Originally published via LinkedIn March 3, 2016
With summer jobs on the horizon, professionals recall the first jobs that launched their careers. Read more, then write your own #CareerLaunch post.
During the summer between high school and college, I worked in a Century 21 real estate office as an administrative assistant. I stuffed envelopes, showed homes, called prospective home buyers and sellers, took out the trash, brought the agents coffee, answered the phone and filed paperwork. I was 18 years old and making $7 an hour. I thought I was big man on campus. My mother had purchased me several professional outfits to wear before she, my dad, and my brother moved to Germany where my father was being transferred. I felt so proud in my 5/7/9 black polyester skirt and blazer, with a pencil tucked behind my ear and my pager clipped securely to my waistband.
In that job I learned to have a professional phone voice, to be meticulously organized, and to understand that the customer was always right even if they were a huge PITA. But the best part of that job, the part that really made my day was the writing.
I wrote all the copy for the houses we advertised. The agents were so busy between phone calls, home showings, and working with the title company that they gladly handed over this job to me. I relished it. I was given MLS reports and was tasked to transform home stats into descriptions that sold in 50 words or less. The 900 square foot fixer upper became the cozy hidden gem needing just the right touch of TLC. The circa 1970s kitchen was vintage and chic. The questionable neighborhood was up and coming. I loved the challenge of it and I loved it when a potential home buyer walked in, holding our ad, pointed to a house and said, “I’d like to see this home.” I believed my writing helped bring that buyer in.
If a house didn’t get any attention, I’d rewrite the description until I found just the right words. The words that I hoped would speak to somebody. Of course some house just sold themselves, if they were beautiful and perfect. But most homes needed some help.
Near the end of the summer, some of the agents let me come along with them as they showed homes to their customers. One agent even let me show homes on my own. I was able to talk about the house like I’d write about it. “Over here we have a spacious lanai to enjoy the nature that surrounds this beautiful home.” By “nature” I meant overgrown back yard, but that’s just semantics.
By the end of my stint there, I was contemplating getting my real estate license. But as anyone in real estate knows, the job is much more than showing some homes and saying nice things about them. It’s a demanding, long hours, working weekends kind of job.
Instead, I started college that fall with a major in Civil Engineering. Which I promptly changed to English Education the next semester realizing I couldn’t answer calculus questions by writing engaging copy. I continued writing, later earned a Master’s in Mass Communications, and eventually found myself on a career path in marketing.
Fast forward many years later, as my husband and I were home shopping, we came across the home we eventually bought. The description sounded fantastic. White on white kitchen, spacious living areas, backed up to the golf course. When we pulled into the driveway for the first time, I nearly told the agent to throw it in reverse and head right back out. The house was a mess inside and out. But that ad had certainly gotten us there. The house had “great bones” as they say and it was beautiful, once you saw through the 37-year-old carpet and four layers of wall paper. Eight weeks of renovation later, it was livable and has become our forever home with several projects still to complete; thanks in part to a well written ad and great real estate agent.