This month’s Fearless Fridays interview is with Melissa deSantis. She and I are working with the same business coach and when I heard the story of her career transition, I wanted to share it with you all!
Melissa transitioned out of medical sales and into real estate all of 14 years ago and of course, there have been new challenges and developments along the way. She talks about trying out the new business alongside her job first, to make sure it was something she definitely wanted to do, the challenge of letting go of a six-figure salary to work for herself, and the fact that you ultimately have to stop listening to the naysayers and take that leap of faith!
Read on or watch the full interview below to hear more of Melissa’s story.
Leaving a corporate job behind to follow your passion: From medical sales to real estate.
Melissa deSantis worked in medical sales for many years. When she had a less-than-positive experience of selling and buying a house, she decided that she could do better! She got her licence and today she is a full-time Broker Associate, pursuing her passion for real estate and the psychology of buying and selling.
1) At what moment did you decide it was time for a change?
Well, I was in medical sales, and I loved the sales aspect. I love meeting new people and every day was not in an office – I’m not an office-type person where I like to just sit at a desk. So I enjoyed that aspect, however, I was not passionate about medical sales…
I kind of just fell into it. I went to school and I graduated in communications and then, as many of us, once you graduate, it’s kind of like, “Well, what do I do now?” And I was working in New York City, actually for the National Football League doing internet, but I was more of an admin person in an office. I like to be on the road and doing different things. So I just started applying and I feel I was very lucky that I did land a medical sales position because it gave me a lot of the skills that I needed to move and take forward into real estate. So I kind of just fell into it somehow.
And I was selling a town home and buying my new home, and my realtor at the time was, I guess I’ll say, less than impressive. I didn’t have that personal connection with her where I felt like she had my best interest at heart. It was more of just she wanted to make the sales and move on to the next person. And I said, “Oh, if she can do this, I can definitely do this – and do it much better.”
When you’re buying or selling a home, it’s likely a person’s biggest asset or financial investment and I feel it needs to be treated that way, and you need that personal connection. You need to feel that you can trust the person that you’re working with and that they do have your best interest at heart. I loved the aspect of real estate and everything about it. So it was at that time I said, “If I’m going to be working the next 50 years or so, I want to do something that I love doing.” And went to real estate school, got my licence, and never looked back.
2) What was the biggest challenge you faced in making the change?
So many, I feel. In the beginning it was that I had a stable career, a job in medical sales with a six-figure salary, and I mean, basically everything was covered. They gave me a company car, an expense account, a computer. And so transitioning from that into real estate where you pay for everything yourself, a piece of paper, everything… It was just like night and day. And I was lucky in the sense that I got my real estate license and I did do it part time in the beginning. That would be something that if someone’s looking for a transition, a career change, I would give them that advice if that’s possible, because it does allow you to just take baby steps to make sure this is exactly what you want to do.
And so I did it for a few months part time, just because it was such a big change for me. Especially financially, like I said, going from having all that security to having to invest a lot of money in order to get the business that I needed to get. But I quickly learned once I started part time that if I was going to be successful, real estate was not a part-time job – it’s more than a full-time job! So that was definitely a struggle. And the mindset and believing that I could do it because real estate, at least in our area, is very competitive, and you’re going up against a lot of realtors who have been in the business or were when I started who had a lot of experience. So just that mindset and believing in yourself and acquiring the skills and confidence to be able to do it.
I don’t think you’re ever really 100% ready. And if you wait until you think or feel you’re ready, you’re never going to do it. So it’s just taking a leap of faith and trusting yourself, and going with your gut and your instincts and saying, “Okay, I’m going to do it.” Eventually if you’re passionate and you work hard enough, I believe the money will come. But you have to put in the time in first.
And I feel as I get older, it’s harder and harder for me to step outside of my comfort zone. When I was younger, it was just so much easier. I look back at things I did high school, college and beyond, and I said, “Oh my gosh, how did I do that?” I don’t think I could do it today. I don’t know why it is, but I feel as we grow and get older, for some reason we have to push ourselves more than we used to, to step out of our comfort zone.
3) Where did you get the support you needed to make it happen?
I would say my husband – I was fortunate that he had a stable job with medical benefits and health insurance. So that was important because as realtors we don’t get benefits, especially medical benefits. He was also very supportive emotionally in saying, “If this is what you want to do, then I think you should do it.”
I also decided to hire a real estate coach, and that was quite an investment. Every month, it was a large amount of money, but I always say it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Sometimes you’ll have to look at it, I feel, not as exactly the money you’re putting out, but the ROI, the return on your investment, and what I got back from hiring the real estate coach was just priceless in the sense that it gave me the skills I needed as well as the confidence and the mindset, which I think is really truly the most important thing when you’re starting a new business or a new career. It’s all about mindset.
And it was a gamble and I racked up credit cards for a year or two, until I was able to pay them off; but you have to make that investment in yourself. If you’re not going to invest in yourself, no one else is going to invest in you. That’s important.
4) What’s the best part of your lifestyle today?
Well, I mean, it’s night and day. Even 14 years later, I wake up and I’m excited about my job and my career. And there’s no limit – there’s no ceiling in this industry. So it’s up to me, and I guess that can be a good or a bad thing because I don’t have someone saying, “Okay, you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that.” You have to be disciplined. And there are many days I don’t want to wake up at five or six and work out and go to the office. And it’s not like I have a boss that’s telling me, “Okay, you’ve got to do this.” So I love that part, and yet it’s a challenge.
I love the creative part of it, and I love that I have made so many amazing friends through this business. People who start out as clients, but then as we go through the transaction and the real estate process, they really become friends of mine. And just being able to meet these people that if I wasn’t in this industry, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet, I think those are some of the best things about this business.
And I feel that a lot of people, consumers, they look at realtors as used car salesman, and they don’t get or see the value that we can provide when it’s done correctly. So to me that’s important. I want to be able to give my clients and future clients the value that they need and educate and guide them and not just make it about, “Let’s get this sale done and move on to the next one.” So to me that’s very, very rewarding.
5) What one piece of advice would you give to someone who is considering making a big career or lifestyle change?
I think it goes back to: if you can start and try it part time or on the side, then I would say do that. Because sometimes the grass is always greener on the other side, right? You always look at what someone else is doing or has and think, “Oh, I wish that was my job.” But you don’t really know what a job entails until you try it. And I think a lot of people think being an entrepreneur is the greatest thing, but there’s so much that goes into it. So I think if you’re able, try to do it on the side or part time in the beginning, just so that you fully understand and are committed to what it entails.
And also, going back again to when I said I hired a coach… Whether it’s hiring a coach or taking courses or seminars or trainings, you have to really invest in yourself so that if you decide to move forward with this new career change, you have, again, the mindset, the skills, the confidence that you need to make it work. I think those would be probably my two biggest pieces of advice.
And I think too, just really trusting yourself and your instincts. I heard this advice years ago and didn’t understand it until years later, but one of the best pieces of advice I ever got was that you’ve just got to put your blinders on and do it. Meaning: don’t allow others to influence you. If you really know and believe in your heart that this is right for you, there are going to be so many people that tell you that you can’t do it, you shouldn’t do it. “Oh, what are you? Crazy. You’re going to risk this. How could you do it? You’re selfish…” If you really believe it in your heart and gut and soul, just put your blinders on and move forward and don’t allow others to hold you back. I think that’s very important, and probably my biggest piece of advice now that I’m thinking about it. Don’t allow others to make you second guess yourself and think you can’t do it.