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So You Want To Be A Banker: the Girl Banker’s Guide To Moving Up the Ladder

So You Want To Be A Banker: the Girl Banker’s Guide To Moving Up the Ladder

One of the most common questions I get from young bankers is “what is the quickest way to move up in banking?” While there isn’t a perfect answer, and no banker is created equal, the list below is a must read for any young woman (or man) interested in a banking career.

1. DO THE WORK | If you take away anything at all from this blog post and refuse to read beyond this first point, then I hope this little nugget of advice sticks with you. DO. THE. WORK. Don’t whine, don’t blame, don’t put down others. Don’t be lazy and don’t expect everything to be rainbows and ponies. Good work ethic seems to be hard to find and those that aren’t afraid to work hard should rise to the top. This includes answering the phone in your branch when everyone else is busy assisting customers, helping your marketing team load the supplies for the big cookout, and putting up the dishes in the break room REGARDLESS of your tenure, title, or gender. I’ve witnessed CEO’s take the time to do things below their pay grade and I’ve seen bank presidents show up late to an event and leave early before the cleanup is done. You can guess which one I respect the most.

2. COMMUNICATE | Remember that your bank management may not be equipped with mind reading skills. If you have dreams and goals, communicate them to your manager and do so often. When I was starting out as a teller, I remember taking every opportunity to tell my supervisor and the bank president that I wanted a future in banking. I was fortunate enough to have a lending position made available to me upon my completion of Grad School. Had I not communicated with bank management on a regular basis about my goals, it’s highly likely that promotion wouldn’t have been waiting on me. Take advantage of annual reviews to discuss your short term and long term goals and if your supervisor isn’t listening, find someone who will!

3. FIND A MENTOR | If you don’t have a mentor yet, get one. Mentors can come in all shapes and forms so don’t pigeon hole yourself to becoming besties with everyone in the C-suite. The best mentors truly care about your development as a banker and want the best for you and can be anyone at the bank. Be sure to find mentors that are leaders with a positive and professional outlook and avoid negative people within your organization that talk badly about others on a regular basis. No one wants to promote a Negative Nancy or a Drama Queen.

4. ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS | Banking is full of acronyms and sometimes has it’s own language. Don’t suffer in silence if you have no idea what the lender in the break room is talking about and don’t feel bad if you can’t contribute to the conversation about DTI, DSCR, LTV, or HMDA. Everyone starts somewhere and if you don’t ask, you’ll never know! If something doesn’t make sense and your gut is telling you there is a better way, don’t settle for “it’s how we have always done it.” That phrase can kill an organization dead in its tracks and sometimes it takes a new perspective asking “why” to push progress.

5. LEARN BANKING AND DO ALL THE THINGS | If no one at your bank is offering you continuing education opportunities, research what classes and training is available with your state’s banking association or at ICBA. Gather the costs associated with the training and present the opportunity to your supervisor and be prepared to explain why the bank would benefit from sending you. Additionally, I feel that it should be a prerequisite for all bank management to have at some point served their time on a teller line. Regardless of your position, make an effort daily and show enthusiasm about being cross trained in ALL areas of the bank. Spend time learning your bank’s products and services. If you haven’t already, sit on the teller line and interact with customers to gain and understanding of what they truly need. Spend a day or two (or month) with loan operations and ask questions about the process behind originating, processing, and booking loans. Dive deep with deposit operations. Go on a call with your business development team. And by all means, when an opportunity presents itself to be more engaged with the bank, do it without expectations of incentive. Build that resume and show everyone you have what it takes. Success doesn’t happen by accident. Do the work! (See Item #1).

Confessions of a Recovering Grammar Queen

Confessions of a Recovering Grammar Queen

Have you ever cringed reading an email from a coworker that was full of improper grammar and thought to yourself, “Seriously? How is this a problem in the corporate world?” Unfortunately, it is a problem and it doesn’t discriminate in terms of the corporate hierarchy. I have recently been approached by a handful of bankers asking me for advice on how to handle this issue without completely offending the perpetrators. I knew the perfect person to address this problem! Read Lori’s suggestions below!  

