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- Danny Groner is the director of growth PR for SquareFoot, a commercial real estate company headquartered in NYC that helps growing companies across 30 major US markets find their next (and next) office space.
- Growing up, Groner’s mother always pointed him toward real estate – and he would always shoo her off.
- He started working as a journalist and then in marketing, but eventually found himself in real estate.
- He recommends that others pay attention to their mothers – and not take their own skills for granted.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
When I was a teenager, it had become clear from both my grades and from how I preferred to spend my time that my success in life would more likely come on the job than in the classroom.
Spotting my strengths in interactions with people – including adults – my mother began to encourage me to learn more about the field of real estate. She wanted me to seek out internships and one-on-one conversations to get me excited about the prospects the industry could offer. I shooed her off repeatedly, arguing that I’d never be passionate about office buildings and I didn’t have a burning desire to be a home realtor. It didn’t add up for me. I rejected all of these helpful, yet unwanted, suggestions out of hand, figuring that my mom was out of touch with my interests and abilities.
- Courtesy of Danny Gronner
It took me until this year to realize that she knew better than I did. My stubbornness to get my head around her ideas – and my insistence that she must be wrong – stood in my way of seeing what was best for me. She had picked up on one of my budding skills: being a people person.
From an early age, I consistently sought to be around other people – to ask them questions and to learn more about them. I was drawn to what they thought about and how they lived. My extroverted nature – and preferred setting of large group gatherings – meant that I spent countless hours at friends’ houses and around the neighborhood, making myself at home wherever others had congregated. If my friends weren’t around, I’d speak to their siblings, their parents, their grandparents, the UPS delivery driver, whoever was there and available. Bonus points to those who had careers, passions, or experiences I had never been exposed to before. “I have so many questions” was a catchphrase I wore with pride.
This need for connectivity, in part, led me to pursue a career in journalism and then in digital marketing. I would read articles about cities that weren’t my own, then send notes of praise to the reporters to let them know that I’d enjoyed their stories from thousands of miles away.
In my 20s, I reaped what I sowed. Some setbacks in my budding journalism career led me to consider the prospect and possibility of applying my skill set in a different way. Careers aren’t linear, and nothing is predictable or permanent. I wound up finding a solid next fit for myself, transitioning to the modern world of marketing. Most essential was the fact that I wouldn’t need to go to graduate school to continue on in my career. While all of this soul searching was taking place, there was my mother, again encouraging me to consider a different route. The startup life was unstable by reputation, and she worried that I was being unwise.
All careers have ebbs and flows. Early last year, I found myself on the market for the next great thing. I reached out to many people here in NYC – and one of them happened to be the CEO of a commercial real estate company. I decided it might finally be the right time to investigate what this industry is all about. After all, it had won over my mother, a retired government lawyer with no real estate experience herself. What was I missing?
During my first session with this CEO, he outlined for me how his company was operating differently. Although much of this information was new to me, the inflection was familiar. I could immediately and instinctively see how I could fit into the mix with this company. Over the course of the next few weeks, I met several other members of the team – some brokers, others, like me, with less traditional backgrounds – and we settled on a role that would cater to my experience and my talents. I accepted their offer and started there last spring.
When people ask me these days where I’m working and what I’m doing, I tell them proudly that I’m helping to grow SquareFoot. When they ask me how it’s going, I joke that the only moment of hesitation I ever have is in confirming for my mom that she was right all along – that I was born to work in real estate.
For those coming of age with supportive moms on their sides, I’d recommend paying closer attention. One of the things you learn from conversations with friends is that those happiest in their careers of choice get to flex their best muscles daily, even if it’s not within a field of study they had anticipated or pursued. It’s a blessing to get paid to do what you’re destined to do.
The advice I’d offer is not to follow your passion, though I do believe that to be right for many. Rather, accept that the things you’re skilled at are not necessarily the same areas of strength that come naturally to others. We all take for granted our own skills, figuring that those are givens that everyone can achieve and provide – but that’s hardly the case.
I don’t harbor any regrets about not getting where I am faster. Instead, I have to live with the guilt of not listening to Mom sooner with a more active ear and open mind.