Internships are a rite of passage for many college students embarking upon a financial planning career. Interns today are up against challenging virtual workplace dynamics, a looming recession and lingering consequences of three pandemic years. Despite these factors, this year’s class of financial planning interns is still eager to maximize their internship experiences, translate them to full-time offers amid an unsteady economy and launch their careers.   

A high-impact internship can be an incredible asset to help young professionals and their resumes stand out from the crowd. But it’s not enough to simply sign the internship offer. Making the most of the experience requires focus, dedication and intellectual curiosity. By following the six concrete, actionable tips below, financial planning interns of all backgrounds can propel their careers forward to reach key professional milestones, build job-critical skills, secure full-time offers and establish a professional network:

1. Develop strategic career goals. Ask yourself what you are hoping to accomplish or learn over the next few months. Perhaps you’d like to improve your financial analysis skills or develop a professional network. Spend some time researching the technical and interpersonal skills that you’ll need to advance your career, and think strategically about how your current employer can help you hone them. Note that 90% of consumers see an advisor’s certification as important, so take time to identify which designation(s), like the CFP certification, you would like to pursue after graduation. Now is also an ideal time to prepare to meet the certification’s criteria.

2. Find a mentor and request regular feedback: If you are assigned a supervisor, start there, but also be receptive to others with whom you might have natural chemistry or who may be doing work that excites you. Schedule time to meet regularly and discuss your goals, progress and room for growth. A midterm performance review can be a great time to ask yourself questions such as, what elements of the work am I enjoying? What is challenging? Where do I need more support or training? Be prepared to share what is working and where you might benefit from additional resources—and be open to constructive feedback. Plus, if your mentor is doing work that interests you, conduct an informational interview to understand the path to their current role.

3. Advance your personal brand. Financial planners are their own personal brand. Professionalism around colleagues and clients can open doors to new opportunities and nurture critical industry relationships. Whether you are working remotely or in the office, a few simple practices can make a strong impression on clients and colleagues: Match their formality in both written and verbal communication, dress for the job you want, and avoid distractions like social media or noisy personal devices. Preparing for every meeting, which includes reading relevant materials and coming with thoughtful questions, can go a long way in building a stellar reputation. Don’t be afraid to lean on your peers for insight into senior managers’ preferred working or communication styles to ensure that you’re set up for success.

4. Find an organizational style that works for you. Staying organized and on top of work as it is assigned to you are critical skills that managers look for when deciding whom to hire full time. Try out a few strategies, like maintaining a formal planner or running a to-do list on your laptop, to see what works. 

5.Look into Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). If available, these groups can be an excellent way to identify additional relationship- and skill-building tools and resources. In the absence of ERGs, identify industrywide affinity groups that pique your interest. There are many excellent industry organizations and initiatives built around specific communities, specialties and interests that can serve as opportunities to build community, network and learn. You may also pursue informational interviews with others in these groups in addition to your mentor.

6. Maintain your professional network after the internship ends. Don’t be afraid to reach out every few months to old colleagues to talk shop about the biggest headline of the day. Industry news can provide organic topics of conversation when contacting former colleagues. It’s a great way to maintain relationships, show initiative and sharpen your networking skills. Subscribe to industry newsletters to stay current with trends and major developments in your field.

While these skill-building best practices may at first seem daunting, mastering them does not need to happen all at once. A career is built one day at a time, and the financial planners of tomorrow should rest assured knowing that resources to nurture a fulfilling profession remain in abundance.

Dawn Harris is director of D&I for the CFP Board Center for Financial Planning.