How to help minority financial planning students get jobs

Put them through the wringer with mock interviews; act as mentors

Feb 24, 2014 @ 9:02 am

By Liz Skinner

Advisers can help the financial services industry boost its historically poor ethnic diversity even without making those hires themselves.

Minority financial planning students need help polishing their communications skills, according to Luke Dean, director of William Paterson University's financial planning program. About 51% of the Wayne, N.J., school's students are minorities.

These students tend to need at least five interviews with advisory firms before they begin attracting interest from employers, as opposed to most white men and women in the program, who gain attention much more quickly, Mr. Dean said.

The minority students aren't lacking technical skills and they're great kids, but often they need help with their delivery, he said. He's talking about the kind of help that those who grow up with college-educated parents typically get early in their lives.

"They are not getting the same coaching as third-generation college grads," Mr. Dean said Friday at a career fair in Tyson's Corner, Va., sponsored by the Financial Planning Association's national capital area chapter.

He asked advisers to volunteer to conduct mock interviews with minority students at financial planning programs and to offer them useful criticism on how they can deliver their message better. By doing so, advisers can act as mentors for minority candidates and help them succeed in the industry so that the adviser population eventually looks more like the nation as a whole.

The Census Bureau reports 37% of the U.S. population is a member of a minority. Meanwhile, only about 8% of the financial services industry is a minority member, according to the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.

Ruth Lytton, professor of financial planning at Virginia Tech, said mock interviewing by advisers is effective because students look up to advisers and respect their guidance.

She agreed that sometimes students who grew up in different cultures need more help appealing to an advisory firm's hiring needs and presenting themselves in such a way that shows their depth of knowledge and skills.

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