We all have to find our way in the world. As a young mother, going to college was not an option. I found myself working in succession of unfulfilling jobs  selling fish, working retail, driving a truck, and a host of other things. 

One day, the leasing office at the apartment community where I lived announced that it was seeking a parttime leasing assistant on weekends and the manager asked if I could help. I jumped on the opportunity, mostly because the rent concession would be a great help financially. 

I soon learned that a career in apartment leasing would offer me more than I could imagine. I expected to be fielding inquiries about apartment availability but found the position to be much more involved. The mix of daily tasks and interaction with residents and my colleagues was perfect for me. I felt like I finally found my niche, something I was good at, something I could make a career out of, something that offered me a future. 

When I started my career, there was no place in my region that offered classes in property management, other than the local community college. The owner of the property where I worked was willing to pay for me to attend the classes at the college in exchange for working extra hours. I took him up on the offer — and earned my real estate sales license in the process. 

A series of events led me to leave residential property management (RPM) and try my hand at real estate. The housing market where I lived was strong and growing, and success was all but guaranteed — but there was something missing. I missed the interactions I had with residents when I was working in leasing and the feeling of providing real value to real people. Soon I transitioned back into property management, and once again I was looking for educational opportunities to improve myself and raise the professional standards in my growing city. There still weren’t many options available to me, and I believed this had to change. 

After traveling to multiple cities more than 100 miles away to pursue training opportunities through apartment associations, helped establish classes on fair housing, maintenance seminars, and certification courses in my cityI committed myself to ensuring that training opportunities were available and even served as the education chair for the Apartment Association of North Alabama for 13 years. 

 The push for professional development and education in my area has paid off. I’ve seen students earn nationally recognized credentials and get stable, greatpaying jobs. Because most of the courses are affordable, people can get the education they need at far less than the cost of a single semester of community collegeWhen encouraging RPM professionals to take advantage of these opportunities, I always say, “The best investment you can make is in yourself. 

Thirty-plus years later, when I look back at my career achievements  stable and secure; respected by my residents, employer, and peers; recognized nationally for excellence in education — think to myself, “You’ve come a long way, lady. 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog post belong to the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of any employer. 

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