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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Commercial Edition   |   August 2016

Embrace the Basics of Career Planning

To advance professionally, you must invest in yourself and nurture your professional network

Illustration by Dennis WunschThe economy continues its modest growth rate, and dealmakers are seeking to maximize income potential. In such an environment, it’s easy to lose sight of the future in the rush to make hay in the present.

It’s important, however, for mortgage professionals to not be totally immersed in the present. They should be setting aside time to focus attention on career planning and development as well.

Whether you are an independent commercial mortgage broker, or working for an organization, no one has as much at stake in your career as you do. The responsibility for your career development and management ultimately is in your hands.

By focusing on some key fundamentals, you can take charge of your career, enhance growth and ensure a gratifying professional life.

Invest in yourself

Just as organizations thrive under visionary leadership, every leader needs a clear personal vision for a professional future. As you develop your own vision, take stock of your talents and passions, your skills and experience, and your contacts and mentors. 

Renew your vision annually and remember your objectives. Know where you are headed and what you are trying to achieve. Revisit your plan often and remain flexible in responding to market shifts to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves.

Self-awareness also is essential. Turn your focus inward and develop an understanding of who you are and of what drives you. The better you understand yourself, the easier it will be for you to connect with what makes you authentic and to understand your genuine competitive advantage. Clarify your essence and your values, and then build your brand.

As part of this process, take advantage of formal and informal learning opportunities. Keep ahead of the curve by expanding your horizons. Learn about industry innovations, new technology, green lending, international markets, etc. Be open-minded. Be curious. Learn on the job. Weigh the value of lateral moves and explore opportunities to grow by expanding your capabilities and perspective. Consider working with a leadership coach. Getting such individualized attention can help you gain new perspectives and dramatically increase your career momentum. 

People matter

Working with inspirational leaders and with a talented, smart and creative team can help propel you to the next level. Challenge yourself to work with the best. Talented people help you to up your game, inspire you and can catapult you toward your envisioned future.

Networking is important not only when you are looking for a job. Staying connected with colleagues is always an essential element of career growth and development. Developing and nurturing relationships with business associates and keeping in touch with former colleagues and supervisors within your organization is key. Connecting with associates in industry trade groups can keep you attuned to market trends and innovations, and also prevent you from becoming stale.

Beyond your network of mortgage brokers, it’s worthwhile to broaden your sphere by creating relationships with community leaders as well as professionals in the philanthropic and civic worlds. Those contacts can keep you attuned to potential business and career opportunities. The strategic relationships you build and people you support will pay off and provide a future advantage.

While the hardest-working person is not necessarily the person who is the most successful, dependable, effective work habits are essential in building and maintaining a career.

In addition, seek out mentors and sponsors. These people can dramatically enhance your career prospects and propel you forward. This includes mentors within your company, as well as those at other companies or those you might come to know through your participation in professional or civic organizations. These relationships can prove particularly effective when mentors and sponsors have a seat at the board table or the ear of decisionmakers, and they can personally vouch for your talent and effectiveness. Such relationships can be career-changing.

Develop a personal board of directors — an informal, go-to team of advisers who can serve as your personal sounding board and offer insight and guidance. Build a diverse team of folks you trust, and convene the group when possible or meet with individual members who can offer a range of perspectives. In addition to seeking their advice on specific questions or tasks you face in your career, ask for their input as you develop your career vision and strategy, and as you move forward on that path.

Work hard and prosper

Keep your eye on those resume builders. By finding projects, people and organizations that stand out, you improve your reputation and develop career-enhancing skills.

Working with brand-name people at a recognized company with excellent clients can serve as a foundation for future growth.Stepping up to handle a high-profile deal can provide opportunities for a significant increase in client responsibility, job scope and compensation. Be strategic: In addition to positioning yourself for financial gain, participate in deals and work with clients and colleagues who can provide career payback and growth as well.

While the hardest-working person is not necessarily the person who is the most successful, dependable, effective work habits are essential in building and maintaining a career. A passionate commitment to delivering an outstanding work product and a relentless passion for client service are the nuts and bolts in building a great career. Demonstrate that commitment to supervisors, colleagues and clients. Work smart.

And remember, if nothing is ventured, nothing is gained. Push yourself to find and accept challenges, and to take calculated risks. Have a plan, but don’t be a slave to it. Be savvy. Recognize opportunities and maximize them as they arise.


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