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How To Find A Good Notary Mentor

bulletin-mentoring-450x300-1.jpg(Originally published in the July 2019 issue of The National Notary magazine.)

One of the first questions new Notaries ask is where they can find a Notary mentor. This is true both for mobile Notaries looking to start their business and office Notaries who need help understanding how to carry out their basic duties.

But what makes a good Notary mentor, and where are the best places to look? The National Notary Association reached out to a variety of mentors and mentees to ask about their experiences and get their recommendations. Here’s what we learned.

Where Can You Find A Notary Mentor?

One of the best places to find a mentor is on social media. It’s a simple matter to check out online message boards as well as Notary groups on Facebook or professional networking sites such as LinkedIn. Facebook, for example, has a Notary Public Mentor group. Once you join these groups, engage with people and let them know you are looking for a mentor.

You may also search for websites and online forums for Notaries in your region, and message them directly to ask if they are willing and available to mentor. 

Notary-regulating officials in some states periodically host conferences, which can be great ways to meet other Notaries. The biggest regular gathering is the NNA’s Annual Conference, which many new mobile Notaries use to network and build connections.

Another alternative is to seek out a professional online mentor who offers full-time paid training programs and instruction to new Notaries. This requires a beginning Notary to budget for the costs of training, but also ensures you will have a dedicated, full-time instructor.

Carol Ray, owner of Notary2Pro, a training service for Notaries and Signing Agents that has been in operation since 2009, said it’s important to do research, find out all you can about a particular mentor’s style, and decide what kind of mentor suits you best.

“When you look for someone to train or mentor you, check for testimonials,” she said. “Go to Google Business and see how long the mentor or instructor has been around. Join Facebook groups for Notaries and ask questions. Go with your gut. If you are making a big decision and something tells you that it’s wrong, stay away from it.”

What Makes A Good Notary Mentor?

How can you tell if a Notary mentor will give you good guidance? Here are the most important things to look for:

1. Knowledge of your state’s Notary laws. “The most common questions I get have to do with Notary laws, because all 50 states are different,” said Bill Soroka, Founder of NotaryCoach.com and the Sign & Thrive Notary Training Course and Community. “The law is often subject to interpretation, and this leads to a lot of gray areas.”

2. Integrity and professionalism. Whether looking for business-building guidance or help with Notary questions, you want a mentor who is scrupulous about following proper procedures and ethical practices. A Notary who fails to ask signers for proper ID, who doesn’t require personal appearance or keep required journal records is not the right person to mentor you.

3. Patience and availability. “You have to be sure that you are available for your students when they need you,” said Carol Ray. “I answer my phone every time it rings when one of my students has a question. People who bug you with questions want to do things right.”

When seeking out a mentor, remember that the mentor’s role is to help you master the fundamentals of notarization. It’s not appropriate to assume that they will provide you with free business contacts or arrange assignments for you — a mentor is a teacher, not a job placement agency for Notaries. Also, you should never make inappropriate Notary mentor requests that would breach the privacy of your mentor’s customers.

Benefits Of A Notary Mentor

When Selecia Young-Jones of Jacksonville, Florida, was starting her Notary business, she understood the basics of her state Notary laws, but she wanted help from someone with practical experience when situations came up that weren’t directly addressed by state law.

“The information I had was enough to pass my Notary commissioning exam,” she said. “But just because you can drive doesn’t mean you can win the Indy 500.”

Young-Jones saw some posts online from Herb Guinup, a Notary in Tampa, Florida, with more than 30 years of experience. She took a chance and asked him for help, emphasizing that since she was in another city that he wouldn’t have to worry they were competing.

Guinup agreed to be her volunteer mentor. He answered her questions and also suggested that she join the NNA so she could benefit from educational materials and the Notary Hotline.

“In today’s world, there’s zero reason for an inexperienced Notary to have to go it alone,” said Notary educator Mark Wills of Loan Signing System. “The biggest benefit of working with a mentor or instructor is that it’s a shortcut to success. You can teach yourself to play basketball, and it may take you three years to learn to shoot hoops, but if you find a coach, you’ll learn faster. It’s the same for Notaries.” 

Mentoring Can Help Both Mentees And Mentors

One of the biggest challenges to finding a mentor is that experienced Notaries often fear they are training a potential competitor. But Notaries who do mentor find a different reality.

“In today’s world, I believe mentoring new Notaries with real hands-on experience only helps strengthen the industry,” said Herb Guinup. “My personal philosophy is that any Notary who is dedicated to learning and understanding their role is not a threat to me or my business. I find sharing my passion for serving the public and handling notarizations with care and integrity very rewarding.”

Mentees who have been helped by a good teacher often seek to “pay it forward” by offering to assist others. Such was the case with Young-Jones.

After getting her own Notary business up and running, she started an information network for local Notaries who help each other if someone’s not available for a notarization. “One gal called me for information on conducting a wedding while I was on vacation in Arizona, and I walked her through it,” she said. “Another time when I was unavailable to perform a wedding, she returned the favor by covering the assignment for me.”

Notary Mentors In The Office

Most Notaries carry out their duties as part of their fulltime jobs, and new Notaries often need guidance on the basic requirements of notarizing. That is especially true because bosses and co-workers often are not familiar with Notary laws, and they may request improper notarizations that the law does not allow. Having an experienced Notary on staff to provide proper guidance can be invaluable.

Joan Baffa worked for the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP in New York for nearly five decades. She knew that proper notarial practices and procedures were of extreme importance, so she became in-house trainer for the firm’s 165 Notaries.

“I was the go-to person when it came to Notary Public questions,” she said. “I would train the partners, lawyers and staff on the do’s and don’ts of notarizing documents. It definitely reduced the chance of lawsuits or problems for the firm.”

For co-workers like Dana Jones, Notary and Assistant Managing Clerk at Debevoise & Plimpton, having a resource like Baffa, one of the NNA’s 2015 Notary of the Year Honorees, was invaluable. “From start to finish, she helped make sure our documents were notarized properly and kept us all up on Notary changes.”

If you are asked to obtain a Notary commission as part of your job duties, ask your employer if there is Notary trainer on staff or other experienced Notaries who can answer questions.

Don’t Be Shy About Asking Questions

When you are looking for a mentor, Mark Wills says don’t be afraid to give them a call to speak to them directly and ask questions. “Call them up directly, talk to them and see how you feel about them,” he said. “Ask them to tell you a little about themselves and what makes them a good mentor. See how you feel about them. The easiest way to be successful is to copy someone who’s already successful.”

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.

Additional Resources:

Resources To Help New Notaries

 

 

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