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Top tips for entering industry awards from a two-times winner

16 January 2017

In this article we ask Warren Bentham, two-times winner of the PFS Paraplanner of the Year award, for his tips on entering industry awards.

Warren Bentham, head of paraplanning at 75point 3, now has three industry awards under his belt: PFS Paraplanner of the Year 2016 and 2013 and Professional Adviser Paraplanner of the Year 2015.
As well as congratulating Warren on racking up another award, we thought we’d ask him for his tips around winning awards.

First tip, I think it’s important to say that I don’t win every award I enter; I entered the last IFP Paraplanner of the Year award in 2015 and I didn’t win that,” he says.
“But what I learned from that was to pick which awards were going to be best for me and my particular skills and way of working.”

He explains that the PFS award required a 500-word submission saying why he felt he should be shortlisted for the award, and a written report on a set case study. The IFP (CISI) award requires an initial submission, which is followed up with an interview.

“The way I work is to spend time researching and analysing and constructing reports. It’s what I like doing and why I stopped being a financial adviser and became a career paraplanner,” he says. “So the PFS process, which required me to focus on a report and not talk in an interview, was better suited my skills and abilities.”

“So that would be my first tip, go for the awards that are right for you.”

Warren’s second tip is if you enter then go all out to win. “Think about how you word your submission to catch the judges’ eye and then put in the hours on the case study,” he says.

For his case study report Warren says he spent some 30 hours preparing, writing and improving it – and the report ran to over 40 pages.

“Once I started, I wanted it to be spot on, so I was working every evening in the office. My view was if I was going to put the effort in to enter, then I wanted to make sure the report was as good as I could get it.”

Tip three, is not to charge into the process but to prepare carefully.

“When you get the case study go through it in detail. Don’t take what you see on the face of it. There’s often a lot more detail there than at first seems apparent. Mapping it out initially can help avoid changing answers part way through, which can be a lot harder to do.

“Also, do the research and double check even the things you think you know. Check and double check what you are writing.”

Tip four is not to think you can never win. “No matter where you are in terms of qualifications you should still think about entering. It’s not a test of knowledge, it’s a test of application. Because you can do it at home, as long as you are capable of researching the areas and checking your work, you can still win.”
Of the three people who were finalists in this Year’s PFS awards, he says, two were Fellows and one didn’t have the diploma. “When I won in 2013, I had only just got the diploma and the other two finalists were Fellows. If you are willing to take the time and put the effort into your answer, then you have as much chance as anyone else.”

Tip five, is if you are short-listed and you go to the awards evening, “enjoy yourself, talk to your fellow paraplanners and take the opportunity to network. And if you win and go onstage to be photographed and you’re wearing a dickie-bow, make sure it is straight because I’ve been ribbed about that in the office ever since I won the award in 2013.”

Finally, tip six is, if you win, think about how you can use the award to both help you in your career and also help develop paraplanning as a profession. “Take advantage of your raised profile to get involved, whether with the PFS or CISI, and with your local branches, as well as speaking to the press and writing articles for publications.”

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