On Purpose: How Goal-Setting Shaped My Career

“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” –Zig Ziglar

My journey with HFG began in January 2016 when I joined the Service Department as a Client Service Consultant. Nervous, excited, and lacking any prior experience in the financial industry, I suddenly found myself in the thick of it – processing client paperwork, scheduling meetings, fielding phone calls, and quickly learning that the world I now lived in was fit only for the detail-oriented and highly organized. With so much still to learn, settling into this new and unfamiliar role proved to be a difficult task. And feeling much like a blunt object among fine precision tools, I slowly began to question my ability to keep up with the fast pace of the Service Department.

My struggle to take on this new position appeared to be no secret either; and despite my best efforts, it seemed glaringly obvious to my co-workers that I was slowly falling behind, each day becoming increasingly overwhelmed by my ever-growing task list. Indeed, those first few months were ones filled with anxiety and uncertainty about my future at HFG and, for one advisor, my plight became impossible to ignore. Pulling me into his office, he engaged me in a conversation about long-term goal setting. What did I want to accomplish at HFG? Where did I see my career path headed? His questions left me stumped. I walked out of his office intent on creating a list of goals I felt were worthwhile and important to work toward.

This, it seemed, was the answer to my months-long problem. The simple act of setting goals and making a commitment to work on them daily turned everything around for me. I enjoyed coming to work more than ever before, and the constant struggle to complete my daily tasks and meet deadlines began to diminish over time. I suddenly had a greater sense of purpose and direction, and it all began with just a few simple questions.

Approximately eighteen months into my time at HFG, I found myself moving out of the Service Department and into a new position: Wealth Planner. Instead of completing new account paperwork and processing distribution forms, I was now running retirement analysis scenarios – a task that provided me with a unique opportunity to work with and learn directly from each of our financial advisors. Soon thereafter, as the company continued to grow, the Planning Department developed a need for an additional Wealth Planner. It was during this period of change that I was asked to manage the department. Thrilled, I accepted the position and my list of goals continued to expand.

With increased responsibilities and loftier standards to meet as the Planning Department Manager, I set my sights squarely on my next objective: to obtain my Financial Paraplanner Qualified Professional (FPQP™) designation. It was a goal that I reached through the College for Financial Planning in August 2018, and one that yielded greater knowledge in the areas of cash management, investing, insurance, tax planning, estate planning, and of course, retirement planning. Now two and a half years behind me, the early struggles of my first few months at HFG felt like tiny, distant figures in my rear-view mirror, reducing in size with each milestone reached. Once directionless and grappling with an uncertain future, I no longer saw each challenge as a sign to retreat back to safety. Instead, armed with an education and the support of my supervisors, they were simply opportunites for growth.

In 2019, I’ve continued on my professional journey with HFG and now manage both the Planning Department as well the Service Department. Once again, I have found myself in a new position with expectations higher than the last; but unlike the Sam Ward of 2016, I now have a brand of self-confidence that can only be attained through the process of continuously setting and reaching new goals. It is a mindset that has given me a new appreciation for the incredible group of people I work with and one that allows me to head home at the end of each work day with a sense of fulfillment.

There is no doubt in my mind that had I not been challenged to think about my future with intention, my career at HFG would have taken its last breaths in 2016. I encourage anyone who is fumbling down a similar path to ask themselves this: am I simply working, or am I working toward something meaningful? The shift toward the latter can be both empowering and intimidating. However, it is the difference between aiming toward something incredible and falling short, and aiming at nothing at all and hitting it every time.

Samuel Ward, FPQP™