At a young age, I became a tyrannical member of the grammar police. By high school, I knew the difference between affect and effect and knew that there are no comparative forms of “unique.” And during those days before social media and email, I became a one-woman vigilante, hell-bent to save the world from sentences that end in prepositions.

After college, I learned that the “real world” doesn’t always adhere to the rules of the classroom. Sure, I may be embraced as the office editor of all external communications, but most of my coworkers didn’t appreciate my efforts to improve their grammar, no matter how well-intentioned. So, I often suffered in silence, watching my peers misuse apostrophes and misunderstand basic subject-verb agreement.

When I became a bank marketing director last year, I had to re-embrace my inner grammar queen. I’d been chosen to be the guardian of the Bank’s brand, and part of that responsibility included protecting how we’re viewed by the outside world.

I still struggle with knowing when it’s appropriate to correct someone else’s writing, so when in doubt, I ask myself one question: Could not correcting spelling or grammar errors damage the Bank’s brand and/or impair someone’s ability to understand the communication? If either answer is yes, then it is my duty to correct and clarify. If both answers are no, sometimes it’s best to let it go and choose a different hill to die on. (Notice that I just ended a sentence with a preposition; that’s personal growth.)

There are also situations where the Bank’s brand may not be in danger, but the perpetrator’s career could be at risk. It can be difficult to just stand by and let someone lose credibility by sending unprofessional emails or giving poorly worded presentations. More importantly, if it is an individual that has a lot of potential but just needs a little guidance, my suggestion would be to address it sooner rather than later and do so privately to avoid public embarrassment. Make your points with sincerity and agree to help them going forward if your role allows.

How about you? When do you correct your coworkers’ grammatical errors, and when do you ignore them? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

About the Author
Lori Walker, CFMP, is VP/Director of Marketing and Communications at Chambers Bank. She’s new to banking, having spent more than 20 years in higher education marketing and enrollment management prior to joining the Chambers Bank team in November 2017. Occasionally, she teaches small business communications and marketing courses through the Workforce & Economic Development division at NorthWest Arkansas Community College.

The Girl Banker’s Guide To Dominating An Interview

The Girl Banker’s Guide To Dominating An Interview

I have a confession. In fact, I’m not even sure some of my closest friends or coworkers know this about me. It is rather embarrassing too. Ok, here goes: I chewed gum in my first interview with a bank and I didn’t get the job. Whew! There, it’s out in the open!

It is important to note that I had no business getting that particular job. I was only 16, had zero time for a job between school, cheer and basketball, and I simply wasn’t mature enough. In fact, I’m not really sure why they even agreed to interview me! Regardless, I gained experience… and an embarrassing memory.

The interview process, while intimidating, is obviously an important piece in getting the job of your dreams. It also requires practice, preparation, and skill. I’ve been a part of the interview process on both sides of the table and one thing is for certain: practice makes perfect. I wish I could go back and tell my 16 year old self that chewing gum was basically the easiest way to get thrown out as a top contender, but I learned it the hard way and I was sure to never made that mistake again. Since that fateful day, I have interviewed for scholarships, college organizations, committees and jobs and with each interview, I got better and better.

One of the most captivating interviews I have ever been a part of was when I sat on an interview panel for a new Executive Director for a non-profit of which I am a board member. The gentleman that landed the job was by in large, the most prepared candidate I have ever seen. He came in, addressed each panel member by name, shook their hand firmly, and went on to nail the interview. His answers proved he had done his homework and as far as I know, he had been preparing for months. At the end of the interview, when asked if he had questions, he got out a notebook, asked a series of incredibly well planned out questions and took notes. When he left the room, the panel and I all stared at each other in awe. I said, “did we interview him or did he interview us?” It was an easy decision for the panel to select him for the position.

