Over the course of the last year I’ve attended a bunch of different weddings, bachelor parties, reunions, friendly gatherings, holiday parties, etc. While these events are a lot of fun, I always wind up hearing a similar string of comments from someone at the event. The comment usually goes something like this, “Hey, so what are you doing now? I heard you’re a [insert profession here].” And, as you might imagine, the profession that is inserted into the brackets is almost always wrong.
For example, at my cousin’s wedding last month an old high school friend of mine said, “Hey, so what are you doing now? I heard you’re a nurse practitioner, right?” A nurse practitioner… really?
While I don’t get mad or upset at whatever profession my friends and family insert into the brackets, I do get a kick out of what they think I’m doing. Over the last year or so I’ve heard that I’m a full-time lawyer, university administrator, teacher, website guy, state employee, writer, and – of course – nurse practitioner.
None of these professions – while exciting and interesting – are correct. So I thought I’d take a minute to explain what it is that I “do” at my full-time job.
I work for a nonprofit loan fund – a Community Development Financial Institution (a CDFI). The company I work for focuses on what we term “underserved” communities throughout New Jersey. In other words, we do a lot of work in underserved geographic areas like Newark, Camden, Asbury Park, Trenton, etc. However, we have a broad definition of “community” to include groups of people such as folks with physical and developmental disabilities. From that perspective, we’ve done a lot of work in areas that are traditionally considered affluent like Manalapan, Budd Lake, Eatontown, East Hanover, etc. And we also help traditionally underserved industries such as charter schools, early care centers, the supportive housing industry, etc.
Two quick definitions before I talk about what I “do” at my job. First, when I suggest that my company “works” in an area or an industry, it means that we offer competitive or low-cost financing for development projects. For example, when we work to provide supportive housing for folks with developmental disabilities, I’m suggesting that my company provides a loan to an on-the-ground service organization to purchase a home and use it to provide housing for the developmentally disabled. Second, when I say that an area, group of people, or industry is traditionally “underserved,” I’m suggesting that there has been – historically – a disinvestment of private money from that area, group of people, or industry. Not a disinvestment of public money (i.e. taxpayer dollars); a disinvestment of private money.
That’s a very important distinction. My company receives no taxpayer dollars nor does it seek taxpayer dollars. Instead, we take investments from private organizations, individuals, and like-minded nonprofit organizations and utilize those dollars to make loans to the underserved.
Make sense? I hope so. Back to what I “do” on a daily basis.
My current title (though it’s supposed to change in the coming weeks) is Lending Officer. If I worked at a traditional bank, most would assume that a Lending Officer translates into being an underwriter or Relationship Manager. In the CDFI industry, Lending Officers are so much more… Yes, I’m the guy who underwrites loans. However, I also manage relationships with our borrowers, close loans, act as a new business development officer, manage a multi-million dollar federal grant, serve as a communications and public relations officer, act as the company’s charter school specialist, seek out new investment and grant opportunities for the company, make presentations on behalf of the organization, work with researchers on finding new ways to solve community problems, serve as a problem loan work out officer – I could go on.
So what do I “do” on a daily basis? Well, a little bit of everything, really. Yesterday, I spent a lot of time reviewing submitted material from a possible client who wants to borrow over $4 million to purchase an old Catholic school building and use it as space for a charter school. This information includes test scores, the school’s financial history, operating projections, resumes and bios of the major staff members, awards won by the school, and so much more.
The day before, though, I spent the bulk of my day contacting attorneys and asking them to finalize different legal documents for loans that my company closed (i.e. funded) over the last twelve months. Many people don’t realize this, but there are an enormous amount of documents that need to be executed before a house can be purchased, a construction job can take place, or any type of financing can be advanced. Well, one of my jobs is to make sure that all of those documents are signed and in order before funds go out the door. The problem, though, is that once the documents are signed, they typically take between six and twelve months to work through the different attorneys’ offices and recording areas. So when I close a loan, I have to make sure that those documents are in order and, eventually, on their way to my office.
I hope that this entry gives my friends and family who read my blog a brief example of what it is that I do all day. Sure, I could get into all of the ancillary jobs that I’ve set up for myself outside of my day job (the websites, the teaching, the consulting, the volunteer work), but that’s for another entry. If I wrote this entry correctly, then the next time I see someone who reads my blog and the topic of professions comes up, they’ll have an idea of what it is that I do… and it won’t be nurse practitioner!
If you are interested in a job in which you can also make a difference, check out online social work courses.