My job was sapping me of life. But could I switch careers?
Chaya Klein is the founder and CEO of One Real Estate, a real estate brokerage based out of Lakewood, New Jersey. One Real Estate focuses on selling and leasing commercial properties, as well as selling residential homes in New Jersey.
A lot of entrepreneurs I know grew up seeing many others around them open and run their own businesses. My experience was different — my family members all got degrees and worked in careers. Business wasn’t ever really discussed.
But I always had that “do-it-myself” kind of drive. I loved expressing my creativity, looking for opportunities and thinking outside the box. To actually run a business? It wasn’t in the plans. My real estate brokerage started from a breaking point, when something just had to give.
I was living in Lakewood with my husband and kids. Each day, I’d travel into Brooklyn and spend a full day working as a special education teacher, playing with children ages three to five as I helped them meet age-appropriate goals.
I loved the kids — but the job wasn’t for me. Every morning I’d drag myself out of the house by 6:30 a.m. for the drive to Brooklyn, leaving my husband to send off my own kids to school. I’m a positive person by nature, so I’d try to set myself up for a good day. I’d have my coffee in hand, my music prepared, and I’d wish my husband a cheery good morning before heading to my car.
But as my car made its way up the parkway, I’d feel the dread kick in. This went on for eight years, without me even realizing how miserable I was, until one day, I had a startling thought. The drive is my favorite part of the day, I remember thinking. If driving into Brooklyn from Lakewood during rush hour, after having not seen my kids wake up, is the best part of my day, something is really, really wrong.
But I had four kids. I had bills to pay. I had a Master’s degree in my field and no training in any other area. I was constantly trying to think of ways to find new opportunities, but I couldn’t imagine letting go of the “security blanket” that was my job.
On the other hand, I was burnt out, sapped of energy. I’m usually a very upbeat person, but I just didn’t feel like myself.
So, I finally decided to take the plunge. I remember telling all of my agencies that I wasn’t going to be taking on any hours for the upcoming school year. The pit in my stomach was deep, and I had so many thoughts running through my head. You have a job, you have a degree, you’re making a steady salary. You’re thinking of giving it all up, not knowing what your next step is and whether or not you can replace your current income… Are you sure about this?
But somehow, the inner voice inside me that wasn’t feeling fulfilled, that whispered, “You’re worth the risk,” won out.
So, I quit.
I was so happy to be moving on, but I wasn’t sure where I was going to next. It was scary.
My husband was in between jobs at the same time. For five months, we had zero income. No money coming in, but lots of money going out. And during that time, I had no idea when income would start flowing again. But I knew that somehow, I had to make this work.
My husband had worked for years as a real estate agent, and he thought I’d love the industry’s fast pace, the relationship building, and the thrill of closing deals. I decided to jump in — there wasn’t much to lose. I had to learn the ropes quickly, and my husband spent hours training me.
I worked in a real estate firm for a while, and then, armed with emunah, some nerves, and guts, my husband and I decided to open our own brokerage. We called it One Real Estate. We were ready to hustle, we were ready to put in the work, and we were ready to dominate the real estate industry.
Opening day was exciting. We had no idea what the future had in store, but we were looking forward to going after our goals and doing what we loved, together. The day sparkled with promise, with the joy of possibility, with the thrill of the future.
That was opening day.
The next day, the world shut down.
Covid was here, and Lakewood went from bustling city to a shell of itself. The fear was palpable. The streets were quiet, the mood somber, the air thick with uncertainty. Buying and selling houses? Leasing office space? Buying warehouse space? It was a joke. No one had head space to think about groceries, let alone properties.
It was all so unexpected. Here we’d trusted, we’d taken a tremendous risk, and it was all shut down before we even had a chance to try. I felt like an Olympic runner who falls and breaks his leg right before the races start. Where do we go from here?
The market was extremely unsteady for a few weeks — during which time each day felt like an entire year — and we had to hold on for all we were worth.
And then, slowly, the market bounced back. With gloves, Purel, and masks, we gradually started selling again. From a market that came close to crashing, a booming market emerged. With Hashem’s support, we grew faster than we ever thought possible. Today, I wake up even earlier than I used to (4:30 a.m.), but I no longer dread each day. I’m excited for what it will bring, and I feel so alive, fulfilled, and grateful to Hashem.
If I could go back in time and talk to my younger self, I’d say
Don’t settle. Don’t settle for a situation that in the short-term looks easier, but keeps you stuck in something that doesn’t work for you long-term. There will be a period of “walking into no man’s land” — and it’s going to be scary. Know that it’s not necessarily going to be easy, but that it’s going to be worth it.
Along with that, know that there’s no way for you to go at it alone. Never stop asking for siyata d’Shmaya. I always say that I don’t know how anyone can manage in the business world without emunah. Without knowing that Hashem is directing everything to perfection, how can you weather the ups and down of business? Sometimes the stakes are so huge and the stress is real. Try to stop and realize that everything is going to work out the way it’s supposed to — so you can truly let go and trust.
There are so many things entrepreneurs learn as they travel along the road of entrepreneurism. But every entrepreneur, without exception, comes to realize that business, just like life — is a two-sided coin. Every experience comes along with both pain and pleasure. Entrepreneurship can look very shiny on the outside. You get to be your own boss, make your own schedule, and potentially increase your bottom line dramatically.
And that’s all true. But there’s also the other side of the equation.
In order to jump into entrepreneurship, you have to learn to look risk in the eye. Especially when starting out, there’s going to be a period when things feel shaky. You may have to jump in before you’re 100 percent ready, learn as you go, and be OK with the “figuring-it-out” period — there’s no way to avoid it.
Is it scary in the beginning? Yes, absolutely.
Is it exhilarating and rewarding? Yes, absolutely.
So the question becomes: Is it worth it for me? Am I willing to take the cons associated with entrepreneurship in order to open myself up to all the pros? It’s tempting to settle. It’s easier to be comfortable. But if you want to have the pros of entrepreneurship, you must embrace the full experience. When we go into something only embracing the positive aspects, we set ourselves up for disillusionment, resentment, and burnout.
When jumping into business — or really anything in life — do so with the full knowledge that you’re signing on for the gains… along with the risks. Armed with that understanding, you can stay steady through the shaky times and pull through to experience the joy and fulfillment.
What I do to chill out: I love learning more about business and sales strategies. While running from showing to showing, I’ll always have a podcast or Audible on hand.
If I could share one message with my ten-year-old self, it would be: Learn to have faith in the process without needing to know exactly how everything will work out.
The businessperson I’d love to go for coffee with: Barbara Ann Corcoran, owner of The Corcoran Group, a real estate brokerage in New York City. She’s a legend in the real estate space, and I’d love to pick her brain.
Superpower software: Monday.com — we use it for all our scheduling and project management, and it’s been so helpful.
Fay Dworetsky is a mindset coach who helps women work from the inside-out to open up to so much more possibility, expansion, and abundance — both in their businesses and in their lives.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 787)
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