The Girl Banker’s Guide To Dominating An Interview

In order to compile this list, I combined my own interview experiences with those of community bank CEO’s, COO’s and managers that have interviewed prospective employees for front line, mid-level managerial, and executive positions. We’ve all experienced amazing interviews similar to my story above, and terrible interviews where we wanted the floor to open up and swallow us so we could end the awkward encounter. Here’s my guide to dominating your next interview:

1. Prepare | Would you run a marathon without training for it? Would you take an important exam without studying? Preparation for an interview is an incredibly crucial piece that may often be overlooked. If you retain anything from this post, it needs to be this tip!

  • Get your resume in tip-top shape. Check out Get Landed for resume tips.
  • Talk to the people you list as references so they will be prepared for a phone call and won’t be caught off guard or put on the spot.
  • Do your homework on the company and the person that is interviewing you. The company’s website or LinkedIn is a great place to start. If you find a connection that works there already, reach out to them so they can put in a good word for you.
  • Understand the company’s history, mission statement and core values. Not only will this help you in the interview but it’s a great practice to ensure they align with your own personal career goals.
  • Clean up your own social media profiles. It is 2018 people! If you think your future boss or HR representative isn’t combing through your social media feeds, think again!
  • Review possible interview questions and be prepared with genuine answers.
  • Prepare your own questions. This could include questions about your potential career path and the company’s future plans. When the question “Do you have any questions for us?” is asked, most interviewers are put off with the response, “no, I can’t think of any.” This shows disinterest or the desire to get out of the interview!
  • Have an answer for why you want the job. Prove that you are the best person they could hire!
  • Gain an understanding of what the job is worth and be prepared to negotiate salary and benefits. This is often when women unintentionally hurt themselves because they undervalue their worth. Do your homework on pay, talk to your mentors and be ready and confident for this discussion.
  • Reference a book or article that you have read that compliments your potential job. This shows that you are current with industry trends.
  • Plan your day so that you know you won’t be late and will make your interview on time! Avoid scheduling other appointments prior to the interview. Arriving 5 minutes in advance is a no-brainer, but don’t be so early that it inconveniences the interviewer. These days, more and more interviews are taking place out of the office and in a coffee shop or restaurant. Know where you are going and give yourself plenty of time to be there.

2. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have! | While most of you are probably muttering to yourself, “duh!” you might be surprised at how some people dress for an important interview!

  • Avoid trendy looks and stick to the basics. My go-to interview outfit is a blazer, button-up top, dress pants, and heels. (Flats are fine too!)
  • Try it on in advance in case something doesn’t fit or look right so you have time to find something that does. If you have any inkling that your outfit may not be the best choice, opt for the safe route.
  • Don’t let your outfit be a distraction. Whether it be a crazy print or pattern, cleavage or short skirt, your outfit should compliment your professionalism, not diminish it.

3. Check Yourself! | No one likes arrogant, cocky or unhappy people.

  • When being interviewed, show your confidence and compliment those that helped you get to where you are.
  • Smile! People like happy people!
  • Talk positive about your previous coworkers and jobs and show that you work well with others. It’s a red flag when an interview turns into a bash session.
  • Shake hands firmly. A wimpy handshake is the worst!

4. Sell Yourself | Anyone can look like a rock star on paper but an interview is what determines a hire or a pass.

  • Highlight your strengths by giving experiences from previous jobs. Experiences can be good or bad, just discuss how you overcame, grew or learned from them.
  • Minimize your weaknesses. No one is perfect and we all have weaknesses, but an interview is not the time to personally assess them!
  • For upper level jobs, have a plan that you will initiate on Day 1. Be prepared to explain the plan and discuss why you feel it is important.

Now, go dominate that interview and get the job of your dreams! And remember, don’t chew gum.

Why You Need A Passion Planner In Your Life in 2018

Why You Need A Passion Planner In Your Life in 2018

A new year means so many things- a fresh start, 365 more days to be achieve your goals, and most importantly, a new planner! I’m a “paper” planner kind of gal. You know, the kind where you actually write down appointments, events, to-do’s, etc on paper. You might be thinking, “why use a paper planner when you can use an iPhone or Outlook calendar?” Keep reading!

