job offers.
Your purpose statement should sum up in one sentence what you want out of your career and why, based on the goals, values and other information you outlined in the Background phase. A purpose statement serves as your north star to keep you heading in the right direction. You may need to adjust the purpose statement over time if any of your goals or priorities change.
When I first started interviewing, it always felt to me like a one-way street: the employer asking me questions. I didn’t realize that I should be interviewing them, too. You’ve taken the time to identify what you want, so you should ask the questions that help you understand if that job opportunity is right for you. Once I realized this, I created a rubric of my values that I would review before interviews so I’d ask the best questions. When I got multiple offers, I used the rubric to help in my decision-making process.
Career development has always been a top priority for me. You often see more of this culture at smaller companies, but you can find it in big companies if you know how to look for it. My first job was at a global financial institution, but I joined a small team within it where mentorship was a focus. In my interviews with them, I asked about mentorship opportunities and they gave me specific examples. They made a point to educate and advise me along the way and help me get better at my role. I credit a lot of my professional growth to joining that team.
PHASE 3: BUILD (Take action)
This is where you get to see your thoughtful prep work start to pay off. With our clients, the Build phase is where we put their strategic plan into action with financial investments, monitoring their portfolio and reassessing their plan as their lives evolve and they hit new milestones. We check in to see that they’re making financial and life decisions that are consistent with their wealth purpose and plan, so they keep moving toward their big goals. At times, we make minor adjustments.
With career planning, the Blueprint phase prepares you for finding your next job. Once you have that secured, the Build phase involves taking ongoing steps to advance your career and reassessing your circumstances to ensure you continue on a path that suits you.
Reassess and pivot when necessary
Most professionals (ourselves included) don’t find a perfect, linear career path right away. In fact, people change jobs an average of 12 times in their lives.¹ The Build phase is a long-term, exploratory period that evolves as you do. Check in with yourself regularly to ask if your job is meeting your goals and consistent with your career purpose statement. The characteristics of the job or company may have changed or perhaps it’s you and your goals that have changed. Consider which moves you might make to enhance your career.
I didn’t have a great work-life balance at past firms, even though that was important to me. Balance is a core tenet that Wealth Architects promotes. They provide a personal/career coach as a resource that anyone at the company can use. I’ve worked with this coach to help me develop a structure that creates for a better work-life balance and helps me achieve my goals inside and outside of the office. With her help, I challenged myself to get into running and I just completed my first marathon.
Though I got a lot out of my first company, the role was behind the scenes and I realized I craved more client interaction. This job helped lead me to a better fit. I was looking for a role with client interaction, leaders who encourage input and cross-pollination and an executive team that is open about how the business operates, where our numbers are and where we’re going. We each have an impact on the company’s growth and success and we feel that. The company also fosters our individual success by subsidizing professional certifications and providing professional development.
We hope you found this article applicable to your own career journey, regardless of your field. If you are considering a job in the financial services industry, we are always expanding our team and would love to hear from you! Reach out to us here.
¹ Zippia. “Average Number of Jobs in a Lifetime : How Many Jobs Does The Average Person Have” Zippia.com. Jan. 11, 2023, https://www.zippia.com/advice/average-number-jobs-in-lifetime/
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The information provided in this commentary is intended to be informative and not intended to be advice relative to any investment or portfolio offered through Wealth Architects. The views expressed in this commentary reflect the opinion of the author based on data available as of the date this article [essay] was written and is subject to change without notice. This commentary is not a complete analysis of any sector, industry or security. Individual investors should consult with their financial advisor before implementing changes in their portfolio based on opinions expressed. The information provided in this commentary is not a solicitation for the investment management or other services offered by Wealth Architects. References incorporated into the report [essay] from third party sources are as of the date specified and are believed to be reliable. Wealth Architects is not responsible for errors in the third party data.