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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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2019-11-21
Tips for Navigating Career Fairs

Career fairs present you with the opportunity to network with potential employers, learn about job opportunities in your prospective industries, get eyes on your resume, and even get some preliminary interview practice. While these opportunities are great, you won’t be able to take advantage of them without proper preparation. Here are some tips for making the most out of career fairs.   

Prepping for the Career Fair

Do your research Before the fair, contact your college’s career center to see what companies will be present at the fair. Make a list of the companies or organizations that you’re interested in and conduct some online research about them. Understanding the company’s history and information about what they offer will help you better engage recruiters, and just might earn you an on the spot interview.   Prepare your resume Proofread your resume, show it to friends and professionals you know, and even run it by someone in the career center. Follow our guide about
resume tips for some help here. If you want to go above and beyond, make different resumes for different career paths that you’re interested in.    Find appropriate attire While most career fairs suggest business casual attire, make sure you’re prepared to dress to impress. Typically men should wear pressed pants with a shirt and tie, and women should wear pants or a skirt with a blouse. Wearing sneakers or a graphic tee probably isn’t a good idea.    Practice your pitch Get your “elevator pitch” ready for the career fair. This is basically just your way of introducing yourself, highlighting your skills, and presenting your interests to the recruiter or employer. Being able to express your skills and aspirations in a succinct manner will be sure to impress potential employers.   Create a list of questions Come up with a few questions to ask the employers, so they will know you are interested in their company. These should be questions that you could not find the answers to during your research. Here are some sample questions:
  • What kinds of entry-level positions exist within your company?
  • What courses do you suggest in order to be a successful candidate?
  • What is the average length of stay in entry-level positions?
  • What new product lines/services have been announced recently?
 

At the Career Fair

Devise a game plan Picking up a copy of the floor plan at the career fair and mapping out your main booths of focus will help make the process less overwhelming. Some lines may be longer than others, so plan your strategy to make the best use of your time. While you want to try to talk with every employer in your targeted group, remember to stay open to meeting other employers you may not have originally considered.   Be respectful While you want to make the most of the career fair, you shouldn’t just move from booth to booth picking up free stuff and handing out your resume. This can be a major turn-off for recruiters because they want to talk with people interested in the company, not the giveaways.   Warm up Start your rounds by going to a couple of booths that are not at the top of your list. This way you can get warmed up to interacting with the recruiters before meeting the employer in which you are really interested.   Show confidence Remember to smile, make eye contact, and give firm handshakes when introducing yourself to recruiters. Being confident should come easy to you as long as you do your preparation homework before the fair. Remember your pitch and be ready to answer any questions about your resume. Don't forget to ask the recruiters questions about their companies; it shows that you are interested.   Ask for business cards and contact information For future correspondence, be sure to request the business card of each recruiter with whom you speak. Make notes on the back of the cards to help you remember what was discussed.   Close strong When wrapping up with employers, you should always ask about the next step in the recruiting/application process. Be sure to shake hands and thank them for their time. Stress your interest by saying that you look forward to hearing from them within the near future.  

Following the Career Fair

Review literature  After the fair, go through all the information that you gathered from the recruiters. Look over your notes and think about your interactions with each employer, so you can decide which positions may be of interest to you.   Follow up Be sure to send thank-you notes to the recruiters with whom you spoke. Include specific information so the recruiters will remember you. If the recruiters asked for more information, such as transcripts, another resume, writing sample, reference list, etc., be sure to get that information to them as soon as possible.    For more tips and suggestions on navigating the career fair and to find out about career fairs in your area, visit your school's Career Center.  
  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.
2019-11-01
4 Ways to Prep For Your Post-College Life – Right Now

College life can be a bubble. In many cases, you’re shielded from the real-world realities of full-time jobs, rent and student loan payments. But before you know it, graduation will pass and you’ll be thrown into the responsibilities of adulthood.

 

“You need to plan for the future, and the future is here,” says Barbara Thomas, executive vice president of Education Loan Finance (ELFI). “It’s not just when you graduate.”

 

But you also don’t have to sacrifice a memorable college experience to set yourself up for future success. Here’s how to estimate — and plan for — the cost of your post-grad life.

 

1. Make a list of future monthly expenses

Having a sense of how much life costs is helpful for choosing a major, researching jobs and negotiating your first salary. It’s okay to estimate for now. For example:

 

2. Add it all up, then account for taxes and savings

In this example, your total monthly expenses come to $2,533. But you’re not done yet — there’s a lot this number doesn’t include. For one thing, the government takes money out of each paycheck for taxes, Social Security and Medicare. You also need health insurance, the cost of which may get taken directly from your paycheck if your job offers it.

 

Those costs vary based on factors including the amount you earn, where you live and your job’s benefit package (use a paycheck calculator to estimate yours), but they could easily run you $1,000/month. This puts you at $3,533/month in this example, or about $42,000/year.

 

You’re still not quite done. You need to be saving for the future and for inevitable emergencies like car trouble or accidentally smashing your phone on the sidewalk. Experts recommend saving 20% of your paycheck, which is about $600/month in our example. (That may not be realistic at first, but it’s an excellent goal.) So, you really need to earn $4,133/month, or about $50,000/year.

 

3. Make adjustments to save money

You might be panicking a little right now, but these numbers are attainable. The average annual starting salary for the class of 2018 was about $51,000, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

 

Plus, there are ways to cut your monthly expenses to make some wiggle room in your budget. For instance, student loan refinancing* can potentially shave hundreds of dollars off your student loan payment by lowering your interest rate. To qualify, you’ll need good credit, which takes time to build. While you can’t refinance until you at least have a post-college job offer, you can start establishing credit now.

