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Student Loan Refinance Head Barbara Thomas’ Advice to Those Caught in the Gender Gap

August 26, 2018

The gender gap, sounds like something that ended when women gained the right to vote, but think again. Every day women are fighting for the same treatment as men. Not only do women get paid 80 cents to the dollar that men receive, but recent research from Pew Research Center shows that women hold only 10% of the top executive positions. The same report goes on to illustrate that in the financial sector, women make up only 8.1% of executive level positions. Basically, what all these stats are showing is that women not only get paid less, but they also don’t have leadership positions. If you’re like us, you’re thinking finding a woman executive in the financial sector is like finding a unicorn, but we did it! Luckily, we have the pleasure of working with SouthEast Bank Executive Vice President and Head of its student loan refinance division Education Loan Finance, Barbara Thomas. We sat down with Barbara and discussed what her long and successful financial career has been like and if she has been affected in the past by the gender gap.

How did you start working in the financial industry?

My first job out of college was a credit research analyst for a municipal bond insurance company. After graduate school, I went into investment banking.

Why did you want to work in finance?

My BS degree is in mathematics, and MBA in Finance, so I consider myself quantitative and highly analytical. I always had a knack for numbers so a career in finance was a natural fit.

Did you ever feel that people in your personal life tried to deter you from working in the finance industry?

My family and friends have been very supportive of me and my career throughout my life.

Did you have moments when you reconsidered your career? How did you move past them?

Yes for sure. I have three children – I traveled a lot and worked very long hours, including weekends, throughout my career so I was away from them quite a bit. The work life balance just doesn’t exist in investment banking. However, I achieved so much in my career, and my children have been so supportive of me and are proud of my accomplishments. I believe I set a great example of how hard work and perseverance can lead to success and all three of my children are successful in their own right. In addition, I always made sure that I was there for them when they needed me most and for the important events in their life. Whether it was editing their papers at midnight when I arrived home from work or driving for hours after a long business trip to make my daughter’s field hockey game, I made sure I was there for them.

Can you explain a bit about the gender dynamics in the finance industry at that time?

No doubt, the finance industry has been and still remains today an old boys’ club. I believe that not much has changed to promote women, including providing the proper mentoring and advancement opportunities, in the past 25 years that I have been in the business. When I finally achieved Managing Director status at Morgan Stanley, so many of my clients and professionals outside of the firm thought that I was already an MD for years.

Can you share some moments that you think may have been different, if you were of a different gender?

There are so many moments- from being promoted long after demonstrated success, lack of invitations to casual events (i.e. golf outings and yes I play!) outside of the office, lower compensation than my male peers and lack of opportunity for lateral moves within financial firms. Just to name a few.

There is often a stigma associated with women – you have to choose between your career or a family. Do you have any comments regarding that statement?

Yes, in fact, when I had my third child and was an investment banker, my colleagues thought I was going to retire. So I left that firm to take on a new investment banking position in a more exciting industry at another investment banking firm – that showed them all that they truly misjudged me!

Were there other women that you had worked with in finance? Did they too notice the gender dynamics of the industry?

There were very few women and most left after they made vice president because the opportunities for advancement were slim and the uphill climb was just too steep. We all felt it.

Have you seen gender dynamics change in the finance industry within the last decade?

Nothing has really changed other than the creation of “Heads of Diversity” and “Diversity Committees” in corporations. It is very hard to change the dynamics when men continue to serve in the vast majority of leadership and management roles in the finance industry.

Have you had similar experiences in your current role? 

In my current role as an Executive of Southeast Bank, I have been presented with opportunities to take on new challenges and leadership roles with the full support of our CEO. As head of certain of the Bank’s business lines for the bank, including Education Loan Finance, mentoring and promoting women is a high priority for me.

What advice can you share with women today who may be facing similar challenges in industries like technology? Where the gender dynamics may not be equal?

Always stay true to who you are, demand to take the lead on those plum assignments, prove that you are the right choice for the position, have a voice and speak up but make sure what you say is relevant and toot your own horn, because no one is going to promote you like you can!

 

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Man teaching on zoom. Teaching is an example of a recession-proof job.
2020-05-07
Do Recession-Proof Jobs Exist?

It’s probably safe to say that you have heard the economy is in a recession or headed towards one due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Hearing about a recession may cause you concern about your job security, but you’re not alone. In these uncertain times, it can feel like no job is truly safe. But, in fact, recession-proof jobs do exist. If you are in college and exploring career paths or if you’re looking to change jobs, keep reading to find out about careers that may lessen your worries during a recession. And if you find yourself currently in a position that may be affected by a recession, there are some actions you can take to make your job a little more recession-proof.     

