There’s one piece of wisdom that Sarah Jaffe reflects on often — a quote from the writer Gail Sheehy:
“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.”
Sarah certainly is the living embodiment of growth and change. After all, she made the decision to dive headfirst into a new real estate career — in the middle of a pandemic.
“Real estate was probably never on my radar until May of 2020,” Sarah says. “I already know I made the right decision. There’s not a day where I look back.”
COVID-19 served as something of a wake-call for Sarah. Before making the switch to real estate, Sarah worked on the events team for a non-profit think tank focused on critical global issues. Once the pandemic hit, she quickly found her job obsolete. While Sarah was fortunate to not be laid off or furloughed, the pandemic still “uprooted” her professional life, she says — and gave her plenty of time to reflect.
“I had all this newfound time at my disposal, and an itch to try something new,” Sarah says. “I was basically starting with a blank canvas, asking myself, ‘What am I really good at?’ To which the answer was being detail-oriented and organized, a self-starter and strong advocate, and fostering meaningful relationships. Enter in real estate.”
Sarah liked the idea of being her own boss and challenging herself to build a business from the ground up, while also gaining the ability to meet so many people from different parts of Chicago and have a long-lasting impact on their lives.
At the same time, she was originally considering real estate as more of a “side hustle,” she says. Connecting with Assistant Managing Broker Negeen Masghati was one of the biggest things that encouraged her to fully lean into this new path.
“She was always a proponent of going into this full-time if you can, because then your heart and soul will be in it and you’ll be able to dedicate the time and energy it takes to be successful and to scale a business,” Sarah explains. “And with hearing that feedback over and over again from different people, I just said, ‘You know what, I’m gonna dive deep into this head first… I can’t cover two different jobs that have nothing to do with each other.’”
A resident of Lincoln Park, Sarah found her real estate home at Baird & Warner – Lincoln Park.
“Negeen and I just connected so well together. And then I was connected with David Bailey, and he’s an incredible person and seemed like an incredible Managing Broker.” she says. “So there was never a doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t get everything I needed and more at this office.”
When looking for a real estate office, one of the things that mattered most to Sarah was getting high quality training.
“Going into real estate, I knew no one in the industry,” she says. “I find that some people might have a little bit of a leg up if they have a close family member or friend who can say, ‘this is how I run my business, this is what works for me…’”
“As a new broker with no friends or family in the real estate industry to guide me, it was important for me to work with a company that focused heavily on training. Baird & Warner – Lincoln Park stuck out to me as that place.”
Even now, four months into being in the business, Sarah is still doing at least three hours of training or more each week.
“I’m so grateful for that, because there’s so much to learn,” she says. “There’s so many things to learn that you’ll never be able to be taught in any one course… That may mean learning a new skill on the marketing side of things, or learning more about the specifics that will help you become a better broker. The training is really just top-notch, and the accessibility of the Managing Brokers and the sales support team is really great. They will make so much time for you, to make sure you feel really comfortable and confident in the field.”
And that inclusive atmosphere extends to the other agents in the office — something that Sarah was a little nervous about at first, she admits.
“To be totally honest with you, when I thought of real estate agents, I didn’t have the best picture. I kind of envisioned someone who’s just super-salesy and pretty transactional… Maybe it was watching too much Selling Sunset,” she says, laughing. “I envisioned that the culture was going to be super competitive. Everyone’s out there looking for housing, and everyone’s fair game.”
As soon as she came into the office, “that notion was quickly shut down,” Sarah says.
“Since the brokerage doesn’t hand individual people leads, and you’re nurturing your own sphere, it’s not like you’re all fighting for the same business,” she explains. “So there’s not that competitive nature that I would have suspected. Rather the contrary!”
Instead, Sarah has found other Lincoln Park agents to be supportive of her as a newer broker. Through the meaningful relationships she has built with other brokers, Sarah has learned new tactics, made fun connections, and has even gotten opportunities to co-list with more experienced agents.
Sarah has found community building to be one of the most rewarding aspects of her time in real estate — both with brokers, and with clients around Chicago.
“You meet people you would have otherwise never met, you frequent new areas of the city, and you can help someone make what’s arguably the biggest financial transaction of their lives,” she says. “That in and of itself is so extremely rewarding.”
In fact, Baird & Warner’s deep ties to the Chicago community — including its deep-seated history of being on the forefront of fair housing — was one of the things that so out to her the most when looking for a brokerage.
“There’s 77 neighborhoods in the city and a lot of information packed into that,” Sarah says. “If you want people who are experts in the city of Chicago, you won’t go wrong with Baird & Warner.”
Outside of real estate, Sarah is deeply involved in her Chicago community, serving on associate boards for Cara Chicago and the People’s Music School. Outside of philanthropy, Sarah is an avid traveler who has been to 33 countries and knows all of the best spots around Chicago, from Sultan’s Market to the Pilsen Renegade Craft Fair.
Looking ahead to 2021, Sarah is excited about continuing to grow, change, and learn.
“In those latter months of 2020 it was really about building up a foundation of learning the processes, learning the ins and outs of the industry, starting to spread the word to my friends,” she says. “I feel that going into 2021 I have set that strong foundation so that my first full year in real estate can be a successful one if I just lean into being consistent and waking up every day to put 110% of my effort in.”
“I’m someone who trusts the process… With each new sale or connection or whatever it may be, I’m learning so much more. And that’s been the most rewarding part. With each new experience, I’m learning something and I’m evolving, which was really what I was looking for in a career change.”
You can connect with Sarah on Facebook and LinkedIn, or follow her on Instagram, @windycitylivin.