 

4. Get a credit card (but don’t carry a balance)

Student loan refinancing isn’t the only thing that demands good credit. Almost everything you’ll need or want to do after graduation — rent your own apartment, buy a car, travel on the cheap with credit card points — requires a strong financial track record. The easiest way to establish good credit is to get a credit card, use it and fully pay it off every month.

 

As a student, you’re limited in your credit card choices because you don’t have much of a credit history. Your options are:

  • Get a secured or student credit card. These cards require a deposit (secured cards) or that you have an income (student cards), but they’re designed to help you get started. Over time, you can add other cards with more perks, like cash-back and travel rewards.
  • Ask a parent to add you as an authorized user on their card. This gives you a copy of the card to use, but keeps the payment responsibility on them. Before going this route, double check that the card company will report the card activity to the credit bureaus (the companies that create credit reports) on your behalf. Otherwise, it won’t help your credit.
 

Having a credit card will only help you if you spend within your means and consistently pay off the balance on time. Otherwise, you’ll rack up interest charges and be stuck with debt you can’t afford.

 

By doing these four things, you’ll emerge from your college bubble ready to take on the “real” world.

 
 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

 

NOTICE: Third-Party Web Sites: 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.

2019-10-31
Best Cities for Young Professionals

You’ve got your degree and you’re ready to move on to the next phase of your life. But now you’re faced with a big question – where do you want to start your life after college? For many, this marks the beginning of your “real” adult life. It’s where you begin your professional journey. Some choose to go back to their hometowns, while others decide to move away and start new chapters. If you’re looking to move to a new place after college, you might want to check out some of the cities on this list from US News.  

Minneapolis-St. Paul.

If you can bear the cold winters, The Twin Cities are a great option for young professionals. They have a metro population of about 3,488,436 people, and it’s still very affordable. According to US News, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to find a job in this area – the unemployment rate is only 3.3%, and the median annual salary is about $6,000 more than the national average.  

Honolulu.

You may think packing up to move to Hawaii will always be nothing more than a dream, but US News begs to differ. Honolulu has a great reputation as a vacation destination, but it would also be an amazing place for a young professional to call home. The tourism industry is vibrant and full of opportunities, as well as health care and defense, thanks to the military bases on Oahu. They also tout an impressive unemployment rate of just 2.4%. Can you imagine waking up to a tropical Hawaiian breeze every day? We’re right there with you.  

Nashville.

The country music capital of the USA has grown significantly over the past few years, and so have its job opportunities. In the Nashville metro area, the unemployment rate is only 3%. If you’re looking for a career in healthcare, you’ll likely find lots of opportunities here. Not to mention, there’s plenty to do in Nashville on the weekends, from taking a night out on Broadway Street to drifting the Harpeth River.  

San Francisco.

Young professionals are drawn to San Francisco, even though it is one of the most expensive places in the country. However, the city is home to the second-strongest job market in the United States, so many make the higher cost of living work with their salaries. Plus, the experience of living in San Francisco might be worth a little more money, right? Experiencing the City by the Bay would be a dream for many young professionals, and with a ridiculously low unemployment rate of 1.8%, they might just land their dream job there.  

Austin.

Texas’ capital city has felt an influx of millennials over the past decade, primarily due to the conducive environment for young professionals. Austin, Texas is a major tech hub with companies such as Apple, Amazon and AT&T holding offices there, making it a great place for young professionals in the tech space. If you want to spend part of your life in a major city, you’ll want to check this one out.  

Portland.

One of the most sought-after metro residential areas, Portland is known for those who like to embrace their “weird” side (the city has been described as “stuck in the 90s”). You’ll find some major companies like Intel Corp., Nike, and more here, so you may encounter some pretty cool employment opportunities. The unemployment rate is a low 3.8%, so a job in Portland is definitely worth looking into. Experiencing a city like Portland could be great for a young professional looking for something different.  

Colorado Springs.

US News picked Colorado Springs as the top city for young professionals, primarily due to the ease of living there. With high desirability outside of the Rockies and low costs of living, this city has grown over the past few years. However, its growth has been slow in comparison to other parts of the country, so housing costs are more than a quarter below the median annual income. You’ll have the potential to earn a salary around the national average, but save a little bit on your housing costs, all while enjoying the beauty Colorado Springs has to offer. In other words, it will be easy to get by and get on your feet in this exciting town, making it great for young professionals gaining a foothold in their careers.  

Places We Like

Seattle.

With 23.1% of the population between 25-34, Seattle is clearly a hub for young professionals. Now the home of Amazon, Seattle is quickly becoming a tech-hub with plenty of opportunities. With a low unemployment rate of 2.4% and a high-end median income of over $86,000, the largest city in the Pacific Northwest attracts young people from all over the country.  

Raleigh.

While it’s usually known for it’s two major universities near the metro area (Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill), Raleigh, North Carolina ranked 13th in best places to live in 2018 due to its affordability, strong median income and low unemployment rate of 3.6%, not to mention the exciting southern culture. Plenty of recent grads from the major universities and around the country make their homes here, with plenty of jobs in education and research.  

Atlanta.

Looking for everything you could ask for in a southern city? Look no further than Atlanta. Homes here are $30,000 lower than the national median, and the city offers a high median income. Atlanta is a popular city among young people, from its trendy culture, hip-hop influence and worldwide connection (home of the largest U.S. airport). Also known as the city where the “players play,” it’s a great place for young professionals to start their careers with major U.S. companies.   Moving out and starting life in a new place is so thrilling, but deciding where you want to go can be tough. This list just touches the surface of some of the best places the United States has to live. If you want to see the full ranking or read more about the places on this list, check out US News’s original article here.  
  Note: Links to other websites are provided as a convenience only. A link does not imply SouthEast Bank’s sponsorship or approval of any other site. SouthEast Bank does not control the content of these sites.