To the Blonde Girl with the Soul of Glitter…
Recently, I spoke at a residential property management conference in Richmond, Virginia. I had been slotted to present two sessions back-to-back on a couple of topics that I really enjoy – Resident Events and Outreach Marketing. During my second session, there was a young leasing consultant in the audience who absolutely captured my heart, and I was so moved by my interaction with her that I felt compelled to write this while on the plane to my next city.
She was so into being at the conference. I mean full-on engaged, and wriggling with the excitement of a puppy. When you looked into her eyes, you could see the ideas spinning in her mind and the rapt attention on her face. Every time my eyes would travel to her section, she would lock on, and give me one of the most genuinely amazing smiles I’ve ever seen from a stage. When she liked a point I’d make, she’d nod emphatically, and when she REALLY agreed with something I said, she couldn’t stop herself from actually cheering a bit. There was something so incredibly pure and beautiful in the expression of her spirit.
Once, while I was speaking, I had to stop myself from laughing when the thought “Southern Baptist Multifamily Preacher” crossed my mind as she gave me everything short of an Amen. As a speaker, that kind of reaction from an audience, or even just one member, is not an experience that you quickly forget. It burns a mark on your heart when you think that you might have actually made a difference for someone, and this one is an impression that I will cherish and carry with me for a very long time.
I ADORE this girl. And I don’t even know her name.
But here is what I do know: this highly engaged and energized young leasing professional with the kind of spark that companies search through hundreds of applicants to find – she was HUNGRY for this industry, and she came to VAMA to feast on knowledge.
I wish every employee could show that kind of excitement at the prospect of training.
I had the great honor of sharing just a moment with her after the conference, outside the hotel. I wanted to tell her how much her presence in my class had meant to me, and how much the prospects of her career growth excited me. My heart broke a bit when she, somewhat sheepishly, admitted that her coworkers had admonished her about her behavior during my class. They’d been embarrassed by her energy and outspoken nature. They’d reminded her that she was there, not by herself, but representing her company. As she relayed this story, I’m not sure what look crossed my face – I’m guessing something akin to being simultaneously horrified and disgusted – because she seemed to start to apologize for her behavior.
I wish I could’ve taken her to coffee. I wish I could’ve sat across from her and built a relationship with her. But Southwest Airlines waits for no woman, so all I had was that moment. And I wish I could remember exactly what I did say to her verbatim, but I have been unable to recall it clearly. I long for the retroactive chance to say so much more in that moment. The 45 seconds I had was not enough time to tell her what I really wanted to say.
Instead, I write this openly to her, hoping that somehow it will find her, or another out there with the same rare spark who is in need of some encouragement.
Dear Blonde Girl with the Soul of Glitter,
You are wonderful just as you are. Don’t turn down your professional excitement for anyone. Don’t hold back your hunger for knowledge and growth – ever. Don’t fall in line with apathy and the status quo. You deserve so much more.
I want you to know, if I had a job I was hiring for in Richmond, I would have hired you on the spot.
When they told you to tone it down, I know it was embarrassing. “They” told me to tone it down for the last 10 years, too. If you think you’re at all “obnoxious” in a classroom, you should see me as a student. Knowledge excites me. New information, data, ways of thinking, worthwhile books – I’d trade even chocolate to get them. You’re exactly the kind of student with whom a teacher like myself longs to work, because I saw nothing but growth potential, and I need you to know that I respect your learning style more that you could possibly know. Keep being excited, keep being hungry, and keep chowing down whenever a meal of knowledge is offered, never allowing yourself to be sated.
I know a part of you may have felt bad at their admonishment. Even a minuscule bit of “feeling bad” sitting in your mind or heart is entirely unwarranted, my dear girl. Your mere presence in my class reaffirmed to me today why I do what I do. You helped give my life purpose, and you did that just by being yourself.
I want to clarify the piece of advice that I offered you in our 45 seconds outside the Omni: There is nothing wrong with the corporate/company culture of the place that you work. If how you were in class today didn’t fall in line with their culture, it doesn’t mean that the company’s culture is wrong. It just means that, quite frankly, it is wrong for YOU. Not every company is for everyone, and that’s not a bad thing. You have a light in you that should never be dimmed. You have the gift of being able to leave a lasting mark on the people with whom you have contact, and you have a craving for intelligence and growth. If focused under the right style of leadership, there is no end to the things that you could achieve, and to the impact that you could have on your residents, this industry, and the world.
When you look for your next job, please look for a company who is as excited about education and training as you are. Look for a company that puts a premium on growing the careers of those who work for them. Look for quality leadership, and settle for nothing less than the best in that facet. In short, look for a company who deserves someone like you.
Companies like that do exist, and I know they exist in the market that you work in, first hand.
Keep feasting, Blond Girl with a Soul of Glitter. Keep growing, keep learning, keep sparkling, and keep leaving your mark on the people who are lucky enough to work with you. The world needs you just the way you are, and so does the Residential Property Management industry.
With love to a kindred spirit,