What Is a Recession?

A recession is defined by the
National Bureau of Economic Research as a significant decline in economic activity lasting more than a few months. The decline in economic activity is seen in things such as income, employment statistics, and retail sales. Unemployment can increase during a recession because companies are earning less money due to less demand and are unable to pay employees. However, there are some jobs that are considered recession-proof, meaning you are less likely to lose certain jobs during a recession.      

Recession-Proof Jobs

If you are trying to decide what career path is right for you and want to find one that is more likely to survive a recession, take a closer look at jobs such as these below. Here are some of the best jobs during a recession:
  • Healthcare Industry - Most jobs in the healthcare industry are safe during a recession because people will always need medical attention regardless of how the economy is faring. In addition, these jobs can be done in many different settings that allow for more opportunities, such as hospitals and doctor offices. The jobs most in demand are registered nurses, physical therapists, and pharmacists. The only healthcare jobs that may see some decline in a recession are those involved with elective procedures, since people may put those off until more prosperous times.  
  • Teachers and professors - Children will always need education and teachers will always be needed. Whether elementary, middle or high school, teacher positions will need to be filled. Becoming a professor is also a solid career path, although it will require an advanced degree. 
  • Law Enforcement - This can include officers, detectives, and crime scene technicians. These jobs are usually protected from layoffs because the need for public safety is not dependent on the economy. 
  • Public utility services - The jobs in this sector are in electric companies, trash services, recycling, and water services. These services are considered essential and will continue in a down economy.
  • Funeral director - A funeral director is involved in planning all aspects of a funeral. While it may sound morbid, death is inevitable and, therefore, this is an industry that will not suffer as much economic impact as others.  
  • Firefighters - Similar to law enforcement, firefighters are an essential part of maintaining public safety. Fire inspectors and fire investigators are similar to this job.
  • Judicial workers - In a recession, the court system will still be needed. Whether civil or criminal cases, jobs in the judicial system will continue. This can include judges, clerks, bailiffs, bail bond agencies, prosecutors and public defenders. 
 

Recession-Proof Your Current Job

Unfortunately, some sectors of employment are more susceptible to job losses during a recession, such as jobs in the construction field, travel industry, auto sales, and retail sector. If you are in a job that is not considered recession-proof here are some ways to increase your chance of not receiving a layoff notice.    One important thing we’d like to note: If you have been laid off, it’s extremely likely that it had nothing to do with your talent or likeability. Unfortunately, sometimes companies have to make difficult decisions to layoff people that they normally wouldn’t. These are just merely suggestions for ways you can rock at your job:
  • Learn new skills - Learning new programs and strategies in your field may help you move up the ranks in your company and show initiative to your bosses. This can translate to being a more valuable contributor to your employer, and thus, more likely to survive a layoff. 
  • Be a team player - A likable co-worker who helps contribute to projects would be an asset to the company rather than someone who just does the minimum required for their position. Become a team player by taking on more responsibilities even if they don’t fit within your position. 
  • Have a positive attitude - When managers have to decide who they have to lay-off they will be more likely to retain the employee who has a positive attitude about their job rather than an employee with a pessimistic outlook who makes the workplace a negative environment. 
  • Network - Build relationships with colleagues in your field. This will help if a layoff is inevitable at your company and you find yourself looking for a new job.
  If you are in a job you love but it’s not considered recession-proof, the best thing you can do is take control of your finances. Two things that will make the biggest impact are: creating an emergency fund and reducing your finances. Start saving for an emergency fund and aim to build at least 3-6 months of living expenses. If you are trying to reduce your expenses, one simple option that could save you hundreds of dollars a month is student loan refinancing. Check out the student loan refinancing calculator to see if this may be a good option for you.*   A recession is out of your control, however, preparing for it in advance can save you a lot of worries. Whether you choose a new career path, try to recession-proof your current job, or just bulk up your savings, all of these are great options for preparing yourself for a less stressful future.  
  *Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.   Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
home office for work-from-home job
2020-04-14
8 Legitimate Work-From-Home Jobs

With the recent happenings surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are either working from home or staying at home for a greater portion of our time due to stay-at-home orders or to practice social distancing. Unfortunately, some of us may be out of a job altogether. Spending this unusual amount of time at home may have you starting to wonder whether you'd like to actually work from home full-time or part-time.    By Caroline Farhat   Working from home comes with some great benefits, but it may not be for everyone. We’ve outlined some of the benefits and things you should know before making the leap. Sold on getting a work-from-home job? Keep reading to find out how you can snag one that you’ll love.  

