What’s Next For Me- Getting Started in Commercial Real Estate

What do you want to be when you grow up?

When I was little the answers came quick and easy.  A singer.  A dancer.  A writer.  A veterinarian.  A teacher.

But when I hit college the answer wasn’t there.  It was time for me to decide and I had no idea.  I chose to major in business because I enjoyed my high school business classes, thought it gave me a wide range of career options, and thought it’d be fun to eventually own my own business.  I got my degree, started my career in supply chain, and later got my MBA.  But I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.

When I volunteered to quit my job a few weeks ago I still didn’t know.  I made a huge list of companies in the area and started scanning their career pages.  I saw a few things that sounded interesting, but nothing that got me excited.  I was worried about swapping a comfortable job I wasn’t interested in for a different job that I also wasn’t interested in, but paid less and offered less flexibility.  I wondered a hundred million times if quitting was a mistake.  Why would I quit when I didn’t know what else I wanted to do?

I really reflected on what it was that I didn’t like about my job.  Besides just not being that interested in the technical aspects of building cell phone towers, I HATED that my function was such a very small piece of a very large pie. Like most companies, a thousand people have to review something before a decision can be made.  Things move slowly.  Accountability was not always clear, and sometimes I would be held accountable for things I really had little control over.  There were meetings to prepare for other meetings.  Often two or more people would be working on the same things, completely unaware of what the other was doing.  There was just a lot of bureaucratic red tape that I thought was probably not a Sprint problem, but a big company problem.  It was just a bad match for me personally and I didn’t want to spend an entire career in that type of environment.  I wanted a job with a lot of responsibility.  I wanted to clearly connect the dots from my performance to the company’s performance.  If something went wrong I was fine with being held accountable so long as it was in my control to fix the problem.  I wanted to feel as if I was spending my time wisely; not on some report that some executive asks for but then never looks at.

Once I realized what it was that I didn’t like about my job, I thought about what jobs could offer something different.  For awhile I focused on smaller companies, but I needed something that was really flexible.  I want to work hard and I want to work full time(ish), but with 4 kids at home I need to be able to work from home on days my kids are sick or there is no school.  I want to be able to attend the occasional awards ceremony in the middle of the day.  I need it to not be a problem when it’s my turn to put my kids on the bus or to be home after school.  I can work after the kids are in bed, I can work on the weekends, I can work early mornings, but I need the flex to spend the time I want to spend with the kids.  While these things were possible with my Sprint job, they were becoming increasingly difficult. Flex is non-negotiable for me; our family wouldn’t work any other way.

I started thinking about sales.  I’ve never done sales before and don’t think of myself as a salesperson, but I thought I could be good at sales IF I was selling the right product.  But what would I sell?  I was 0% interested in any sort of MLM like Beach Body or Mary Kay or Tastefully Simple.  I have friends that make great livings doing those things, but they just weren’t for me.  Pharmaceuticals?  I think medicine is over-prescribed.  Cars?  I believe in the Dave Ramsey plan of only paying cash for cars.  Sales was coming up blank.  This was a hard period for me- I was so ready to do something else, but not excited about anything.

About this time my friend Lainey casually mentioned real estate to me.  My brain got stuck on that and could think of nothing else!  Real estate has always been interesting to me and I started doing a ton of research on breaking into it.  The requirements were easy; I just needed to get my license.  My friend Erin works in commercial real estate/property management and I set up a meeting with her to discuss the industry.  I went into the meeting wanting to focus on residential real estate but left it with interest in commercial.  I started researching commercial real estate like a mad woman and it was like light bulbs started flicking on all over the place; pretty much like a strobe light party in my brain.  I had the business background.  I found it super interesting.  It offers a lot of flexibility.  There are lots of career options.  If you do sales, you’re paid by commission- which I thought I would like.  If you’re good, you can make decent money. I had the severance pay to help me get through the first several months that you typically make no income.  You get to get to interact with the community and help contribute towards the economy.  The more I researched, the more I became convinced I had finally discovered what I wanted to do when I grew up!

So here I am, day one without a real job.  The kids are staying in daycare so that I can focus on this full-time.  It’s a major career change and I’m starting at square one.  I started taking classes towards my license today.  I’m meeting with anyone in the industry I have a connection with.  I need to find a broker to hold my license.  I have my steps for the next few weeks clearly laid out, but after that it gets a little hazy.  Everyone I’ve talked to has said that the most important decision I’ll make is who I choose to work with.  I desperately need a good mentor so finding one is at the top of my priority list.  If you happen to know anyone in any form of commercial real estate in the Kansas City area, can you please connect us?

I’m really excited to see how this goes, but also well aware that it could be a huge flop.  It’s a hard industry to break into and I have no experience.  And while I’m confident I can learn what I need to know and build the relationships I need to have, what if I do all that and hate it?  Or what if I work really hard but never find success?  These are possibilities, and if they happen they happen.  I’ll deal with that then.  For now I have stuff to learn!

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