What do ballet and finance have in common? If your first thought was, “not much,” you’re not too far off. Graduating with a degree in dance, Caitlyn Biedrzycki found herself in the expected job of dance instructor. But, she also found herself being less than inspired in a career that should have been her passion. “I spent more of my days waiting to get out of work instead of being fully immersed,” she admits.
The I-could-see-myself-loving-that spark came in the form of meeting a woman in a more traditional business role not once, but twice! After her first career gestalt almost landed her in sales, a chance meeting with a financial professional just felt right. Of course she was still a dance major—something Caitlyn says she just had to get over. “ … Financial planning is first and foremost about having a trusting relationship and being a resource for them. Part of being that resource is to continue to educate yourself.”
So that’s what Caitlyn did, earning a number of licenses, certificates and working toward her Certified Financial Planner designation. Now, she’s not just serving a growing list of clients, but acting as a leader and mentor for younger talent entering the field. It’s a long way from plies and pointe shoes, and Caitlyn wouldn’t have it any other way.
Put people first! People don’t usually remember all the details of an interaction, but they do remember how you made them feel.
You have a fascinating background for a financial consultant! Could you share with us your career path?
After college, I moved back to Austin to work in a dance studio and perform with an aerial dance company. I did not feel like I was making the most out of my life and spent most of my days waiting to get out of work instead of being fully immersed. I met a woman through a friend who was in pharmaceutical sales and there was something about her that I deeply admired. I wanted to be her. I asked her how I could get a job like hers and she allowed me to interview for the position. That experience was very intense, I had to borrow a suit from my cousin and spent a solid week reading about the specific products I would be promoting. At the end of it all, I was given the feedback “go get any b2b sales job and try again in 18 months.” I immediately got on monster.com and applied for every sales job I could find.
I ended up working for a manufacturing company where I spent a year selling durable labels like stainless steel placard and polycarbonate overlays. During my time at the manufacturing company, I met another woman who worked in finance. I was so intrigued by her, because I once again had that “I want to be you” feeling. The fact that she was a financial service professional just sounded impressive to me. Through a series of conversations, she tried to tell me that I could do what she does but I kept saying, “No I can’t. I have a degree in dance.” That is when I learned that financial planning is first and foremost about having a trusting relationship with your clients and being a resource for them. Part of being that resource is to continue to educate myself in order to best serve my clients.
After obtaining my insurance, securities and investment advisor licenses, I continued to earn a Retirement Planning Specialist certificate as well as take the courses towards earning my CFP®. After a year in the business, our branch’s Senior Vice President approached me about taking on a more formal leadership role within the organization. I attended our internal Leadership Development School to give me a more in depth view of the organization and help me decide what path I wanted my career to take. In addition to serving my clients, I now serve as a mentor and coach for advisors and help recruit new talent into the organization.
What a great example of making it happen! What was the moment you knew you had to switch from ballet to finance?
I always wanted to be in business, I just didn’t know how to get there. I didn’t start out looking for a career in finance. I did, however, look for other people who I wanted to be like and who inspired me. Once I found that person, and the opportunity was with a company with values and a mission that aligned with mine, it was a no-brainer. I had to make the switch.
What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?
I like to be helpful. Financial stress is a huge burden on people. I called my mother crying every day after college graduation because I had no idea how I was going to afford to pay back my student loans. That burden consumed me and that is the same story for many people. Whether it’s paying back debt, ability to afford a home, saving for children’s college or being able to retire, everyone has financial stress. I get to relieve that worry by teaching people what to do with their money. How awesome is that?!
What is the biggest misconception people have when you share that you’re a financial professional?
I am still not quite sure what people are actually thinking; however, money is something we are told is “rude” to talk about, so I think I catch people off guard when I tell them I deal with people’s personal finance.
What is a typical day in your life like? How do you organize your day?
I spend the first hour of my day drinking coffee, creating a to-do list for the day and delegating tasks to interns or my assistant. Once I have gotten a handle on what needs to be accomplished that day, I usually go to the gym for about an hour before actually starting on the day. Overall, I wear many “hats” in my organization and prefer to wear one hat per day.
Mondays are mostly dedicated to team meetings and team planning, both for the team I am on and the one I am building. Tuesdays through Thursdays, I dedicate my time to running meetings with current or prospective clients. Fridays are dedicated to wrapping up any loose ends from the weekly meetings, and then identifying who I want to meet with the following week. I used to try to wear multiple hats every day and block off time in my calendar for each thing, but I found that I was much more efficient if I could focus on one job per day.
