By Katherine Tarbox, Senior Editor, REALTOR® Magazine
Every time I saw the June 2004 REALTOR® Magazine cover with Wade Hanson in the opening credits of this season’s “The Apprentice” with Donald Trump, I realized that the honor of being named a “30 Under 30” is a career-defining moment for many young practitioners. When I started with the magazine two years ago, one of my first charges was to take over the program, and I was excited by the idea of hunting for the best that the real estate industry has to offer under the age of 30. Even now, one of my favorite days of the year is when I get to send out the e-mail to the honorees letting them know that they were chosen. Conversely, some of the hardest phone calls I take each year are explaining why someone wasn’t picked.
The process for being named a “30 Under 30,” should not be a mysterious one. It starts by your writing an awesome application, which then goes into the hands of several judges. Last year, we reviewed a record number of applications, and I gathered judges for several rounds of debating and negotiating over the candidates.
Here are some tips to help you fill out the most appealing application:
Spell check. Simple enough, I know, but sadly we see applications with grammatical and spelling errors. I know one judge in particular was turned off by this: “How could he produce $10 million in sales volume and not bother to perform a 30-second spell check?” Do us a favor, and just click that simple button in Word.
It’s not a numbers game. Your sales volume counts, but it’s not the be-all, end-all for an application. Numbers mean different things depending on what part of the country you live in. Also, a high sales volume without much innovation doesn’t seem to impress the judging panel. They seem drawn to people who are thinking differently about the industry and are implementing practices never seen before. And your sales volume could actually be zero if you’ve done something such as founding ActiveRain.com or transforming the technology of your brokerage.
Be professional. Last year, we asked the applicants to submit photos for the first time. We saw everything from a guy getting out of the water in a SCUBA suit to another in a bunny costume. One portrait had this almost frightening purple psychedelic background that every time I passed it from judge to judge, they’d be taken aback by the overwhelming fluorescence. Remember, you’re not applying to go on the “Daily Show,” you’re applying for the honor of being named one the brightest rising stars in the industry. We’re looking for someone exhibits their professionalism on all fronts.
Why you? We want to know why you in particular should be named. How are you different than all the other 1.1 million practitioners in the industry? Simply telling us your sales volume is not enough. How did you do it? Did you set up a hot dog stand and sweat in blistering 90 degree weather for hours to find a buyer at your one-of-a-kind open house? If yes, tell us. Don’t tell us you have a Facebook account — millions do. How do you use your Facebook profile? While we limit the characters in some of the questions, there is ample opportunity at the end of the application to tell us anything you want about you, your business, and your passion for real estate. For instance, one honoree last year shared that his Bar Mitzvah had a Monopoly theme there, which intrigued the judges.
Get your ducks in a row. If you’re going to ask someone to write a recommendation, please ask them to write about how you are different. Of the 700 applications we received last year, I would guess 600 of them were accompanied with recommendations. All 600 references said they were hard-working, honest, loyal, and any generic adjective you care to insert. When everyone is dedicated, passionate, etc., these recommendations mean little unless they are followed up by examples. If you’re asking your broker to write something, perhaps you can put together some talking points about how you revolutionized the social media plan or doubled sales for the year.
Call me. Yes, I’m at 312/329-8403. You can also e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have any question about your application, I’d love to hear your voice. And I’d love to send you an e-mail saying, “Congratulations, you’ve been named a 2011 30 Under 30.” But first, write a killer application.