Is Working from Home Right for You?

Before you start looking at work-from-home jobs, you need to decide if skipping office life and working from home is right for you. You may like working from home if:
  1. You are self-motivated - When you are working from home it’s up to you to get the work done in a timely manner. Sure, you may have the occasional video conference meeting or phone call, but in general, there is nobody looking over your shoulder to check that you are completing the work. 
  2. You can stay focused - Of course, office life comes with distractions. We all know that one coworker that turns a 5-minute coffee break into a 20 minute one. But at home, there may be even more time-sucking distractions. Pets, household chores, and your Netflix account may be some of the distractions you would have to contend with and overcome to stay focused on work.  
  3. Working alone doesn’t bother you - Just as co-workers can serve as a distraction, they can also be built-in friendships. Would the camaraderie be something you miss or do you work better alone? If working alone sounds a bit lonely, working from home may not be the right fit for you.  
  4. You are organized - Working from home requires you to stay on top of deadlines and work tasks in a non-traditional office environment. If you prefer being managed closely on a day-to-day basis, working from home may have a learning curve.
 

The Benefits of Working from Home

  1. No commute - The average American spends a little over four hours per week commuting to work. In many major cities across the country, that number is much higher. Still, even four hours is a sizable chunk of time and can be better spent on yourself or with your family. 
  2. Office attire is more relaxed - Although it may help your productivity to change out of your pajamas, your attire can likely be more relaxed than if you were in an office. If you have video conferencing calls, just be sure to dress appropriately. 
  3. Save money - By working from home, you may be less tempted to go out for lunch or stop for daily morning coffee. Depending on how often you go out, that could mean over $200 in savings each month. Plus, you will also save on your commuting costs, whether that is gas or public transportation.
 

Legitimate Work-From-Home Jobs

Ready to start your work-from-home job hunt? Here are some of the best work-from-home jobs to consider:  

1. Website or App Tester

Although this job may not provide a full-time income, it’s a great way to earn extra money on the side. For these types of jobs, you will be testing a website or application and providing feedback on it. For example, you might be required to complete certain tasks on the site. One company that has these types of jobs is UserTesting  

2. Virtual Call Centers

With call center jobs, you may be considered an employee or contractor depending on the company. Most will require certain equipment, like a dedicated phone line and minimum internet speed. A call center job will require you to interact with customers by phone or possibly online chat to help fix problems they may have or answer questions. Some companies that often have openings for virtual call center jobs are: Alorica@Home and Liveops.    

3. Freelance Writing

As the title suggests, freelance writing is a contract position where you will be writing for all sorts of different mediums, from blogs to magazines. If you like writing, freelance work can be a great job for you and has unlimited income potential. A great resource to find freelance writing opportunities is FreelanceWriting  

4. Teach English Online

Have a knack for teaching kids? If you have a patient and upbeat personality, you may enjoy teaching English online. Some companies do not require teaching experience but do require a college degree. The major ones to apply to are: VIPKID and Qkids.    

5. Amazon

The retail giant has a vast array of remote jobs from Human Resources to Software Development. Some positions require you to live in certain cities, so read the requirements closely. Check out the listings to see if any would be a good fit.   

6. Data Entry

These types of jobs can be good for beginners, although the pay is not high. Data entry can include transcribing audio files or entering data into a system. One site with different opportunities is Clickworker.     

7. Insurance

The industry has a number of remote jobs that would make great careers, including sales and underwriting. Two major health companies offering work from home positions include Humana and Aetna.    

8. Virtual Assistant

Are you organized, a team player and like assisting others? Being a virtual assistant may be a great fit for you. A VA can help bloggers with their sites or help companies in an assistant role. A great place to look for VA work is on Boldly. With Boldly, you are considered an employee of theirs and do work for companies looking for assistants.     If you aren’t sure what industry you would be interested in working for there are some resources that provide legitimate work from home job listings. Check out KellyServices or Indeed to see all the work from home positions.     Tip: Remember there are work-from-home job scams. Be aware of any “jobs” that require you to buy anything or that sound too good to be true.    If you are dealing with student loan debt but don’t think working from home is right for you, there are other ways you can tackle your student debt. Student loan refinancing is one great option because it can help you save money on your monthly payment, as well as the overall loan amount. Curious how much you can save? Use our student loan refinancing calculator to find out how student loan refinancing can help in your unique situation.*  
  *Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.    Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
woman asking her boss for a raise
2020-03-23
How to Appropriately Ask for a Raise

