An Unconventional Journey to Becoming a Real Estate Agent
“I wanted to work in a big company and, obviously, wanted to be a millionaire right out of college"
Indecision is one of life’s greatest paradoxes. It’s great to have choice, especially when it comes to choosing a career, but the words “what if” can loom like a tiny cloud in front of the summer sun.
Figuring out what you want to do for your career can be both daunting and exciting. For many, the path to decision includes dabbling in different fields. Such is the case for current sales and leasing agent TJ Hadden.
Like many 20-somethings, Hadden didn’t exactly know what he wanted to do after he graduated from college. Though Hadden is happy in his current role at Marston Beacon Hill, his path to real estate is an unconventional one.
College Didn’t Have All of the Answers
After coming to Boston from a small town in New Hampshire to study creative writing at Emerson College, Hadden transferred to Northeastern University where he majored in economics and minored in international affairs. His co-ops and internships included working at an accounting firm doing taxes, as well as doing grunt work at a law firm, which he didn’t love, but decided to take the LSAT anyway.
“Harvard wasn’t in the picture so I started applying for jobs,” Hadden says. “I wanted to work in a big company and, obviously, wanted to be a millionaire right out of college. So about a year ago, I accepted a temp-to-perm position at an investment bank.”
After a while, Hadden figured out that he didn’t love the computer intensive work the investment bank demanded, and when the company told him his assignment was ending and that he had an option to be reassigned to a different department, he declined the offer.
An Abrupt Push to Find the Dream Job
“I had been taking the real estate licensing course on the weekends and had scheduled to take the exam the following Friday, so I had been counting down my days at that time, but they ultimately beat me to it,” Hadden explains. “I spent the next week studying for the test and the week after that going door to door dropping off resumes. I got a few calls back and ended up landing a job a week-and-a-half later at Marston Beacon Hill. It was the only firm where I really wanted to work, so I was fortunate.”
Since his agency has a make-your-own-hours policy (standard in the industry) and because Hadden gets paid exclusively through commissions, he likens his job to being self-employed, with a heightened sense of control over his career. His hourly flexibility combined with commissions-based pay are two aspects he enjoys, but those aren’t without their own added pressures.
“When you only get paid in commissions, there’s definitely a feeling of accountability that follows you around,” Hadden says. “That can be a good or bad thing, but it’s something that I wanted.”
Pay for real estate agents varies widely, especially because most get paid by commission like Hadden. The mean annual wage for a real estate sales agent is $55,530, with an estimated 157,660 real estate agents working in the field, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
First Week on the Job
Working as a real estate agent is not without its awkward moments. Anyone who has had their apartment shown to prospective tenants knows it can be awkward having strangers snoop around to decide if they want to live where you’ve been living. Will they judge your Katy Perry poster framed above your bed? Yeah, they probably will.
Hadden left me with an interesting anecdote about this situation from his first week on the job.
“Most people know that it is more or less industry standard to give the current tenant 24 hours notice prior to a showing. But that is really more of a courtesy thing than a set rule that brokers have to follow. During my first week on the job, a couple walked in one afternoon and wanted to see an apartment that had been occupied. So, I called the tenant and left a voicemail informing him and telling him to let me know if there’s a problem. Well, I get all the way to the apartment door and start turning the key when my phone rings. It’s another agent from my office. Apparently, the tenant had called him complaining, demanding him not to let me do the showing.
“Sure enough, I checked my phone and had two missed calls, a voicemail and about half a dozen texts from the guy, all to about the same extent as ‘Don’t go in.’ One text even read that ‘there would be a huge problem if I tried to enter.’ Ever since then, I have an alarm set every morning that reminds me take my phone off vibrate mode and turn the volume on before I go to work.”
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