It’s a Wild Life in Property Management

By Hannah Lockard on 10.26.2020
hannah lockhard headshot

It’s so nice to “virtually” meet you all!  I am honored to be partnering with the National Apartment Association Education Institute as an RPM Careers Ambassador. I just began my fifth year in the residential property management industry. So far, I’ve worked as a leasing consultant, assistant manager, and property manager with Bell Partners in Greenville, South Carolina. I’m eager to use this platform to tell the story of how I started in this industry, my keys to success, and the speed bumps I’ve overcome. I also look forward to giving recognition to my mentors and sharing the small ways I choose to pay it forward each day!

Before 2016 — which now feels like a previous life — I was a wildlife biologist specializing in wildlife management. After college, my goal was to secure the most adventurous, exciting career in wildlife management that I could find. I had unforgettable experiences doing hands-on mountain lion and black bear research during my undergraduate studies. And I have literally been face-to-face with more wildlife than most people ever get to see from a distance. (Steve Irwin, a famous wildlife expert and my childhood hero, would have been so proud.) People often ask me if I miss my adventures in wildlife biology or if I plan to go back to that field someday. They ask what changed that led me to “settle for an office job.”

I would have asked myself the same questions a few years ago. Although I never imagined being so satisfied with an indoor office job, I am so proud of the career I’ve established and that I get to have such an impact on the lives of so many people every day. I can’t imagine doing anything else now. I do sometimes miss the excitement of being hands-on with wild animals. But, to be honest, my job in RPM has just as many crazy experiences and surprises around every corner. As a bonus, my maintenance team always calls on me when they run into an unruly snake, raccoon, or possum in an apartment or on the property, and I get to save the day and put my degree to good use! 😊

Looking back over the past several years, I am astonished at the route my professional career has taken. My employment in the RPM industry was meant to be only a temporary deviation. I’m sure some of you can relate to that! After the birth of my son, I needed a job with convenient hours, and I saw an open leasing position at an apartment community with great hours. I also had the ideal combination of sales, service, and management work experience, so I applied and thought to myself, “This gig will give me the chance to get back on my feet and a steady paycheck while I look for wildlife jobs that I want to do. And the rent discount is pretty sweet too!” The last thing I expected was to launch full speed into a career that I would be as invested in and appreciative of as I am today. What I didn’t know at the start was that I would take that small opportunity and invest all my energy into being the best I could be. By surrounding myself with amazing people who would nurture my growth, I landed on the fast track to positions of influence in which I have the honor of sharing my passion with my community and peers. I never knew that with property management I would have the ability to double my income in a few years with minimal training expenses and earn incredible benefits.

My story is not unique. The people I work with each lived a different life before they got into this business. And, yet, we all found the same “home” in RPM. Our previous jobs in areas such as customer service, education, public service, retail, management, sales, engineering gave all of us the skills we need to be excellent in our positions and even better as a team. We thrive in a setting where we are all feeding off each other’s energies, sharing knowledge and skills, and working toward a common goal: delivering the best possible living experience for our residents. I am most fulfilled when I have the opportunity to train and mentor others, which is why I serve as a mentor with my company. I appreciate getting a call from a colleague where they feel comfortable enough to share their struggles or ask for help solving a problem and I can serve as a sounding board or lead them to find a solution. We are all stronger together when we can rely on each other and be humble enough to ask for the help we need. That’s where we grow and gain the confidence to be our best.

There are so many people in this world who are perfect for work in this industry but haven’t discovered the right opportunity. As an RPM Careers Ambassador, I want to encourage people to explore careers in on-site management, maintenance, or vendor services and show them how to forge their path to their version of success. I want to contribute to improving our industry’s diversity and inclusion by bringing people with bright minds and rich backgrounds to the forefront. If you are not in this industry yet, or if you are considering in which direction you want to go, my biggest advice is to get started. Find a role that uses your skill set and a company that you will be proud to be a part of with core values that match yours and mentors willing to help you grow. Don’t be afraid to start from the bottom. You may end up with the career of your dreams.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog post belong to the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of any employer.

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