Margot Craig is someone I came to know by going to an event I almost didn’t go to. My friend, Bettina, had asked me to go and after a long, stressful day at work, I wasn’t necessarily up for it. But something in me told me to go and I am so glad because I would have never met Margot otherwise!
As I began talking to Margot, I came to learn she was a career girl just like me, trying to make her mark on the business world. She currently works at Paradigm Wealth Management as a Financial Advisor and is currently a candidate for CFP® certification. We instantly clicked and we ended up exchanging business cards to get in touch. I immediately began thinking of the possibilities of how we could work together as we had a lot of same goals and values that I realized just from that one initial conversation.
Margot in particular has worked in the financial services industry for 10+ years. Prior to joining Paradigm Wealth Management, she worked as a Financial Planning Associate in St. Louis for a boutique wealth management and estate planning firm. She also has experience preparing income tax returns for families and small businesses. She is a graduate of Georgetown University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Finance and a minor in French.
In her spare time, Margot enjoys running, skiing, scuba diving, and traveling with friends and family. Margot is also fond of the arts and fuels her creative side by painting with acrylics on canvas. Check out Margot’s story and why she is so passionate about helping individuals navigate their finances and prepare for retirement!
KN: Margot, thanks for joining the “Shine On” series! Can you share a bit more about yourself and how you got to be where you are today at Paradigm Wealth Management?
Margot Craig: I landed a job at Paradigm because I said yes to a women’s networking event that, to be honest, I wasn’t particularly excited about attending. At the time, I hadn’t developed the skills that make networking events more enjoyable and productive; I was still just a babe learning the “art” of networking. But once I was there, I met an incredibly talented business woman, Peg Quinn, who was hosting the event (and is now my colleague) and she introduced me to the owner of Paradigm Wealth Management.
After that networking event, I attended all of Paradigm’s subsequent events, including a lecture series. I also said “yes” to every invitation to get coffee with Peg and attended a small company dinner. When I was first introduced to Paradigm, they weren’t looking to hire anyone for my position; but once they decided to grow their Chicago office, they offered me the job and I accepted it without any hesitation.
KN: I love that – sometimes we don’t really want to go somewhere but giving ourselves that push can open up doors of opportunity. Sounds like that’s just what happened with you! What would you say has been your best career decision? And what’s been the toughest?
MC: Believe it or not, my best decision was to take time off from my career. Ironically, it was also the toughest. I went through a phase in my career where I was really struggling with feeling burnt-out from company politics. I have always loved the work that I do: providing my clients with a sense of financial security. But I wasn’t sure I would be able to find a company environment in which I could thrive. However, the burn-out alone isn’t what made me decide to take a break from my career. The biggest catalyst to taking time off was the turmoil I was experiencing in my personal life, and taking a break from pursuing my profession gave me the time I needed to heal.
My time away from wealth management, and how much I missed it, reinforced my love for this work. I used my time wisely: I said “yes” to every networking event and follow-up meetings. I got coffee with anyone who was willing to meet with me, including an accountant, a fireman, a cookbook author, an artist, and the list goes on. I felt inspired by all of them, and I realized that there are limitless possibilities in this world, including the possibility of doing what I love with colleagues whom I respect and admire. That conclusion was solidified after I became acquainted with Paradigm Wealth Management, but it still took me a year to convince them to hire me!
But in between those networking events, I did a lot of hard work on myself: I focused on actively improving my health in four main areas: emotionally, spiritually, physically, and financially. Becoming fit in each of those fields has made me into the woman I love today. Yes, having a career that thrills me is fulfilling, but it would be nothing if I didn’t have the serenity that results from taking care of myself on a deeper level. Even now, I continue to check in with my accountability-buddies regarding those aspects of my life, because it’s really easy for me to get off track. And when I let myself slide in any one of those areas, my overall sense of wellbeing starts to lessen (and that hurts!), so it’s really important for me to surround myself with people who hold me accountable and keep me motivated.
KN: I think how you felt speaks volumes to what a lot of women feel today. It’s inspiring that you took that time off and really focused on yourself. Now that you’re back on the job, what excites you most? What do you find the most challenging?
MC: Many people’s path towards financial independence can be scary, confusing, and/or intimidating, and I’m honored to lead people down that road. I have yet to meet someone without any financial fears or problems. I love my job because I get to show my clients that there is an attainable solution to most, if not all, of their goals. Yes, it may involve sacrifice, but it often only involves better organization, better investment decisions, and a reprioritization of goals. Watching my clients start to experience the freedom and excitement that coincides with knowing they are becoming financially fit is one of the best aspects of my job.
The most challenging part of my job is learning to turn it off. When I’m not addressing concerns for my current clients, I’m usually trying to develop new business or work on improving my own expertise in the area of financial planning (I’m currently studying for the CFP exam, which I’ll sit for in this month). I’m still struggling to find the balance between developing a thriving career and giving my friends/family the love and attention that they deserve.
KN: I have that same problem! It’s tough! How do you balance life and work responsibilities?
MC: Ugh. That’s very tough for me! I’m slowly getting better with detaching from the stresses of work and studying, but it usually takes a concerted effort to do so. I have blocks of time that I set aside each week to mediate and be with people who are also committed to improving themselves. But if I’m honest, I probably need to take more breaks like that.
KN: I hear ya on that. Can I ask what has been the biggest challenge in your career or in your life and how did you push through it?
