At some point in our lives, most of us find we need to change jobs (whether by choice or not). Losing a job is a significant life stressor, and depending on how we manage it, the related stress can contribute to major illness and loss of well-being. Earlier this year, I was faced with exactly that situation: My employer decided to exit the reverse mortgage business altogether.
While not unexpected at the time the decision was announced, it still created a great deal of anxiety in my life. I had never been in a position where I faced the loss of a job. Against my wishes, I had to seek out and determine what career path I would take going forward.
To say that the reverse mortgage industry has been challenging during the past several years is an understatement. Nearly every day brings news of new licensing requirements, inaccurate media coverage, program changes or the exit of yet another large reverse mortgage lender. It seems the only thing we can count on these days is change.
Yes, these are difficult times, but I have always found great strength in my commitment to this industry. After nearly 20 years of focusing solely on reverse mortgages, I am as passionate as ever about the product and the tremendous amount of good it offers senior homeowners and their families. This commitment gives me strength; earlier this year, however, it did little to lessen the stress of facing a job change.
I have always been a firm believer in managing stress through positive thinking and planning. I recently ran across an interesting quote attributed to the late neurologist, psychiatrist and author Viktor Frankl, M.D., Ph.D. Frankl, who was imprisoned at Auschwitz during World War II, wrote: "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.”
Life has a way of throwing curveballs, but nothing is insurmountable as long as you make a conscious decision to approach the situation in a constructive and positive manner. That was the decision I made when I learned it was time to start looking for new opportunities.
What’s going on around here? I first suspected change was in the air about three months before it occurred. I continued to go to work as usual every day, but my mind was constantly running with thoughts such as “What’s going to happen?”, “When is it going to happen?” and “What should I do about it?” Oh, it was an exhausting time! I was still very busy with day-to-day responsibilities – and made sure the quality of my work did not suffer – but I was definitely distracted by this worry. Finally, when I couldn’t stand the waiting game for another moment, I decided to be more proactive: I went to the key decision-maker in the company and got straight to the point, asking: “What’s going on? Where do we go from here?” Unfortunately, 24 hours later, I got the answer I feared: The company had decided to exit the reverse mortgage business.
Oh no! OK. Now I knew change was upon me. Whenever I enter such a period in my life, one of my favorite quotes comes to mind: “The only people who like change are wet babies.”
It is so true; I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t struggle, on one level or another, to embrace change. Yet in nearly all circumstances, change becomes an opportunity for reflection and for personal and professional growth.
Keeping that in mind, I allowed myself one day to have the requisite “pity party,” complete with sadness, anger, self-loathing, a glass of wine (or two) and many “woulda, coulda shouldas.” Not only was my life going to change, I was faced with having many difficult conversations with my employees, whom I was responsible for laying off. It was not an easy few days, but then again, the day it becomes easy to lay off employees is the day I need to hang up my manager’s hat.
I owe a debt of gratitude to my husband, children, friends and family for putting up with me and providing me with a strong foundation and much patience, understanding and encouragement during this time. It was not easy on any of us.
Hmmm… Change was upon me; it was time to step back and re-evaluate what was important to me as a professional in this industry, as well as what was necessary for my family and me. I knew the decisions I made going forward would dictate the future of my career, and my family’s happiness and well-being. I had a big job ahead of me!
I remember plugging in my iPod and playing “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” by Fergie. Even though the song is about a relationship gone sour, some of the lyrics were particularly relevant and poignant: I needed “…to be with myself and center / Clarity, peace, serenity.” I know, it sounds a bit corny, but it’s so important to take the time and reflect on your needs and what will be best for you and your family.
Without a doubt, I knew I wanted to stay in the reverse mortgage industry. Having spent so many years in this business, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Fortunately, quite a few opportunities presented themselves, so I didn’t have to worry about whether an opportunity would arise – I simply had to make sure I selected the right one.
Where to go? My next step was designed to evaluate my options. Writing has always been one of my escapes, a way for me to sort through my thoughts. I began composing answers to some of the following questions: 1. What do I enjoy doing, career-wise? 2. What do my ideal workday and workweek look like? 3. How do my answers to the questions above relate to the areas in which I excel? 4. In what sort of environment do I thrive? Large corporate office? Home office? Satellite office? 5. What sort of corporate culture appeals to me? Formal? Relaxed? Small or large organizations? 6. How will I relate to and communicate with the people I will be working with? 7. Is it important to me that my new employer be based close to me geographically? 8. Will this position allow me to maintain my work/family balance? 9. What are the opportunities for growth within the company? 10. Will I be able to continue my outside, industry-related efforts and responsibilities?
