Violette Hawkins, a Financial Advisor at Edward Jones, had no idea she would end up in financial services. Sixty years prior, with minimal education and financial resources, her grandparents decided to search for better opportunities. They did so with a ton of work ethic, but very little education or financial resources. They ended up raising two girls who graduated from college, and imparting a strong work ethic onto their family. It was this fortitude that allowed Violette to overcome various hurdles and reach the personal and professional autonomy she always desired in a career.
Hawkins spoke to Fairygodboss about prioritizing personal growth and giving back. Plus, she shared the priceless advice she received from family.
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
I’ve spent 11 years as a Financial Advisor with Edward Jones. Previously, I worked in IT in healthcare and before that, spent two years as an urban missionary. Because my undergraduate degree is in Computer Science and Business, everyone was beyond surprised when I announced my move to missionary work. Looking back, I know the missionary work, along with my later transition to IT prepared me for my career as a financial advisor. I learned the importance of sacrifice (on every level), being thankful for small things and building strong relationships. If I hadn't learned these skills, my transition to financial advisor would’ve been virtually impossible.
What’s the first (and/or last) thing you do at work every day?
It's very important to me to clean and organize my desk. I separate everything into piles and into priorities so that when I come in the next morning, I have a game plan and I’m ready to go.
What’s the most unique or interesting aspect of your job?
I think it would only be fair to start first with what makes Edward Jones unique. Almost everyone knows about the company’s longevity, all of our accolades, and offices throughout the United States and Canada. What's not as widely shared is the philanthropy of the firm and the "pay it forward" culture that exists among the financial advisors. While our first responsibility is assisting our clients with achieving their financial goals, the majority of us train, mentor, coach and volunteer to help new or prospective Edward Jones financial advisors. What's significant about this is we aren't paid to do it! The reason we do it is very simple; however many years before, someone did the same thing for us.
For me, the uniqueness of the financial advisor role is very similar to the uniqueness of Edward Jones. The work I do daily to help both clients and colleagues enhances their lives. For my clients, they perhaps can send their children to college or have a comfortable and stable retirement. For my colleagues, they perhaps will go on to build a business that allows their families to prosper, while doing meaningful work for clients. Because of our work, clients and colleagues can share their time, talent and sacrifice with their communities. And hopefully the ripple effect continues. For me, there's no better feeling in the world than to wake up daily and know that what I do really can enhance lives for generations.
What’s something you’re especially good at work?
Building relationships and making connections with people.
What are you trying to improve on?
My health. This includes relieving stress, daily exercise, and consistently making better food choices. Within the last 6 months, I've started using an online food journal and now I track everything! My motto is "if I bite it, I write it!” This one small change has allowed me to see success in both my physical and mental wellbeing, and makes me feel a tiny bit of control in my busy life.
What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
Undoubtedly my decision to come to Edward Jones. When I was growing up, my mom said there were only two things I wanted to do when I grew up: travel and not have anyone tell me what to do. Thankfully, later in life, I found that balance with Edward Jones. This job allows me to travel, plus I have independence and autonomy with the backing of a Fortune 500 company.
I didn’t grow up with a family that knew a lot about this business. I couldn’t dream of being a Financial Advisor because I didn’t know occupation existed. When my grandparents made the decision in the 1950s to move to Chicago from Arkansas, they did so with a ton of work ethic but very little education or financial resources. Despite these setbacks, both my aunt and mom went on to be the first generation to graduate from college. And at age 69 and 71, are still working today. I really think the work ethic they imparted that's helped me be successful in an industry where women and ethnicity are underrepresented. If my grandparents, parents and their siblings could succeed, I have no excuse.
What do you love most about your job or your company?
The freedom! There’s autonomy because you can set your own hours and schedule, which has enabled me to be there for my family in times of need. But on top of that, at Edward Jones it’s a great feeling to know my compensation is always within my direct control and based on my work ethic.
This freedom has also enabled me to give back to my family in many ways. One of my favorite memories is helping my grandmother realize her lifelong dream to go fishing in Canada. To this day she reminds me that it was her "trip of a lifetime" and that next time we go, we need to bring coolers to bring the fish back home.
What are you currently reading/watching/listening to?
I read a lot. Right now, I’m reading Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud. The book talks a lot about setting boundaries in all the roles you play in your life — business roles, volunteer roles, family roles, etc. I'm a natural giver, and it’s very easy for me to overcommit. I wanted help with setting realistic parameters and learning to say “no.”
Recently, I've dedicated one day a month to having a personal retreat. This is the one day each month that I prioritize myself and everything I want to do to refuel. I might schedule a nap, go hiking or biking, complete a craft project or deepen my spiritual relationship. Infused in the day are delicious meals, journaling and lots of pampering. I make it a point to share my retreat day with my family in advance so no one feels slighted. By the end of the day, I feel rested, appreciated and thoroughly ready to face the busy pace of life for the next few weeks.
What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?
My great uncle Elijah (Jack) was born in the 1920's and after returning from WWII, decided to start a tuckpointing company in St. Louis. With Edward Jones being headquartered in St Louis, the bulk of my initial training took me there and in turn, allowed me to deepen my relationship with my uncle. Since he started a business in 1949, I knew he understood all the essentials of building a business during the toughest of times and against the greatest of adversity. One particular day, I called him and told him how hard things were and fully expected to have my personal pity party. He then shared the simplest but most profound statement with me: "Honey, don't make it so complicated. All you have to do is go out and meet the people." I understood exactly what he meant. If I make it my mission to never stop meeting new people and asking if I can help them reach their financial goals, there is no way I won't be successful.
Uncle Jack passed in 2015 at the age of 89 years old. During the 8 years he watched me build my practice, he consistently gave me encouragement and continued to introduce me to his friends, church relations and business colleagues, many of whom are my clients today. Even now, so many of those friends and colleagues call me to tell me the impact that uncle Jack made in their lives.
As professionals, we can overcomplicate the process of building a business and helping people. What I've learned is you show people you care by working diligently to serve them and placing their interests ahead of your own. That's what my uncle did, which is why his legacy continues to live on even after he's passed away. The focus should always be on building the relationship, because once that's established, there's very little that can stand in the way of your success — not your age, ethnicity or gender. Thankfully, my family taught me this lesson long before I ever knew I'd need it as a financial advisor.
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