James Harris, Kirsten Jordan and Mia Calabrese shared their journeys from real estate newbies to some of the best luxury agents in the business, at Inman Connect New York on Wednesday.

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James Harris, Mia Calabrese and Kirsten Jordan didn’t have glamorous starts in the real estate industry.

Harris spent his early days as an agent door-knocking around Los Angeles, playing rock-paper-scissors with his business partner David Parnes to decide who’d have the pleasure of getting rejected next.

Meanwhile, Calabrese grew up in an immigrant household on Chicago’s southside and moved to New York City with only $500 and the drive to succeed. Jordan found her way to real estate after returning to the U.S. when her goal of becoming a high-powered executive in Italy fell through.

“I knew nothing when I got into this business,” Harris told the Agent Connect crowd on Wednesday while Calabrese and Jordan nodded in agreeance. “I really knew nothing except I had passion. I had tenacity. I was excited. I was driven, and I knew that I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way.”

Although passion and tenacity don’t necessarily pay the bills in the beginning, all three said it’s the foundation for a long-lasting career that can withstand days of fruitless cold calling, sudden market downturns and moments when you begin to doubt your talent and trajectory.

Kirsten Jordan

“I started working for a team, and it happened to be 2007 which was actually like the perfect time to get into real estate because it was amazing,” Jordan said jokingly while offering a wink to the audience. “The bottom dropped out of the market, and I was really fortunate to find a position working alongside a luxury real estate agent who was doing consistently well.”

“At one point in 2017 when I had my third child, I was like, ‘Wow, I really have been in this business for 10 years, and I still was working for other people,” she added. “I heard about the casting for Million Dollar Listing, and I a get a text from a casting director who asked if I was interested.”

“I looked at the text, and I was like, they’ve discovered me, and now it’s time for me to find my way.”

Jordan said the opportunity to become the first female agent on MDL reignited her love for real estate and ultimately gave her the confidence to start a team with Douglas Elliman in early 2021.

“Until then I always didn’t know if I really had it in me to start my team,” she said. “Now we’re almost two years in and it’s gone really well.”

Meanwhile, Calabrese said tenacity helped her build a real estate career after leaving a coveted hospitality career working in luxury nightclubs.

“I was full of tenacity, and I was probably a little bit delusional. We have to start somewhere,” she said of her arrival in NYC as a 20-year-old. “So years of living in New York and just really eating shit, for lack of better words, I started working in hospitality, and I worked at the most expensive nightclub in the world.”

“I got to the point where I was ready for a shift in my life, and I knew I had developed this list of clients after years of working in that industry,” she added. “I had to figure out how I can now better position the clients and the relationships that I’ve had for years into a different industry, which was real estate.”

Mia Calabrese

Calabrese said the transition “wasn’t easy” as she learned the tricks of the trade, including cold-calling and farming. Although those activities didn’t yield much of a return on investment in the beginning, they built the foundation for a solid reputation, which earned her a spot on HBO’s Selling the Hamptons as one of Nest Seekers’ top agents.

“I think it’s most importantly about being consistent,” she said. “You have to be diligent and continue to do what you’re doing and be consistent. That’s the only way you’re gonna see results. It takes six months to really see the needle move when you’re doing anything.”

She added, “So it takes patience and trust and really just coming in with a positive attitude and energy.”

James Harris

Harris used his last moments on the stage to emphasize the power of positivity, especially as the market continues to spark uncertainty and doubt among agents.

“Especially in the market that we’re in today, I could go out and say the glass is half empty and been [effing] miserable about interest rates and this and that, but I choose to have the glass being half full,” he said. “I choose to go out and look at the positives, not the negatives. I choose to go out excited every day.”

“I’m the busiest I’ve ever been. I don’t even understand it, but I am,” he added. “The more you put that out, the more that you receive it, the more you speak and breathe the positivity of what goes on in your day versus what’s bad in your day, the more you get it back.”

Email Marian McPherson

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