Sometimes, what students in high school and college think they want to do as a career ends up being different from what they actually end up choosing to do as adults. This was certainly the case for Lauren Pearson, a successful financial advisor in Birmingham, Alabama.
“I think that if you’d asked me in high school if this was something that I would have been interested in, the answer would have definitely been no.” These changes in plans are a perfectly normal part of growing up. As we take new classes, experience new things, and go through changes in our lives, our interests and values may change, and there is nothing wrong with that. Pearson tells kids to embrace it, and use college as a time to really explore their interests. “I think I was too career-oriented in college and I wish that I hadn’t been.” If you explore, she explains, “you can think of your career as just a completely different chapter and it doesn’t have to be related to what you did in college,” she says. This exploration, she tells me, “teaches you how to think,” and gives you “transferable skills.”
It makes sense that Pearson gives this advice. She went to school for journalism, and dedicated herself to what she saw as a clear path. She says she was trained in high school to “check boxes” and meet requirements step by step. She realizes students going into professions like medicine or accounting may benefit from this kind of path, but she still encourages these students to do some branching out.
So how did the aspiring journalist become a financial advisor? Pearson tells me the interest started when she and her now husband moved to a small town in South Carolina, where there weren’t a lot of job opportunities in journalism. She started to consider other careers. She knew she wanted to have kids in the future, so she looked to google and found a list of the best careers for mothers. Financial advising was on the list.
Some of the qualities that made her a good journalist, also turned out to make her a good financial planner. Like an interviewer, a financial planner has to be good at talking to people, making them feel comfortable, and encouraging them to open up. “Being a great listener and having a tremendous amount of empathy” she tells me, “gets you into the headspace where your client is.” Money is a very personal topic. It often comes with a lot of emotion. When Pearson first meets with her clients, she discusses with them their financial history and their hopes and goals for the future. She gets to hear their stories, like a journalist would.
There are a number of reasons why people come to see Pearson. Sometimes her clients are trying to move, save up for their kids’ college, get out of debt, or solve a disagreement with their spouse over money. Pearson tells me that having a financial advisor can be very beneficial. While we may like to think we have a good perspective on our money, sometimes it takes a third party to help us realize we could be handling our finances better.
I ask her if she experiences misogyny as a woman in her field. Pearson tells me that because there aren’t a lot of female advisors out there, her clients are “making an unusual choice” by coming to her, and so they tend to be more open-minded. At the time that I am talking to Pearson, her practice is all female. She didn’t necessarily plan it that way, but she thinks it’s cool, although, she says, “we’d love to have some enlightened males apply too.” Pearson has daughters and she strives to set an example for them. She wants them to know that they can be successful and have a good career if they want to.
Pearson seems to like her job. On one occasion, she spoke to me and other Springboarders (GirlSpring’s teen leadership group) about her field. She outlined how her knowledge of financial planning helps her organize the family budget and take care of needs, while still having room for wants, pointing out her necklace as an example. I was able to see her practice, and it is lovely. It lies in an affluent suburb bordering the city of Birmingham. Before I met with Pearson, I knew close to nothing about financial advising. Now, I think it sounds rewarding, interesting, and like a great field for ambitious young women to go into.