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The importance of talking about our experiences

Luiza Todd, BTS Director, shares her views on exams and mental health

BTS supports mental health awareness

This article is going to have a common theme – the effects that exams can have on a candidate’s mental health. Mental Health Awareness week runs from 15th – 21st May, albeit on behalf of BTS, I would like to encourage you all, to support each other to share your journeys with exams and do so all year round. However, weeks like this week, are needed in order to reaffirm the importance of talking about these things.

With results flying in thick and fast recently from various CII exams and the April R06 exam sitting taking place, I had a few conversations with different candidates that really made me think long and hard about the subject of mental health.

BTS as a firm supporting CII regulated exams are, as one of the measures, judged on how many candidates we get through exams, ideally first time. Our pass rates are really high and of course we are going to highlight this on social media (we are a business after all).

Does that mean we get 100% pass rates with all our candidates and Corporate Academies? Of course we don’t – though we have with many. It’s not always an easy road to exam success. Even with the support of the BTS team, all our exam collateral and experience to support you.

The importance of talking about our experiences

It’s not always an easy journey

A candidate can easily have a meltdown in an exam, forget to control their timings, they could read a question and the mind goes blank, have a poor proctor or exam centre experience. There are loads of reasons why it can go pear shaped come exam day.

Not every candidate gets exam success first time, and do you know what? That’s ok. Sometimes the journey is just as important as the destination, and you could argue that ‘deferring success’ and having to have another go at the exam, gives you deeper knowledge and ultimately will make you a better paraplanner / adviser / administrator.

What it does not do is make anyone a failure, less intelligent or not suited to the industry – and it sure as hell shouldn’t be something we hide, are ashamed of, start thinking it must be us. Financial services and giving advice to clients is way more than your technical knowledge (though that is important). It’s also about empathy, building long term client relationships, explaining concepts simply and putting across benefits of a solution – not the dry technical facts. These skills are way harder to teach than pension simplification or taxation of dividend.

The Importance of talking about our Experiences
The Importance of talking about our Experiences

Putting yourself out there…

One of the events recently that really made me think was the video shared by one of the BTS team, the fantastic Natalie Dawes. Natalie has been with us for about five months and in that time, has shown us her heart, her passion and her drive to help candidates on the exam journey.

I watched Natalie’s AF5 video about her own journey. Always one to lead by example she ducked out of a pass by a few marks. Rather than go to ground, lick her wounds and not mention anything about it (which most of us would probably do) she got her smartphone out, recorded a video and posted it for the LinkedIn world to see. Knowing Natalie a bit better now, even with her confidence levels, I could see this was a tough thing for her to do.

In the glossy, shiny world of social media, here was the other side of all those excited posts and exam certificates (nothing wrong with this mind – got to celebrate the wins as well). Here was someone where the journey did not go quite as planned, sharing her experiences.

Let’s not, ‘photo-shop’ our experiences

If we don’t share when things go a bit awry, we portray a skewed view to our audience and followers. It’s a bit like looking at those photoshopped pictures of celebrities looking younger, slimmer, glowing more, then looking at your own less than perfect appearance (I am talking about myself here) and getting a bit downcast.

We all have some responsibility here – me and BTS included. I have never shared any situations where I have deferred success, though I have definitely had some. I remember sitting my G20 investment paper – yes I am that old – and doing scant preparation for it thinking I know all about investments, don’t I? The first question (this was in the pre typing exam answers days) was draw the three yield curves on a gilt ????????. I was so never going to pass that exam, but did I share that? Of course not.

Every time someone like Natalie steps up and shares their experiences they help other candidates immeasurably, by showing that exams don’t always go to plan. Let’s, all of us, talk about deferred success more. Let’s share the journey whether that is a first time pass, or a tougher experience. It does not mean you are any less suited to the financial services industry than the next person.


Read another insightful article on mental health ‘Lets Talk About Deferred Success’ to find out more about the importance of sharing your journey.   

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