This is a guest post from Danny Roberts, a recruiter at Redfin. It kicks off a new series we’re starting on the Redfin Blog featuring employees in different jobs and departments. Be sure to check back for more!
How “The Real World” Shaped My World, and Led Me on the Path to Redfin
I was in my final year as a student teacher for education majors when a sudden and unfortunate realization overcame me. Whether it was the reality of an all-consuming career about to overtake me, or the fear that I was too close in age and maturity to the very secondary students I would be teaching soon, I’m not really certain. It was probably a combination of both. Regardless, it became crystal clear to me that I was not ready for the psychological and time commitment needed to be an effective teacher. Despite my apprehension, I finished the program, and prepared to move forward in life. I would figure out the rest as I went along.
Soon after graduation, I found myself moving to Atlanta with absolutely no clue what lay next. I was determined to figure out what the right thing would be, and naively thought it would find me. A few months later, on a hot spring day, I came across an advertisement for tryouts for MTV’s “The Real World – New Orleans.”A friend brought it to my attention and championed me into giving it a try. It seemed like an idiotic waste of time at first, but after some consideration, I realized I really had nothing to lose at the time, and besides, more than anything, it promised great adventure and I wanted nothing more in my life at the time than exactly that. I dreamed of traveling the world and experiencing what was really out there beyond my safe bubble in Georgia.
Trying out turned out to be well worth the time and effort because I was cast that winter and my life took a drastic change in a completely new direction after that. The experience was a yearlong whirlwind of an affair, and when it was all said and done, it opened my eyes to a myriad of new options of where my career might take me next. One of the more exciting gifts of this experience was that I managed to parlay that public stage along with my passion for education and advocacy into a successful career doing public speaking and mentoring at universities and colleges across the country. My work was centered on public policy and current events around gay rights issues of the time, which were just starting to enter the mainstream. I found it incredibly fulfilling to take part in something that was larger than myself and serve a positive purpose. Time marched on and the world changed around us drastically. Much of the societal change I advocated for came to pass in ways I never imagined at the time. Eventually, several years into this work, the time came and I moved away from that arena altogether and decided that it was time to be more practical in my career.
The next phase of my career was one where I found myself suddenly adrift, with no compass and seemingly no purpose. I had several different roles in several different industries, trying everything from working with grants at a corporate non-profit foundation, to selling real estate. It was a testing and proving ground, where I followed available opportunity as much as wise advice from friends and family.. In every role, I found myself wondering what could ever really replace such a wonderful experience as public speaking and advocacy, where I was able to work towards a greater good in this world, something that was really meaningful. Where would I find that again in the business world? All of the experiences I had in that period taught me practical business skills, but none of them felt right or satisfied me in a way that I could not understand in the moment.
In many ways I was lucky to come across the experiences I had in my late twenties. They were all across the board, but in one way or another, they flowed into each other. I jumped between industries, departments, roles, cultures, cities and kept searching. The need for passion always drove me forward and there were many times I questioned if I would ever find the right place for me. I moved through sales, PR, office management and finally HR before I even got a hint at what would really make me happy.
While I was working a contract role handling employee relations for an international tech staffing firm (managing the messy human side of the work place), the opportunity arose to combine that experience with my passion and longtime interest in real estate at a new start-up brokerage called Redfin. All of these seemingly disparate career experiences suddenly started to intersect at a critical junction for me. At Redfin I discovered a place to use my practical skills and talents, but something more amazing has happened here. You see, Redfin is a company driven very much by transparency and values that are based on doing what is right by our customers instead of what is merely right for profit. We provide a very transparent end-to-end service model at a huge value using technology to reinvent the way we deliver service. For the first time in my career, I have found an intersection of ethical business and profit. Our mission is to reinvent the real estate industry in a positive way that is focused on doing what is right.
Though I’m certainly not doing work that is tectonically changing the world, I am nevertheless grateful to be part of a company that is fulfilling and filled with many like-minded people who are all dedicated to creating something that is real and sustainable. What is now so painfully evident is that from the very beginning, instead of looking for the right role, the right salary, the right fit for my resume, or even what was right according to my friends, I should have been asking myself what was culturally right for me more than anything else. For those like me who refuse to settle for what is convenient and who seek more meaningful work, figuring out what values are most important should have been the first step all along.
My advice to those of you in these same shoes…ask yourself, what is an absolute must, and what can be compromised? For me, greed and selling at any cost are not admissible in my life. Figuring out what fundamentally makes you tick is the key to then being able to find the right company culture and value set that is closely aligned with your own. You will probably be very surprised where you end up finding that match, often in places you never imagined!
Today, I feel all is right again and have found that sweet spot I feared I had lost several years back when my advocacy work ended. The passion and fulfillment are back and I owe it all to the curiosity that took me down the paths I followed. So to those of you out there who are searching and just can’t ever seem to discover the right path for you, please find solace in knowing that a direct path just doesn’t happen for many. In fact, it probably doesn’t happen for most. There is so much pressure today to know exactly where you are heading from the moment you enter college, but that is often not the case for so many. If that is indeed you, nurture your curiosity and let it guide you. You may find yourself sometimes in roles that suck the life out of you just to survive, but never settle. Really, don’t ever settle. You will certainly have to compromise many times in your search, but always use those experiences to get to know yourself, your core values, and ultimately what drives you forward. I promise that if you are always doing the work behind the scenes, you too will someday find your sweet spot in a place that fits you just as much as you fit it.
About Danny Roberts
Danny Roberts is a recruiter for Redfin, a technology-powered real estate brokerage. In 2000 he participated in “The Real World: New Orleans,” the ninth season of MTV’s hit reality TV series, which lead him on a unique and varied career path. For more information on Redfin, and to check out open jobs at the company, visit www.redfin.com/about/jobs.