[Career Planning Tips] Breakfast with Jane

There are lots of ways to start a career: many of us fall into one after starts and stops, and others put some reflective thought into the project and figure most things out before the career has taken off. While the stories behind the former cases are interesting, it’s the narrative of the latter cases that generally help inform and guide us.

Last week I had breakfast with Jane Mermelstein at Toast in Noe Valley to catch up on the last seven years. Along with Marc Foose , who also works in residential real estate, Jane is one of two people in San Francisco that I would use if I were selling or buying property [Disclosure: Foose is a client, Jane is not] in San Francisco. Both have the qualities that are important in their craft: organized, thorough, slightly anally retentive, overly prepared, and knowledgeable about the market and the idiosyncrasies that make San Francisco (where few of the pre-1930 homes are seldom alike) such a zany market to price.

Jane approached her new craft around 2002 in a way that many of us can learn from, particularly as it applies to people moving from one field to another. As a former business consultant, she analyzed the real estate role into component parts to figure out if she could cut it. Rather than a fall-in to the field without much thought, Jane broke out the components of the role to see if she had what it took. So instead of “just selling real estate”, the role became different components of the job and Jane talks about things such as “referral streams”, “marketing channels”, and differentiation when talking about the role.

While real estate sales have been particularly challenging in San Francisco (where most homes require jumbo loans due to high prices, and credit even for the credit worthy has been tough), Jane has managed to keep chugging ahead when many good agents have been doing serious beach time.

And like Foose, who figured out the advantage of having a home organizing business to complement his real estate work, Jane has used blogging as a adjunct social media tool to keep her name visible and top of mind, as well as keep current and would be clients engaged.

The lessons for all of us are simple; look before you leap; break things down into components to figure out if you can realistically perform them; and figure out ways to make your work stand out or be differentiated in a crowded, challenging market.