I came across this question posted on one of the message boards last week:
"I am a new notary and was wondering if anyone could offer any suggestions on how to gain experience closing loans?"
It's a common dilema. Few companies want to give you work, unless you have experience. So how do you get experience?
In many professions you gain experience by serving an apprenticeship. In Germany, for example, there is what is called the 'Dual System'. It's an apprenticeship program that combines training at a company with classroom education. The apprentice goes to school a few days, and works a few days. And they are tested.
It's a system that has many merits, and works very well. In my opinion, it would be good to have such a system in the United States for notary signing agents: spend a few days a week training at a title company, and a few days a week in the classroom. Then undergo a rigorous series of tests.
As far as I know, there is no formal apprenticeship for notary signing agents. There are various mentor programs. However, for the most part one does their best to be as well trained as they can, and then they hit the ground running. But no matter how well trained they believe they are, they still need someone or some company who is willing to take a chance and give them a closing assignment.
I was extremely fortunate. I happened to be on a website for notary signing agents one evening and saw a message from a signing service. The person was looking for someone to do a closing. I sent an email saying that I was available. I was honest and let them know that it was my first time. They were willing to take a chance on me.
So one of the elements they will need is a bit of luck. In my case it was being in the right place at the right time. But what if they aren't so lucky? Then they try to make their luck. They increase the odds that they will get a call by signing up with as many companies as possible. Dozens. Perhaps even hundreds. Then hope that one of them will call.
Some may find themselves accepting jobs that pay low fees. No one wants to work for low pay. But that just might be what they'll have to do. The objective is to get experience.
Gaining experience, in my opinion, is all about having a broad knowledge of mortgage loan closings, and accepting new challenges. A person can be a notary signing agent for 10 years. But if all they've done over those years is simple refi's, that is not as much as experience as someone who has only been a notary signing agent for 2 years, but they have experience with reverse mortgages, purchase transactions, constructions loans, etc. So I encourage notary signing agents to accept challenging closing assignments. Learn as much as they can from each closing that they do. Treat each one as an opportunity to improve their skills. Look for opportunities to improve their problem solving skills. Give the best service that they can give, so that they get repeat business.
It's very important that notary signing agents not get hung up on numbers, or be intimidated by them. It is very possible that a notary signing agent who has done only 50 closings can have more 'experience' than a notary signing agent who has done 500. Especially if those 50 closings represent 10 different types of transactions, opposed to the 500 that represent only one or two types. If they've done 50 closings, and some of them have been reverse mortgages, purchase transactions, etc., they are more valuable to a company, in my opinion, than a person who has never done those, but they have done 500 closings -- all of which were simple refi's.
Just last week I was commenting to a notary signing agent who said she was amazed at the notary signing agents who claim to have done 8 or more closings a day. My first thought was, are they doing them well? Are they giving the companies and the borrowers superior service? Getting back to the numbers issue, I think it's better that a notary signing agent focus on doing a couple of closings perfectly, rather than doing a lousy job at many. Yes, they might make a little more money. At first. But how many companies will stop calling them?
There are in fact very many good notary signing agents who are well trained, and they are capable of doing well on their own in a closing. All they need is an opportunity, and a bit of luck. And that is what I sincerely wish all of them, and anyone else who wants to enter this, as a profession: good luck.