Jarvis Seegars had three things on his mind when he went to work on March 20: He needed a new car; he needed a new place to live; and he needed a new job — one where (call it cliché if you want) he fulfilled his dream to better the world.
But that’s not what he was doing.
Instead, the Howard University graduate, with a degree in political science, waited tables in the restaurant of a Charlotte, N.C., hotel.
“I knew that being in that environment and having that job, I’d at least be in the company of professionals,” he says. “I could be working and networking.”
So imagine his relief when, two days before the start of Movement Mortgage’s Vision Conference — in yet another room of suits and ties — a market leader suggested he apply for a job with the company.
That leader was John Hess of Fairfax County, Va., who told Seegars he’d make a good fit in the mortgage industry. Seegars took his word for it and, that same night, began his journey from steakhouse waiter to loan processor.
In July, he and 28 others graduated from Movement University, a five-week class that introduces students — recent college graduates, military veterans and seasoned professionals looking for a fresh start in a new industry — to Movement’s culture and values, and employs them once they’re done.
It’s not uncommon to find MU students with no mortgage experience; Seegars, 28, certainly had none. But he displayed the qualities that mattered most.
“He was outgoing,” Hess says. “He was genuine. He was doing his job well but was so focused on taking care of us.”
For Seegars, joining Movement has been “life-changing” and comes after a series of mishaps and challenges threatened to sideline his dreams.
No plan for ‘after’
The middle child of three siblings, Seegars grew up in muggy Savannah, Ga., where his parents preached the value of higher education, and enrolling in a historically black college or university was family tradition.
He graduated from high school with honors and went to Howard University in Washington, D.C.
“I had aspirations to go in there and try to change policies and try to help people out, to change the world,” he says. “I just wanted to make a difference for the better.”
Not everything went according to plan.
In undergrad, he worked as a host at a popular wine bar. He liked talking to people, maybe too much. He had such a good time in college he had to take time off to refocus.
Last spring, Seegars finished college. But “I really didn’t have a plan for after,” he says.
Deciding that he didn’t want to keep pace with D.C.’s high cost of living (he lived with three roommates to help pay his $3,200 rent), he moved to Charlotte to live with a friend.
Months passed and Seegars submitted applications — many, many applications.
Jarvis meets John
That brings us to March, when over 400 Movement market leaders, sales leaders and branch managers converged at Charlotte’s Sheraton Le Meridien for a three-day vision conference. The event featured breakout sessions and special speakers designed to inspire leaders on the company’s culture and mission.
Hess and other leaders from Virginia arrived two days early. Their first night, they gathered for an awards dinner in a private dining room. Seegars was one of their assigned servers.
On first blush, there was nothing about the group that blew him away. If you’ve seen one dinnertime gathering of corporate execs, you’ve seen them all, he says.
But these people, and their vibe, were different.
“There was a higher-than-average level of respect and appreciation,” Seegars says of Movement’s leaders. “It was very free, very comfortable.”
Hess watched Seegars work, and he was impressed.
Says Hess: “I really just felt I had to ask him: Look, if you’re putting this much (effort) into being a server, is this really what you want to do or do you have other dreams?”
They talked and Hess, who had no say in the outcome, urged Seegars to apply to Movement.
That same night, Seegars watched Movement’s videos and read the blog. More time passed, and he talked with recruiters and landed an interview.
He liked what he saw about Movement’s culture and community service but he was skeptical: “Everyone’s going to sell their best attributes.”
He got the job the same day of his parents’ wedding anniversary, figuring time would tell if Movement really lived up to its hype.
“The culture is second-to-none,” he says today. “The morale is always high. Other corporate cultures and other corporate environments are very hierarchical, and they operate on a ‘what have you done for me’ basis.”
Not so at Movement, where he says the camaraderie is contagious and the commitment to serve, evident. “That’s one of the things I value most about being an employee here,” he says.
No experience, no problem
His lack of mortgage experience matters little. In fact, it jibes with the stories of many Movement employees who came here for a fresh start.
“Ultimately, the reason we hired them is we saw potential in them. We saw people who were willing,” says Hess, who congratulated Seegars by purchasing pizza for his entire MU class. “A person that cares, that knows how to love, is willing to love” fits the culture.
“We’ll teach you everything else.”
And Seegars is learning — about reviewing credit reports, verifying employment and the other finer points of loan processing.
He has his new job, and a new place to live — an apartment in Fort Mill, S.C., where Movement opened its sprawling National Sales Support Center.
But he’s still trying to get that new car. For now, he’ll keep driving his 1996 Ford Explorer.