What are some leadership lessons you’ve learned so far?
Put people first! People don’t usually remember all the details of an interaction, but they do remember how you made them feel. Be that person who makes time to listen and help those around you. It’s amazing what people can achieve when they know that they are valued. I am certain I have made it to my current role because multiple people made me feel like I was essential to the organization. I try each day to make those I encounter feel like they are essential to my business and my life.
What is your favorite part of your business right now?
Using technology! Traditionally, to meet with an advisor you had to come to their office. For a few years now, advisors have been slowly embracing technology to conduct business. At this point, 75% of my practice is run online. I am obsessed with making my practice fit my life and the lives of my clients. Many of my clients are busy, career-oriented people with families. It’s hard for them to get their spouse and children up to my office, after work, in Austin traffic at 5 p.m. Through the use of applications like join.me, Skype and Docusign, I can meet with a family anywhere and help them! I once ran a meeting with a family while they drove from Texas to Chicago on summer vacation! The husband drove, the wife operated the iPad and the kids happily watched a movie in the back seat. That never could have happened if they had to come into my office! By the end of this year, I hope to run a completely virtual financial services practice.
Do you have a mentor?
Yes! Several. I love getting different perspectives on issues. I have two great mentors that work in my same organization and one that works in a completely unrelated field. It is so helpful to bounce the same idea off of all of them, because I feel like I get to see it from all angles. They also tell me when I am being ridiculous, or if they have experience with my same issue and what happened for them. Time spent with mentors is invaluable!
What qualities do you look for when hiring for your team?
There are the obvious things like, an interest in finance, a strong desire to help people, etc. But, I want someone who has that “stick-to-it-ness.” The hardest part about being a financial consultant is not the finance; it’s the ability to be self-motivating, the determination to succeed no matter what and the ability to put actions over your feelings. I am looking for someone who has a history that shows they stick with things until the end. You only fail if you stop trying, so I look for team members who just won’t stop trying.
How do you feel we can get more women involved in the finance industry?
Encourage them! Women are amazing in this industry. Women are natural relationship builders, and I’m surprised there are not more women in the financial professional industry. I would love to see more financial institutions involved with after-school activities for girls, or gearing their recruiting specifically toward women. And if you are looking to hire more women in your organization, make sure that they have the opportunity to interact with women in your office who are in the position the potential new hire is interviewing for. It needs to feel like a place they belong if they are going to seriously consider working for that company.
For women who have been out of the workforce to raise their family, how would you recommend they re-enter?
There are organizations that care more about the person and their skills, rather than a gap on their resume. Things that stand out to me on a resume include the following: having a college degree and community involvement. If someone took time off to raise their children, but possesses the qualities I am looking for, the fact that they have not worked in 10 years is a non-issue. Find an organization that cares more about who you are as a person than what is written on your resume.
What are some of your go-to resources for both work and your personal life?
Personal life—Pinterest. My Pinterest life is very glamorous! There’s wonderful stuff on there about motivation and leadership, too!
Professional life—audible.com is a life-saver. I pretty much only read books about leadership, growing business and personal growth. By “read” I mean “listen to” instead. Audible.com allows me to combine my gym time, driving time and cooking time with learning time.
What book would you recommend to our readers?
I like Grit by Angela Duckworth, which is a good read especially if you are more into the analytical view. She talks about her research regarding what makes people succeed, and it turns out it has nothing to do with being smart or talented, but rather one’s ability to just not quit. I also like Unlimited by Jillian Michaels. I will forever love everything this woman does. The book is a good read for when you need a reminder to stop making excuses and just go do it. When you are finished with this book, you will feel like you can take on the world!
I’d love to grab coffee with: Jillian Michaels—I swear I am the original #1 fan!
My favorite purse is: I don’t carry one, so I must have back pockets!
My go-to outfit is: Skinny jeans, tank top and a blazer if I’m feeling fancy.
My favorite dinner spot is: Thai food. Anything Asian.
I can’t live without: Coffee. I take a French press with me when I travel. I take the coffee VERY seriously!
My favorite way to unwind is: Having a friend over to drink red wine in our sweat pants … or running the trails around Town Lake in Austin.
I feel my best when: I feel accomplished! I like to get up early and get things done. (Even on the weekend!)