I wish I had known about credit unions sooner in my career, and that’s partly why I’m so passionate about this movement.
As a college senior, I needed a part-time job that fit with my school schedule and took a job as a bank teller. I moved through the ranks to a customer service manager position and, while I initially enjoyed my work, I found myself becoming increasingly upset with the “sales-y” attitude that was being pushed through the company.
The rhetoric was all about what the bank needed from the customers rather than the other way around.
I was unhappy and actively looking for a change, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do other than make a real difference in people’s lives. A former bank colleague had taken a job at a local credit union and reached out to me for an open position in his department. I took a job in the deposit operations area and felt like I could finally breathe.
I was so happy to be working at an organization that truly cared about its members. But it wasn’t until a few years into my credit union career that I was finally exposed to the big picture of what the credit union movement is all about.
Now that I’ve had a drink (or several) of the “credit union Kool-Aid,” as we love to say, I can’t imagine being anywhere else.
I have always been a “helper,” so an industry focused on helping people succeed financially is, naturally, a good fit for me.
However, the credit union movement is about so much more than just financial well-being. This is a movement fueled by compassion and a drive to truly transform not just individuals but communities and nations—the entire world.
This movement is so much bigger than many of us realize, and it can be easy to lose sight of that in the day-to-day work. But this work can be literally world-changing—a thought that gives me chills in the best way.
I’ve been fortunate to have wonderful managers and mentors along my career. One piece of advice that stands out is from a former manager who told me on several occasions to be selfish.
It sounds odd at first, but hear me out. What he was getting at is that it’s important to know yourself and go after what you want. There’s nothing wrong with looking out for yourself and working steadfastly toward your goals, and it doesn’t mean you’re doing so at the expense of someone else.
Take opportunities as they come up and look for ways to create your own opportunities as well.
To other young professionals, my advice is to build your network. Find ways to connect with others, both inside and outside of your credit union. Introduce yourself to people in other departments, find out what you can learn from them, and take opportunities to connect with people at other organizations.
Despite all the obvious challenges with the pandemic, I've found a benefit in all the ways I’ve met people virtually. I have gotten to know so many incredible colleagues from all over the country and even internationally, and I never would have had so many chances to connect with people without the ability to gather virtually.
In addition, almost every job I’ve gotten in my professional career has been through someone I already knew. It makes such a difference to get to know and care about people and make those connections.
DAWN LEPORE is retail operations support manager for Vantage West Credit Union in Tucson, Ariz.