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From Initial Rejection To Helping Others Succeed
This month I spoke with Yvette Clermont. She is a mortgage consultant with Inlanta Mortgage, in Sarasota, Florida.
When Yvette was a young woman she tried to obtain a mortgage loan. When she met with a lender she was dismissed as being too young and not ready to purchase a home. That experience gave her the motivation to learn and understand how others felt being denied for a home loan and it was the beginning of a successful career in the mortgage industry.
“Don’t you dare underestimate the power of your own instinct.”
How did you get your start in the mortgage industry?
YC: I started in the industry when I was quite young when I joined a personal loan company.
The company I worked for at the time also offered second mortgages, and that part of the business really caught my interest. I realized quickly that I like the real estate part of the job and wanted to point my career in that direction.
Starting wasn’t easy. I had very little experience and I had to find someone to help me open the door. I was successful in finding that person who was willing to train and mentor me. We ended up working together for many years.
My mentor was looking for someone to train from the “ground up” and I was the perfect candidate. I was 23 years old, motivated, and thirsty for knowledge so it was a perfect match for us to begin working together.
It was important for me to have my mentor, co-workers and clients trust me, so I made every effort to learn. I started reading the FHA and the Conventional Loan Standards Manuals from cover to cover. I even printed them out into binders so I could refer to them! I was determined to succeed.
Another thing that motivated me was an encounter I had when I was 22. I wanted to purchase a home so I set up an appointment with a lender via my real estate agent.
The lender was dismissive of me when I told him why I was there. He assumed due to my age that I wasn’t serious or ready to learn how to buy property. Instead of giving me information, he shooed me out the door and I think that treatment was part of what pushed me into the industry.
I felt defeated and let down and I didn’t want others to ever feel that way. I wanted to help them reach their goals, giving them the encouragement, information and confidence that I had been denied.
What do you think we need to do to open doors for others in our industry to make sure there are plenty of seats at the table for them in the future?
YC: I believe that those of us who have been in the mortgage business for years have an obligation to share our knowledge and experience with newcomers. We have been given the benefit of opportunity and that needs to be paid forward to a new generation of colleagues.
We have weathered storms, we have seen boom and bust times and we know those will come again. Giving the next generation the tools and insight that we might not have had when we started not only feels good but strengthens our industry overall.
We can also learn from them and give ourselves the benefit of seeing the business through fresh eyes and new ideas. The technology we use has changed significantly since we started, and these younger people have the benefit of familiarity with it that we can learn from too.
Tell us how you and your team work to educate families and your community about the financial options and tools available to them?
YC: I spend a lot of time talking to people and explaining the ins and outs of mortgages and finances. It is one of the biggest parts of our job and I find it both rewarding and a challenge. I can only educate one person at a time so I always feel like I can do more.
I am a big proponent of teaching kids about these things in school, before they are out on their own. I really believe young people should graduate having a basic understanding of how financial matters work and how they can prepare themselves for their future financial needs.
Mortgages and finance are complicated and involve a lot of legal and regulatory pieces. Even we in the industry need to keep up, remaining abreast of legislative changes and rules. When someone comes to me wanting to take out a 30-year loan to buy a home, I need them to understand what that entails and how it will impact them. Not just the day they sign, but down the line as well.
I would love to see new loan officers coming into the business paired with veteran loan officers to really learn all the ways to give clients sound and reliable advice. There is a vast amount to know and having someone give you a solid grounding in the business would benefit all of us, our clients most of all.
We have so many mediums of educational material at our fingertips now that there is no excuse for not knowing the basics. From written material to online tutorials and podcasts, the wealth of information out there is almost too much to choose from. I hope everyone who is either in or coming into the industry will take advantage of that wealth to serve our customers better.
What do you think the definition of a trailblazer is and do you see yourself as a trailblazer and why?
YC: I think a trailblazer is someone who has enough gumption to go down a path that others aren’t willing to or don’t see. The trailblazer is someone whose eyes are open wide enough to courageously take that unseen path and risk whatever they encounter out of curiosity and a desire to be better or learn something new.
I do see myself as a trailblazer. I question everything and I look for paths others cannot see or will not look for. I seek out better or different ways to do things and then do the work if I think they will benefit my clients or make something easier for my staff and customers.
My youngest child is 20. We raised him in an environment where questions were welcome and encouraged. We motivated him to question things but always be respectful. We taught him that authority is to be respected but not followed blindly and to trust his instincts when he heard or saw something that didn’t feel right.
In a nutshell, a trailblazer for me is a questioner. Someone who actively looks for information or paths that are not right in front of them but require some initiative and the willingness to step outside of the status quo.
“Giving the next generation the tools and insight that we might not have had when we started not only feels good but strengthens our industry overall.”
Tell me what advice you would give to women starting out in the business who are raising young kids and figuring out how to balance it all?
YC: My best advice is to take care of you first. You cannot be a good caretaker to your family, your partner, or your clients unless you are taking care of yourself.
I know that is a tough thing for women to do. We tend to want it all and give it all but leave ourselves and our own health and well-being out of the equation and it lessens our ability to fulfill our obligations to those who need us.
In actuality, self-care can be as simple as buying those cupcakes for the school fun fair instead of staying up to 3 a.m. baking or booking yourself a pedicure once a month. Whatever gives you time to recharge your batteries and gives you the energy you need to be your best for those who depend on you.
Sometimes people don’t act on opportunities not because they are afraid of failure but because they are afraid of success. What are your thoughts on that and what would be your advice on getting past that fear?
