In today’s world, it is not unusual to hear of individuals in various professions making career moves. People searching for perceived new opportunities, possible higher earning potential or simply a better personal fit can lead to a personal decision to move on. Externally, mergers and acquisitions, corporate relocations and, in some cases, failed businesses cause individuals to make unexpected changes. So it comes as more of a surprise when an individual celebrates a significant anniversary with the same firm.
“In retrospect, it really is hard to believe it has been 25 years since I started with CB Richard Ellis,” says Jane Dizona, a first vice president and brokerage associate in Tampa. “I was fortunate to find a career path that constantly challenged me on the professional side and, at the same time, one that provided a lifestyle that allowed me to pursue the passions of my personal life. If you are fortunate enough to find that complement, then you have a true balance in your life that makes tenure a relatively easy path to follow.”
Smart Business spoke with Dizona about her journey and what she believes made her career choice the right one since 1983.
Did your professional life start in commercial real estate?
I was working in a marketing position for a firm that provided word-processing equipment and training when an opportunity presented itself at Coldwell Banker (the founding firm of now CB Richard Ellis). While I was certainly motivated to do well in my new career, the reality was soon clear that there was a steep learning curve to navigate, that quality service was based on a deliverable base of market knowledge and that practical, real-time experience with clients was the real test of success. I was fortunate, however, to have the benefit of an experienced partner, and that helped immensely in the transition. At that time, the brokerage community in the Tampa Bay area was relatively small, male-dominated, and developing in style and practice. On the landlord side, ownership was used to leasing their own properties. Tenant representation was in its infancy and a new concept to both landlords and tenants. We did a lot of pro bono work until the value that we brought to the transaction was clear.
So how do you now measure that opportunity after 25 years?
On the professional side, I have had the opportunity to work with great people, internally and externally, on a variety of projects. I can also now be more selective in the assignments I take so I can match true partnership arrangements that make a big difference in doing business. Working on the right assignment with the right team and client makes for a true win-win for all parties. At the same time, no two opportunities are ever exactly the same and so it keeps the challenges fresh yet draws on the lessons of the past. On the personal side, my position affords me great flexibility in time and scheduling, which allows me to actively pursue my personal interests. When all of this is in balance, I feel I work better, and the result is that I have a career that provides a financial outcome that directly reflects my efforts and, of course, the realities of the current market.
How have you dealt with the cyclical nature of the commercial real estate business?
Well, we certainly have witnessed the extremes of the cycles over the past few years. If I can offer any advice, it would be to always live within your means and plan ahead in good times for the eventual slowdown in bad times. There is enough pressure every day in the course of conducting business so you need to work at keeping an even keel in your personal life. This affords me the opportunity to be objective in the guidance I provide my clients.
So what should others look for in finding the right long-term career path?
Everyone has different motivations. For me, not only looking back but also looking forward I think a few issues are key. First, ensure that the firm you are considering has a positive, well-respected brand. That calling card will be very helpful getting started and will be increasingly important as you build your business. Second, make sure you are comfortable with the people you work with internally. Every firm has its own personality and style. Third, understand the strategic goals of the firm. Progressive thought and action will help ensure that you remain increasing competitive both individually and collectively. Finally, when your work is always in the best interests of the client, your prospects of a long and successful career are greatly enhanced.
JANE DIZONA is a first vice president with CB Richard Ellis specializing in office brokerage. Reach her at (813) 273-8461 or firstname.lastname@example.org.