MC: In 2014, I went through some major health challenges. That was a very scary time for me. Prior to my diagnosis, I didn’t have many friends and my support network mainly just consisted of my immediate family. Walking through that experience has taught me how to open up and ask for help from others, how to handle pain with grace, and how to not just believe in a higher power but also rely upon it. The support network I started growing in 2014 is still behind me today, motivating me to grow, change, and patiently improve. I’ve learned that life is really hard when I try to go through it alone, and it gets a lot easier when I “woman up,” get vulnerable, and share my fears and troubles with friends who want to see me thrive.
KN: I think that’s so great you had a support system you could lean on during that difficult time. Which brings me to my next question….who has inspired you over the years and why?
MC: Warning: this is going to sound incredibly trite, but my Dad the most inspiring person I know. His work ethic and zeal for life is unmatched by anyone. In his 20’s he learned how to heal people with medicine and in his 60’s he learned how to heal with spirituality. I’m enamored with his ability to squeeze the fun out of life, to take daring adventures, and to engross himself in foreign cultures. I’m not sure if he has ever told himself “no, I can’t do that” or if he just discards the thought as quickly as it arrives… that’s a question I’ve yet to ask him, but I’ll add it to the list!
KN: He sounds like one amazing man! I like to ask every woman I interview what they attribute their success to. What’s your answer?
MC: Optimism. Grit. & Faith.
Optimism gives me the courage to say “thank you” to my Higher Power/the Universe/Whatever-you-want-to-call-it when a challenge comes my way. By saying thank you, I’m acknowledging that it’s time for me to learn and grow, and that I can use this obstacle to become a better, stronger version of myself… but don’t get me wrong… I have my off-days! At times, my first reaction to problems is to curse and moan, but eventually I wise up and become grateful for the opportunity to improve myself.
And then there is faith. Faith that I’ll find my way, even when I don’t know where I’m heading. Faith that I can do better tomorrow. Faith that I’m right where I’m supposed to be today, learning the lessons I’m supposed to learn today, so that I can succeed when future opportunities come my way.
And lastly, grit. Grit keeps me going when I’ve exhausted my optimism and faith. It’s tough to keep going when I feel stuck in my current situation and there aren’t any doors opening. But thankfully, when my grit-tank is on empty, I have people in my life who are capable of re-inspiring me until it’s full again. I’m reminded that success stories are full of failures and bad decisions; they just look like success stories because the heroine doesn’t give up when she’s down.
KN: Those are incredible answers and I can agree with them wholeheartedly! This goes along with a lot of what you’ve just touched on, but what keeps you motivated?
MC: I don’t have one thing that keeps me motivated… it more like a basket of things. I meditate, I reach out to my mentor, I schedule lunch/coffee dates with supportive friends who keep me accountable, I run outdoors because nature grounds me, and I meet with a spiritual recovery group on Saturday mornings. On any given day, I don’t know what will motivate me, so I keep doing all of them. The same thing that inspires me on Monday won’t move me on Wednesday, so it’s important for me to have an arsenal of ways to refocus, get grounded, and remember that I’m capable of achieving my dreams (which, for me, is frightfully easy to forget)!
KN: I always like to find out from professionals how they get involved in or out of their industry. Is there anything that you do?
MC: I love working with kids, especially middle school girls. I was fortunate to have attended an all-girls middle school and high school, where my teachers expected me to perform, so I did. Unfortunately, many young girls today are overlooked in the classroom and they’re often given unintentional subliminal messages that they aren’t expected to succeed in school.
I’ve worked as an arithmetic tutor since 2015, and I’ve had the enormous pleasure of working closely with two young women since I’ve been in Chicago. Both girls were experiencing their parents go through a divorce, as well as the insecurities that often accompany middle school adolescence. And it was such a gift to be able to show them the coping skills I’ve only recently developed after my diagnosis in 2014. To watch their spirits lift and their confidence grow as their emotional (and arithmetic) intelligence grew was such a joy. I’ve had to take time off from helping young women over this past year while studying for the CFP exam, but I really look forward to getting back to helping the next generation develop both academically and personally.
KN: Helping young women find their confidence is something I admire and aim to do with Lipstick & Ink too. If you had one piece of advice for those young women or fellow career women, what would it be?
MC: I think I would dare her to fail, to take a risk so big that she might not succeed. Because it’s my failures that have taught me the most about myself and, ironically, brought me closer to my end goals. And who knows, she just might succeed and how beautiful would that be?
For a long time, I lived life expecting myself to succeed at every moment. And I if I failed to reach my goal then I, MYSELF, was the failure. But I’ve learned to stop looking at life like that… thankfully! Because that kind of thinking kept me from taking the kinds risks that result in the greatest rewards. Now I feel free to dream big because I’m no longer scared of the self-criticism that used to accompany coming up short. Today, if I set a goal and don’t quite reach it, I forgive myself for being human. And then I try again.
KN: Any parting thoughts?
MC: I’d like to thank you for these thought-provoking questions! It’s been a while since I’ve thoroughly looked at where I am today and where I want to go, and I appreciate the chance to do that with you and your readers.
You are so welcome, Margot! To connect with Margot or find out more about Paradigm, check out the links below:
Kelly Nash is a Chicago-based writer, career coach, speaker and founder of Lipstick & Ink®. She also works full-time in technology as a Success Manager at Salesforce and has over 10 years of digital marketing experience. Kelly has been featured in Thrive Global, Chicago Tribune, International Association of Women, General Assembly, Salesforce, and SheFactor. She’s fueled by black coffee, sunshine, a good ink pen, and a bold lip.