YC: I believe this fear comes from being concerned about what others may think of you if you fail or what might be expected of you if you succeed.
No one wants to be judged and some people may feel that success means you have upset the apple cart or changed the status quo and will therefore be subject to negative scrutiny by your peers or customers.
My advice for overcoming that mindset is to see it for what it is, understand that the feelings of others are out of your control and let it go. That sounds easy but I know it may not be that simple for everyone.
That is how I deal with the situation myself. I realize that I cannot control how others will feel or react to something I say or do. I recognize that and put that fear of judgment in a box and put it away on a shelf. That is a mental exercise that has helped me to put myself in a better mindset to be able to enjoy and learn from my successes and my failures.
“I seek out better or different ways to do things and then do the work if I think they will benefit my clients or make something easier for my staff and customers.”
Please share your thoughts on how you believe we should encourage more women to get into the mortgage business and into leadership roles?
YC: I think our industry has done a great job in welcoming more women over the years, but I still believe we can and should do more. There was a time when women coming into the business never really expected to be leaders. But that has changed. And I see us being better able to spot and encourage women with potential and put them on the path to leadership with a realistic expectation of success.
We should also be encouraging and supporting women who want to be trailblazers. They are creative, intuitive, and intelligent women who can move us all forward in the mortgage industry if we give them the support and opportunity to show us their best. Knowing you are good at what you do is a huge confidence boost and when the veterans in your industry are cheerleading you, it is an amazing feeling and one that can motivate a young woman to move up the ladder.
It is also vitally important not to get complacent when you reach a certain point of success. The natural inclination is to say that you are comfortable, but one of the things we need to encourage is for women who are successful to go even further, to push themselves to stay curious, find a new or better way of doing their job and innovate to keep our business fresh and current.
Where do you see our industry heading in the next few years? What do you think we should be focusing on?
YC: I am a great believer in looking as far down the path as I can see to be ready and willing to take on the challenges in the future. Technology is changing at such a rapid pace, and we need to be keeping up with the trends and learning how we can use them to move our industry forward and better serve our clients.
We should be asking questions, testing, and trying out new technology, processes and procedures that will make our jobs easier but give our clients the best experience possible.
Our clients rely on us to keep current and to provide them with a quick and modern solution to their financial requirements. It takes dedication and work to make sure we take advantage of all the new tools at our disposal.
“You cannot be a good caretaker to your family, your partner, or your clients unless you are taking care of yourself.”
In our business it’s vital that we continue to grow our networks. How do you recommend getting through the awkwardness and discomfort of first meetings? What are your own strategies?
YC: I highly recommend joining organizations like the Mortgage Bankers Association and others like it. It is a great way to get your name known in the business and being able to meet with and learn from others in our industry.
There are great conferences out there to attend that will allow you the opportunity to get to know many new faces in the mortgage business and expand your contact lists.
I know that meeting new people is tough and can be awkward. It is the same for all of us. The way I make that process easier for myself is to ask questions. People always appreciate the chance to talk about themselves and what they do. Asking good questions and letting another person share with you makes it easier to share yourself and build a new relationship.
Human interaction and sharing are the best and easiest ways I know to get past the initial awkward spot and move on to getting to know someone. Those relationships that begin with an expression of mutual interest and trust have the best chance of growing into something mutually beneficial. It is worth the moment or two of anxiety when the end goal is a new friend and colleague.
What do you like to do for fun outside of your job?
YC: I love to travel. Our kids live all over the country, so our downtime is usually spent traveling to one place or another to visit.
I have a passion for traveling and when we are not off catching up with our kids, I love to head outside the United States to see and learn new things. My natural curiosity compels me to head to different countries and experience their culture, food, and scenery. I love learning about how others live and how different they are from us in America.
My favorite country so far is Croatia. The people are amazing. Friendly, curious about their visitors and so welcoming. Their country is old and absolutely beautiful. It is a mix of old and new and so fascinating to see that juxtaposition.
We are so very lucky the way we live here and seeing other countries reminds me of that. It also opens my mind, feeds my soul and encourages all my senses to experience something new and exotic. I think it actually lights up my brain and creates new brain cells because you leave your daily autopilot behind and can immerse yourself in everything new and different.
I have already planned our next trip to Slovenia and Hungary. We are planning to spend a month in Budapest, and I cannot wait. I am already anticipating all the new things to learn, see, do, and experience.
What one piece of advice would you like to share with our readers?
YC: I really want to encourage people in our industry to find a coach or mentor as early on in your career as you can. I would suggest that this person be someone from outside your company. The reason for this is that I believe that the more objective the opinion you receive, the more valuable it can be. Having someone looking in from the outside gives you a completely new and fresh perspective. That is unique and not colored by any internal biases.
That said, it is also great to have a mentor who works at your company if they are not your direct report. You need some distance to get a truly objective look at what you do and how you do it. It also means that there is no filter to the information you get that might be influenced by internal office politics.
A mentor or coach can help to motivate you to move beyond your comfort zones and try new things or gain the confidence you need to make suggestions within your team that might improve the service provided to your clients. Finding a mentor should be as simple as finding someone you look up to and asking them to consider taking that role for you.
Being a mentor can also be a great experience. Taking a person new to the industry under your wing and helping them to work to their full potential is not only rewarding but can also be an opportunity to learn new skills and ideas. The mentor/mentee relationship can be immensely beneficial to each side and foster innovation and greater success for both.
There is great power in numbers so joining yourself to someone from whom you can learn and gain wisdom and confidence is a vital part of a successful and rewarding career.