REQUIRED READING: Searching For Mortgage Banking Jobs

the past two years, the mortgage banking industry has seen a [/b]precipitous decline in the number of employment opportunities. As companies have gone out of business or scaled back drastically, all levels within the corporate chain have seen their jobs disappear. In many ways, the industry was ahead of the rest of the economy, which, in recent months, has seen massive layoffs and unemployment levels rising to record levels. And yet, there are experts in the industry and in the human resources field that point out that employment opportunities are available. For those who lost their jobs or are facing the prospect of near-future unemployment, experts in both mortgage banking and human resources stress that several key considerations need to be addressed when focusing on obtaining a secure job. [b][i]The Damoclean sword[/i][/b] Not everyone loves their job, of course, and today's rough environment has created additional stress in many offices. However, if you are currently working, grit your teeth and stay put. "If you have a job today, do not give it up unless it is absolutely necessary," urges Vickie Causa, CEO of Causa Associates LLC. "This market is very, very tight." Rich Gee, president of Rich Gee Coaching in Stamford, Conn., advises newly unemployed mortgage bankers to divide their contact list between those who probably can be of assistance and those who probably cannot. "Take your contact list and segment it into three groups," he says. "Start with the A list that you know very well and who have a very high stature in the industry. Then you have the B list people that you know but who may not have that high of stature. Then there is the C list of people that you may know but not that well. From there, focus on the A list for networking – get out and have lunch or coffee with them." Doug Rickert, a division director in the Minneapolis office of Robert Half International, adds that a human element is crucial to successful networking. "Don't rely on e-mail," he says in regard to networking outreach. "Pick up the phone and call – make sure you are networking personally." Many unemployed mortgage bankers will tap into the Internet job boards for opportunities. Rickert urges job board viewers to keep an eye out for online opportunities at companies in their contact lists. "You and everybody else is visiting the job boards three to 10 times a day," he says. "If you look on a job board and see an opportunity at XYZ Co., go through your database and contacts and see if you can make that personal connection." Beyond the job boards, mortgage bankers should also make inquiries to their state trade associations. Barbara Goodrich, executive director of the Connecticut Mortgage Bankers Association (CMBA), notes that her organization had a small job fair section at a recent trade show and lists employment opportunities on its Web site. She is also personally willing to connect mortgage bankers with opportunities that she comes across. "I take names and resumes," she says. "If I can match them up, I do." Scott Stern, CEO of St. Louis-based Lenders One, recommends that unemployed mortgage bankers pay attention to the mainstream media to obtain information on possible employment opportunities. "Pay attention to radio and television to find out who is running advertisements for refinancing," he says. "There is a lot of activity there, and those companies are probably looking for good people. And check out your newspapers to see if they run the public record on housing transactions. See who is recording a lot of deeds that you may know." And cold calling, even to seemingly unlikely places, can pay off. Gee remembers a client who was seeking an insurance job in Hartford, and that person cold called the Connecticut governor's office for leads. The client spoke with one of the governor's staff, member, Gee says, and that person knew several people in the local insurance market – which resulted in the client's being introduced to his future employer. [b][i]Today's jobs, part one[/i][/b] Of course, Gee's anecdote is more of an exception than a rule. In paying attention to the current industry, where should one look for today's mortgage banking jobs? Bill Bradway, founder and managing director of Bradway Research LLC in Boston, states that institutions that were not damaged by the subprime market meltdown are viable avenues for employment. "The folks I see adding jobs are the community banks and thrifts that stayed close to home and close to their knitting," he says. Stern agrees, noting that the independent banks are particularly keen on seeking out high-quality talent. "There is a growing realization that there are highly qualified people in the market who were laid off by other companies," he says. "Now, smaller independent mortgage banks and lenders have the ability to have world-class mortgage professionals that they couldn't have a year ago because these people weren't available." [b][i]Today's jobs, part two[/i][/b] However, the shrinking of the mortgage banking industry has decreased the quantity of opportunities. For those who are thinking of looking into parallel industries, Causa recommends a focus on the insurance industry. "I was senior vice president for Zurich American Insurance, and we constantly had problems finding people as actuaries, auditors, accountants," she recalls. "When we had a position open, we could never find enough people." Causa adds that financial services opportunities exist outside of the financial services industry. "The companies benefiting from the Obama stimulus plan – construction, paving, electrical companies, etc. – will need people with finance backgrounds for bidding on projects." Rickert notes that in today's environment, adaptability and versatility will help people find work faster. "Many people in mortgage banking forget they have business development skills," he says. "They need to be open-minded to a different number of facets." There is also the need to be realistic, but not defeatist. With a growing number of unemployed Americans, the competition for jobs is tighter than ever. Russell Jipson III, executive recruiter with Residential Finance Corp., points to the massive reaction he received when a recent article in the Tampa Tribune briefly that mentioned his company's Florida-based operations and sales offices were expanding. "I remember my inbox being flooded after that article appeared in the Tampa Tribune," he says, adding that some inquiries came from as far away as California and Minnesota. And the competition isn't just homegrown. Linda Eagle, president of Edcomm Banker's Academy in New York, observes that many would-be mortgage bankers from other countries are aggressively seeking positions here. "We get inquiries from all levels and all countries," she says. "We had a lot of inquiries from the Middle East, some from Asia, Europe and South America – they all want to come to the U.S. They still think the streets are lined with gold." Sarah Hightower Hill, CEO of Chandler Hill Partners in Tucson, Ariz., advises unemployed mortgage bankers to not become obsessed with what often appears as excessively gloomy economic news. "Be careful about who you allow to do your thinking for you," she says. "The news media bombards us with statistics every day, and it is very demoralizing when we hear that unemployment is at 7.9%. But they are not talking about people with college degrees, and that is about 3.5%. Do your research and understand what the market looks like as it relates to you." However, Bradway notes that some parts of the country will see recovery later rather than sooner. "South Florida, Arizona, Nevada, Southern California – it is going to be a while before they start hiring there," he says. Nonetheless, CMBA's Goodrich believes the environment will reverse itself. "It will definitely come back," she says. "It is just going to take a little t


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