If you are a military retiree with the right temperament, and you are willing to get out among the troops and hustle, a second career in real estate can turn out to be one of the most exciting and well-paying jobs you ever had. There are some features of the profession that ex-military people are typically quite enthusiastic about, along with a few that generally don't thrill them nearly as much.
First, the positive. In the military, your effectiveness was based largely on subjective evaluation. That can be frustrating, because we all naturally think we do a better job than we are given credit for. In real estate, it is wonderfully simple. You are paid when you produce results. You are paid every time you produce results! For someone who is accustomed to receiving the same pay each month, regardless of how well or poorly you do, that is an exhilarating experience. There is even a danger that you can lose control and become a workaholic.
Then there is the excitement of being your own boss. You can come to work when you want, quit when you want, and dress how you like. Men, you can throw custom and caution to the wind and wear your hair long if that pleases you, and (may the Pentagon forgive you) even grow a beard and wear beads! As it turns out, the years of straight-arrow training will probably have left its mark, and you will no doubt continue to act like a good soldier should, but it is fun to have the option.
There are some potential frustrations. If you have spent twenty years or more getting to meetings on time, recognizing the chain of command, and generally following every accepted precept of good management and human relations ever conceived, the freewheeling, fiercely competitive nature of real estate can leave you perplexed. After the initial shock wears off, and after you get your nose pushed in the dirt once or twice, you will learn the ground rules and will be able to more than hold your own. Little things will always bother you, though. You will still grit your teeth when half the staff saunters in ten minutes late to a sales meeting, or someone clips his nails while the broker is talking. You will adjust.
You will also likely conclude that the level of professionalism among your new associates is not as high as that in the military. "My word is my bond" has no direct counterpart in the business world. But do not be too impatient. After a while, you will come to know who you can trust and who you would not leave alone in the supply room without an armed guard. Progress is being made on this front, particularly through the National Association of Realtors. You know how a professional outfit should act, so pitch in and help them out with their efforts.
A cordial admonition is also in order. You will be happier if you accept the fact that you are starting over as a buck private in the rearmost rank. I have talked to dozens of ex-military people who are currently in real estate about their careers, and I have corresponded with many others. Their suggestion for success: Forget your rank. Or, as one ex-NCO put it: "RHIP-RIP (Rank Has Its Privileges—Rest in Peace)." Even if you had been the officer in charge of procurement at Humongous Air Force Base and had handled multimillion-dollar projects so often that it all became a trifle dull, it will earn you no spe cial privileges in real estate. You still need to deposit that $1,000 earnest money check the same as everyone else.
You will also need to overcome some negative stereotyping. Some of your coworkers are likely to see you as a saber-rattling automaton who will try to organize them into 0600 calisthenics every morning. You will eventually get most of the respect you deserve, but there is no rank insignia on your sleeves or shoulder to pave the way, and do not ever expect the same kind of courtesies and perks you enjoyed in the military, no matter how successful you become.
If you're active duty military and stationed in a location where you plan to retire, there are some other interesting possibilities. Log on to www.cold-wellbanker.com and type in "Rake" in the "Agent Search" link. Two entries that will appear are Elsa and Jim Rake, both agents with Coldwell Banker Elite in Stafford, Virginia. Elsa got her real estate career going while Jim was still on active duty and he joined her as part of the "Rake Team" when he retired. As is apparent from reviewing her achievements and credentials, Jim enlisted in a very impressive outfit.
To make you feel welcome, here is a little story that is told about a former military man who went into real estate. A broker invited an ex-Army career type to join his real estate agency. The Army man seemed to be doing well enough, but it bothered the broker that the fellow did not show up for work until after 10 A.M. Finally, the broker could not stand it any more, and said, "Clyde, what did they say in the Army when you came in at mid-morning every day?" "Oh, not much," Clyde replied. "They just stood up and said, 'Good morning, Colonel.'"
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