Let me start off by expressing the joy I felt when I came across this website. I have been searching and reading through the forums for about a month now, and it has been more informative than anything I have read previously. There are ideas, formulas, and success stories galore out there in the book market for one reason....they sell. No one wants to write a book detailing the horrors and griefs of the most grueling industry in the country. There is a wealth of great information, yet a lack of honesty. Fortunately, there is a website that provides the best of both worlds. So for that...thank you.The purpose of this post is to help give insight to those who are entering the industry, particularly with Merrill Lynch. It is a place for questions from people who may be considering financial services as well as thoughtful insight from veterans who want to add their two cents. Ultimately, I want to be able to share my experience in a way that helps new and potential advisors find their way.My background: I am not currently in the industry, nor have I ever been. So why am I here? My sophmore year of undergrad I took a class called Personal Finance with one of the most captivating professors I've had. It had me hooked. That was 7 years ago. Coming out of college I was pursued by Northwestern Mutual and John Hancock (just like everyone else) and thought heavily about joining both. At that point in time I had a great fear of entering an industry that didn't provide consistency and security. I also didn't want to sell life insurance as an investment tool. So I took an inside sales job with a software company, and eventually moved into beer sales. My life was progressing. I was getting promotions and having fun (keyword: Beer) but when I really sat down and thought about it, I wasn't getting the fulfillment I needed. Perks are great, job security is top notch, but pay is bad and personal growth is severly limited. So I went back to school, and am currently finishing up a masters program that is very specific to the industry ( I won't say which one, for the sake of anonymity. But if you are curious you are more than welcome to PM me). I came across an opportunity to interview with Merrill Lynch, I did, and I was offered a PMD position. This is my dream job. If I could do anything for the rest of my life, I wouldn't be a doctor, I wouldn't be a lawyer, i wouldn't be the President (bad gig anyway). I would be a financial advisor. Is that to say that I will succeed in the PMD program and be the star of Merrill Lynch? Absolutely not. There is a great possibility of failure, greater than any one goal I have EVER tried to acheive. Think about it. In your life...how many times have you set a personal goal and had someone tell you, "There is a 90% chance you are going to fail." What if a professor or a sales manager had told you that? "Thanks for applying and being accepted to this prestigious university, we just want let you know that 90% of the people sitting in this classroom will have failed out by the time you graduate." That would have put a hell of a damper on your social life! Merrill Lynch has been gracious enough to offer me a position and wait 4 months while I finish school before taking me on. That's four months of school to sharpen the technical aspect of my employment, and four months to research, read, learn, and progress as a salesman before I take on this challenge. There is nothing that has helped me more in strategizing than reading this forum. These are real people, some who put in the hard time, with valid opinions that shouldn't be taken lightly. Outside of the posts here, there are some other materials I have found insightful and helpful thusfar. Keep in mind, I am four months away from my start date. I have not applied any of these readings to my future employment.1. The Intellegent Investor - Benjamin Graham - Should be a staple for anyone in the industry. Basic investing knowlege. Read and make sure you understand. You don't have to be bound by this book, but you should use it as a rough guideline when investing client's money as well as your own.2. The Million Dollar Financial Services Practice - David Mullen Jr. - This is a very basic approach to starting a practice, written by a ML guy. Can you solely use this book and it's advice to become successful? No. Does it provide a good guideline for marketing activities and niches to pursue? Yes. If you are interviewing for a PMD position and they ask you for a business plan, use this book to help you formulate your plan.3. The Million Dollar Financial Advisor - David Mullen Jr. - Good insight on how to manage your practice once you've made it. While it does nothing for you as a PMD, it tells you what you can accomplish once you've got a strong foot in the industry's door. And by strong foot I mean graduate the PMD and last another 2 years.4. The Supernova Advisor - Robert D. Knapp - If you are going to work for Merrill, well... this is the root of what they want their advisors to do. Supernova was an actual business plan ML executives put together years ago to help convert ML to a wealth management firm rather than a transactional broker. Take it with a grain of salt. A lot of this stuff applies to advisors that had a book of business already. And it's written by ML execs. In fact, take everything you read with a grain of salt. Perception is not reality when it comes to this industry, I am learning.5. Questions Great Financial Advisors Ask - Alan Parisse - The biggest obstacles I think I'm going to face are A. Getting appointments, and B. Closing appointments. This book is about understanding an individual's investment wiring, which will be very important once you actually get the appointment. Remember, you've got to get the appointment first....6. The 500 Day War - Out of all of these readings, I am taking this one to heart. I don't plan on following it exactly, but I'm not going to stray very far from it. This is reality. It's actually quite humorous to me that the above readings probably grossed a few millions dollars, and a post such as the 500 Day War presents more honesty than all of them. My next set of books are going to be more along the lines of networking and cold calling. Both will be essential in the first few years. As I move through the last few months of beer selling and night school I will continue to keep you updated on my readings and revelations. Of course, once my start date arrives, I will delve more deeply into the process, the expectations, and the reality of being a PMD. I strongly believe that this program is highly representative of a lot of wirehouses out there. It may be more or less competitive or vary in other ways, but in the end I think the program is a great judge of whether or not you belong and deserve to be in the industry. Of course, what I believe and what is actually true could be two completely different things. I wish anyone entering the industry around this time the best of luck. It is an increasingly difficult occupation to succeed in, and hopefully this post along with those of others will help you make informed decisions.