Finance and Accounting - Jill Dahl

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Interviewee - Jill Dahl

Writer, coach and entrepreneur at
Second Hand Therapy

Jill Dahl is a writer, coach and entrepreneur who recently launched her own company Second Hand Therapy. But when she first started out, she wanted to be a teacher, and after graduating from university with a degree in education she taught high school English and Home Economics for five years.

However, Jill soon felt she needed a change and her love of numbers led her to the financial industry where she started out as an insurance advisor and eventually worked her way up to branch manager of a billion dollar business with a staff of 40. Although she’s recently made another career change in order to start her own business, we talked to her about her initial switch from education to finance where she ended up working for over a decade.

5 minutes with our career change expert: tips and advice

  • Question: Going from high school teacher to insurance advisor is a pretty big leap, so what attracted you to the financial industry in the first place?

  • Answer: I loved taking accounting in high school and I was always passionate about teaching my friends about money. Going into the financial industry was the closest I could get to my love of numbers and teaching others, without having to go back and get another degree.

  • Question: What were some of the first steps you had to take when making this switch, and what was it like looking for a job in finance with your background in education?

  • Answer: I started researching entry level positions in the financial industry. Getting started in a commission-based role as an insurance advisor meant fewer barriers for someone like me without any previous experience in the financial industry.

    After that role, I was able to switch over to the personal banking side because I was considered to have "experience" from my insurance role.

    I had to take a really challenging test to become an insurance advisor. I think it was about a month solid of studying. To switch over to personal banking, I had to get my mutual funds licence, which included studying two textbooks worth of material and two exams.

    I thought the fact that my degree was in education, and not in business, would be a detriment to my career in banking, but as it turns out it was actually an asset. When I transitioned to management after a few years in banking, my teaching degree and experience actually set me apart from my peers.

    I was used to having to figure out creative ways to teach teenagers, so getting adults who wanted their pay cheque to learn a new skill or product was easy in comparison.

  • Question: Do have any advice for those looking to transition into the financial industry from something completely different?

  • Answer: My answer to this question is much different today than it would have been five years ago, as the banking industry is evolving into a much more customer-oriented, retail environment.

    Demonstrated results in sales and outstanding customer service are much more valued than any studying or course work you could do. Without experience, you’d likely have to start in an entry level position, but if you are able to prove your ability to learn quickly and close sales, you will find that doors open quite quickly.

    It's also important to make contacts in the financial industry. Get to know the manager at your local bank, and find out who makes the hiring decisions. When looking for a job, network with the people who know the decision-makers and would be willing to vouch for you and try to connect with corporate recruiters on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

Our next career changer Ian, has a very different story to tell. Discover his story by clicking to the next page.