Clarity Answering these questions as honestly as possible was critical as I went through this exercise, and helped me identify needs and values important to me. I learned quite a bit about myself in the process, including:
+ My greatest joys in this business have been: (a) working with seniors, (b) mentoring originators and helping them grow their business, and (c) creating and scaling a business as it grows.
+ I wanted to be a part of a team of individuals who have a strong commitment to serving seniors.
+ I needed to work with a team who not only “gets it,” but who have already begun building a solid foundation to facilitate future growth.
+ I realized I thrived in the more entrepreneurial work environment a mortgage banker provides, even if it meant I would be faced with individual and state licensing challenges which are not as significant under a federally pre-empt organization).
+ Strong, regular communication is imperative to the success of any organization and leads to a more collaborative work environment. I needed to make sure my new employer agreed with this philosophy.
+ I needed to be part of my new employer’s management team, enabling me to lend my experience and knowledge to the team as a whole while simultaneously benefiting from the knowledge and experience of my teammates.
+ Opportunities for personal growth are essential, much more so than the status of an “impressive” job title. I didn’t want to be boxed into one specific role; rather, I was looking for an opportunity that allowed me to contribute to other areas of the company in addition to my primary day-to-day responsibilities.
+ I needed to be able to continue as an active member of NRMLA, both as a board member and as co-chair of the Ethics Committee.
+ Finally, I wanted to be challenged at work, enjoy the people I worked with and to have FUN! I needed to feel a solid fit with my new employer’s corporate culture.
Choice Keeping in mind my goals, I took a fresh look at the options at hand, making a list of pros and cons for each position I was evaluating. As I mentioned earlier, I count myself lucky to have had many possibilities come my way (particularly in today’s economy), all from very reputable companies who had a lot to offer. Narrowing down the list was difficult, but the insights resulting from my earlier exercises provided me with greater clarity about my requirements, and ultimately helped me narrow down my list to the final three prospects.
Now in my fourth month with 1st Reverse Mortgage USA®, the reverse mortgage division of Cherry Creek Mortgage Company, Inc., I am pleased to say I have settled in and couldn’t be happier with my decision to join the company. I am “up-to-here busy” ramping things up, but I am enjoying the challenge and the team I work with.
Corporate culture is an integral facet of any company. Fortunately, my new employer’s culture is a perfect fit for me. The company is filled with hard-working, knowledgeable individuals and we operate in a collaborative environment. We always make sure to maintain our sense of humor, be kind to each other and have fun in the process. After all, in any given month we spend the majority of our waking hours at work, so it is important to enjoy our jobs and the environment and culture in which we work.
Looking ahead As I said previously, the only thing any of us can count on these days is change. Rest assured the reverse mortgage industry will continue to evolve in the years to come. Being aware of these changes and being able to constantly adapt to a changing environment is something every industry participant – organizations and individuals alike – needs to be aware of and capable of doing. None of us knows what the future holds for reverse mortgages, but I am certain of two things:
(1) Reverse mortgages are a fantastic product and there will always be a need, and (2) The extra effort I put into my job search resulted in a position with a company that is an excellent match.
Interestingly, each position I evaluated resulted from a proactive search, where I spoke with key decision-makers within select organizations. I paid no mind to whether or not job openings were posted. Instead, opportunities were created as a result of our conversations. I made it a point to be straightforward in presenting my skill set, strengths, weaknesses, personal goals and concerns. I took my time, knowing this was an important, long-term decision—not just for me, but for my future employer as well.
And with that, I will leave you with one final quote, this time from Franz Kafka: “All human errors are impatience, a premature breaking off of methodical procedure, an apparent fencing-in of what is apparently at issue.” ??
The decision-making process was not easy, but I am thankful I took the time and effort to approach the task in a thoughtful, methodical manner. As a result of these efforts, I am pleased to say I found my new “home” with a company that suits me perfectly.