Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: MIX (10/22/15)
TITLE: Frank and I
By Pat Small
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ADD TO MY FAVORITES
I checked myself out in the full length mirror; navy blue power suit, crisp white blouse, matching medium height heels and a shockingly yellow purse the experts said would make the outfit pop. I pinned on my new name tag, and checked my bag to be sure my real estate license was there. Here I was with a new job, a new divorce and a new career.
I crossed my fingers. Could I support my daughter and still be available for parent teacher conferences, recitals or sports as she grew? I trembled when I thought about the risks.
Yesterday, I had sat down with my boss. “What do I do now?” I had asked. “Where do I begin?”
“Network, network, network,” advised John, my broker, leaning back in his chair. How can he be so nonchalant about it, I wondered. “There’s a coffee tomorrow morning. That would be a good place to begin,” he continued. “You could meet real estate attorneys, home inspectors, mortgage lenders, surveyors, termite inspectors, contractors, general handymen, you never know. You’ll need them all.”
“I will?” I gulped, not recalling our instructor mentioning this detail.
Hilary Clinton once said it takes a village to rear a child. I was getting the distinct impression that it would also take a village to sell a house. Daydreaming, I had envisioned showing a few houses to a client, writing a contract, and getting paid at closing. Was I ever wrong. That was the easy part. I learned very soon that we are the professionals having the most people who can make or break a deal for us. I lost count of the times I yelled, “It didn’t appraise? The seller will not do any repairs? Not even the building code items? Termites? Radon?”
But, all this wisdom would come later. Now I had to network. I would have rather had a root canal. But I gritted my teeth, dragged myself to my old Toyota and headed to the meeting place. Once inside, I found what felt like a thousand people, balancing coffee cups and Dunkin Donuts as they milled about the room. When they see I’m a newcomer they’ll have pity on me and make an overture, I thought. I had a rude awakening. Small groups were chattering here and there. I wished I could just walk up and insert myself in a conversation, but my shaky legs refused. A fish out of water would have nothing on me. I was so out of my element. I had no idea how to mix. Given one or two people, I was fine. Groups intimidated me. Discouraged, I took my coffee and went to the office.
I had a desk and a phone there; a stack of postcards announcing my new career awaited my attention. I started addressing those. Maybe networking via the U.S. mail would be easier. Between the stress and the writing, I developed a raging hunger. At last the postcards were addressed and signed. The post office was my next stop and then food.
A little Chinese carry-out was just down the street. “I just got my real estate license,” I confided as the owner took my order.
“Really? We’re looking for a small condo in walking distance of the restaurant,” she offered. “Our employees need to move out of our basement.”
“I’m on it, just as soon as I finish this great General Tao,” I promised, burning my tongue in my haste. I nearly flew back to my computer, and fired it up at warp speed.
That was how I learned about networking. I had my first client, and I had just been natural. I couldn’t do “contrived”. Rather, mentioning the real estate market or a new listing when it fit into a conversation effortlessly was more my style. I couldn’t look at a person and see dollar signs. Print advertising and allowing people to seek me out also had its merits. I had to be true to myself and my own personality. People can spot a fake a mile away, my instincts told me.
Twenty years later I put my badge in the drawer for the last time. My daughter and I giggled as we cut into our steaks. I was ending my career, she was starting hers. No more need to mix. I had regained my self-confidence, supported my child, and helped hundreds of people find a home. Along with Frank Sinatra, I did it MY way.
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