Full disclosure: I use both. However, there is something fulfilling to me about filling out a planner at the beginning of the year or writing down a week’s worth of to-do’s that simply can’t be replaced by typing appointments into an iPhone.

My love for planners began in college. It was easily my favorite part of a new semester. (Remember when I mentioned in My Girl Banker Story post that I am obsessed with filling things out?) I couldn’t wait to fill in the birthdays of my friends and family and scheduled school assignments and penciled in sorority functions. I’m the same way now with my professional planner and I don’t go anywhere without it.

Over the years, I have experimented with a variety of planners which had their own pros and cons. A few years ago, I had a lovely Erin Condren planner that was leopard print. While I appreciated the fabulousness of the leopard print, it didn’t exactly look super professional in a board meeting or loan committee and usually brought about a few comments from coworkers. Then one day, my pal Allyson Dyer, owner of The Twiggs Group, introduced me to the Passion Planner and I have been a fan ever since. No offense Erin Condren. I am sad I didn’t know about your planners in college or we would have been best of friends.

I recently received my third Passion Planner and over the years have convinced several of my friends and coworkers to get one of their own as well. (Additional disclosure: I was not commissioned in any way by Passion Planner for this post. This is my opinion and my opinion alone.)

Here are the reasons I’m passionate about my Passion Planner:

  • Yearly Goal Setting: At the front of the planner there is a section where you can outline Your Passion Roadmap for the year and it even expands to your 3, 5 and 10 year plan. Pro Tip: The end of the year can be so hectic with the holidays and finishing up projects. When I fill mine out, I love to set aside some quiet, alone time, grab a glass of wine, my favorite pen(s), and map out my goals for the upcoming year. It also serves as a tool to refer back to throughout the year to see how you are progressing. 
  • Weekly Personal & Work To-Do List: In my pea-sized brain, a project or task isn’t complete without marking it off a list so I love the weekly to-do lists. Plus, because there are separate columns for personal and work to-do’s,  I can keep all of my lists in one place.
  • Monthly Recap: The Passion Planner is laid out with a full monthly calendar, followed by weekly pages that allow you to schedule based on date and time, and ends the month with a recap. The recap asks questions like, What was the most memorable part of this past month? and Name three things you can improve on this upcoming month and ends with From 1-10, how do you feel overall about this past month? What a great way to evaluate how you spent your time and energy and focus on ways to improve! Some people may want to skip this section or see it as one more thing to add to your to-do list. Take it from me, don’t skip this section! Schedule an appointment to fill it out if you have to! This section actually helped me make a career move after reading back through my notes from the previous year! Fill. It. Out.
  • Mid Year Passion Roadmap: Sometimes its good to take a look mid-year at your goals and see how you have progressed. Perhaps you have strayed or taken a different course. The Your Mid-Year Passion Roadmap gives you a chance to redirect your goals and keep yourself focused through the end of the year.
  • Lots of extra note taking space in the back: This space is why I never leave my home or office without my planner. You can customize this space any way you like and it’s great to keep all of your meeting notes, project ideas, etc. handy all in one place.
  • The amazing weekly quotes: The Passion Planner is stocked full of quotes and are placed on each weekly schedule. I like to highlight my favorite ones so I can go back to them when I need motivation.
  • Passion Planner’s Social Media Presence: I love following them on Instagram for ideas on how to spruce up my weekly schedule. They show lots of great photos of other Passion Planner users that have decorated their schedules. Let’s just say my planner won’t likely be making it onto the Passion Planner Instagram account because of it’s creative drawings. But it’s cool to see what others do with theirs.
  • They are philanthropic! For every Passion Planner purchased, they donate one. How nice is that?

Side bar: filling out your planner can be even more fun with good pens, motivational stickers and tape! I get most of my planner accessories at Hobby Lobby. Did I mention how important it is to have good pens? Check these out from Amazon.

Do I have you convinced yet? While you may not get it before 2018, at least get one ordered! They have a variety of colors, sizes and even offer a non-dated version so you can start your new planner anytime during the year. Happy planning and Happy New Year from the Girl Banker!