So you’ve been taking on more responsibility at work, your boss says you’re a real asset to the company, but your salary hasn’t changed in a few years. If this describes your current work situation, it might be time to ask for a raise.    By Caroline Farhat   According to PayScale’s “Raise Anatomy” report, only 37% of workers have asked for a raise. Of those that did ask, 70% received some sort of increase in compensation. Those are pretty good odds so if you’re excelling at your job, you should ask! The average raise in 2019 was 3%, according to the 2020 Compensation Best Practices Report. This means that if you are earning $40,000, your raise would increase your income by $1,200 per year. The amount of a raise depends on the sector of work, location, and demand for the position. Typically, jobs in the private sector usually receive higher raises than jobs in the government. As a best practice, you should usually wait to request a raise after you have worked for the company for at least one year. Additionally, in most cases, you should not ask for a raise more than once a year.    If you feel it is time to ask for a raise, here are some tips on how to appropriately request one.  

Prepare for a Meeting 

When you are ready to ask for a raise, request a meeting with your boss and let them know you’d like to discuss your salary.   

1. Plan your request at the right time

When you want to ask for a raise, pay attention to the timing of the meeting with your boss.   An appropriate time for a meeting would be:
  • After you successfully completed a big project that brought value to your company
  • During a performance review meeting when you have exceeded expectations. Performance review meetings are a typical time when companies award raises. Being prepared to ask for a raise during this time could allow you to negotiate for more than the planned raise. 
  Times to avoid a meeting:
  • During a busy season of work when your boss will not be able to focus on your request 
  • When you are behind on your work. If you are not able to perform your current workload, it will be hard to justify a raise to your boss.
 

2. Prepare talking points

Go into the meeting prepared to advocate for yourself. Although you don’t have to memorize a speech, it’s good to be prepared with the following information: 
  • Specific examples of accomplishments you have achieved at work recently. This could be anything from securing a big client to implementing an idea that brings in extra revenue for your company. 
  • How you have exceeded expectations for your position. 
  • Additional responsibilities you have undertaken. If you have taken on more responsibilities by taking initiative, be sure to highlight those. 
  • The value you will continue to bring to the company in the future and examples of how this will be accomplished. 
 

3. Do your research

It’s important to know that the salary you are requesting is realistic for your position and your location. A great resource is Glassdoor. You can compare salaries for your sector or receive a personalized salary estimate based on your market and position.  

4. Practice, practice, practice

Asking for a raise can be a nerve-wracking conversation. By preparing and practicing before your meeting, you can walk in confidently and armed with data to back up your request. In addition to practicing your talking points, you will want to be ready for any questions or negotiations that may arise. While it’s good to have a specific salary in mind, you should also be open to other numbers or benefits that your boss may offer. For example, the company may offer you work from home or extra vacation time in place of a salary increase.  

In the Meeting 

You’ve requested a timely meeting, prepared extensively, and now it’s go-time. Once you’re in the meeting here’s what you should focus on:  

1. Your Demeanor

Pay attention to your tone and body language when speaking. You want to appear confident in yourself and your abilities. Show a positive attitude about the value you bring to the company, but do not appear arrogant. If you get questioned about why you deserve a raise, keep your cool and answer with the talking points you prepared.   

2. Communicate Your Accomplishments

Instead of just rattling off a laundry list of accomplishments, focus on a few incredible examples and, if possible, bring proof of your work. Here are a few ideas of what you can present in the meeting:
  • Two-three examples of big projects you accomplished 
  • Work you did that was beyond the scope of your job
  • Specific examples of when you took the lead and were successful
  • Examples of work brought that brought monetary value to the company
  • Ideas for your future at the company. Companies value loyal workers so be sure to point out how you have demonstrated loyalty and your desire to remain with the company.   
 

3. Explain Why You’ve Earned It

Be sure to avoid talking about why you need the extra money and instead focus on how you have earned a raise. For example, if you are in sales, instead of saying you need the money because of increased living costs, say you have earned this raise because you are the most successful sales associate, have brought in $100,000 in revenue, and receive great reviews.   

4. Bring a Specific Number

It’s best to have a specific number you are requesting, according to a study by Columbia Business School, instead of a range. For example, you want to request $55,000 as opposed to saying $52,000 to $57,000. Provide the reasoning for how you arrived at that number and, if applicable, give examples of how it is in line for the type of work you do.    

Bottom Line

If you have been in your role for over a year and are killing it at your job, you should seriously consider asking for a raise. But before you do so, preparation is absolutely critical. Follow the steps above and you’ll be in a great place to have this discussion with your boss. Good luck!  
  Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.