Work On Your Five Year Plan By Keeping These Steps In Mind

Eric Jennings

Age: 24

Job: Associate Transaction Advisor, Real Op Investments

Location: Greenville, South Carolina

Eric and I graduated from Furman University together, so we have known each other for several years now. Given that he stayed around in the town of our alma mater since graduation, I wanted to see how that transition has been for him and how he has made his way outside of Furman while working in a competitive new environment.

What has your path looked like since college?

I moved back to Winston Salem, NC, after graduating in ‘17 and worked at my childhood pool for the summer, like I’ve done every summer my whole life. I had already gone through two rounds of interviews with my current company, but they were waiting on timing before hiring me. You see, there was someone planning on leaving the company, so they were basically trying to time it right. Meanwhile, back in Winston Salem, I had already verbally committed to another company and had done everything except sign the paperwork. So, I thought I was going to do that, and then Real Op asked me if I wanted to come back to Greenville. I actually had a background with this company. I started out as an intern for them, just trying to have some extra money laying around my senior year, and began to form connections with people in that office. So I took the job with them in August of 2017 and I have been here ever since.

What past experiences have directly helped you with what you are doing now?

One of the things I am happy with is that over time, I have jumped around a lot in terms of what I wanted to do. Back in high school, I got my certified nursing assistant degree because I thought I wanted to be in medicine. After getting that, I realized I hated it. Upon going to Furman, I thought I maybe wanted to do a political science track but was not really interested in it after a year. Then one day, I walked past the business department and became more interested in the possibilities of taking a business track. I ended up selecting that track and am so glad I did because I accredit a lot of my success to the business department at Furman. Its structure really put things in perspective for me. Doing nothing but business all day and adding a competitive feel to it as well made me grow as a better student, and again, eventually got me to where I am today.

How did your age play a role in your first year in the workplace?

I am by far the youngest person at my office, so it has been nice because you adjust to the environment you are around. It has given me a different perspective compared to others in the office. You feel like you need to do everything in your power to get to their level. You have to make sure you are detail-oriented in anything you do, so you can put yourself in a position where you feel like you are on a level playing field with them. At the same time, though, being young does give you a little bit of an out. In the commercial real estate field, there are some macro ideas I don’t know about that I do need some older coworkers to help me with. Along the way, I’m learning it and those guys who are ten or fifteen years older than me have really helped along the way. So it helps that I am younger, but then again, I enjoy the perspective it brings me working with older people.

What leadership styles have you seen that you like and some that you do not like?

The person I work with on a daily basis lives in Nashville, Tennessee. He used to be in our office three out of the four years we have been open. I have to work with the fact that my main contact is far away. He does a great job of communicating with me when I make a mistake. Instead of just fixing it himself, which would be easier since he is not physically in our office, he actually will not tell me what I did wrong and has me go back to figure out what it was I did wrong. It is very helpful to understand the mistakes I have made because then I won’t do it again, so I have appreciated that leadership style.

How have you adjusted to living in your college town?

I really didn’t think I’d be in Greenville. In fact, I actually kind of tried to go out of my way to not be here. When I was searching for jobs, I applied anywhere but here. My internship is entirely to thank for my being here because it got my foot in the door. Instead of adjusting to the area, I got to focus entirely on my job first because I knew the lay of the land. On day one, I was able to establish a routine quickly and knew exactly what I was doing when I got here. I was able to focus more on my task at hand and staying organized right away instead of worrying about where I would be grocery shopping or where I would go on a run, stuff like that. I could really focus on why I was here in the first place, and it made it so that there was really no learning curve. And what's not to love about Greenville?

A lot of people tell you before you graduate to make sure you enjoy the last bit of your time there because it’s the best four years you’re ever going to have. And yeah, that’s true to an extent, but I would never say that to someone because it is the closing of one really cool chapter and the opening of one that is very different. But it’s also an exciting adventure and you never know what’s coming next. To throw out another cliche, the world truly is your oyster. We are at the point where we can do whatever we want. If I decided I wasn’t happy here, I could pack up and leave tomorrow if I wanted to and be good to go. That freedom is incredible. At this point in our lives, we are trying to gain experience not only in our work lives, but also in our personal lives. You’re trying to figure out yourself along the way, so it’s okay to try new things while we have the chance.

Have you had any hardships in your first year out of school?

Sometimes, in the sense that I often want a little more responsibility in my position, or I am maybe not getting the kind of feedback on things I would like to be getting. For example, my job is not really nine to five every day, like it says on paper. Sometimes I’ll stay until midnight or one in the morning, but that’s kind of what I like about it. My work directly reflects upon my effort that day. So when I don’t get the kind of praise or feedback I want, it’s something I just have to work with and remember that I am still the lowest person on the totem pole. I do kind of like it, though, because it puts a little bit of a chip on my shoulder.

Even though these are my “struggles”, everyone needs to know what their big motivation is. It’s common knowledge that everyone has something that drives them. Whether that is financial benefits, climbing up the social ladder, or being able to go hiking every weekend, everyone’s got something that motivates them. Though I am still trying to figure out exactly what I am striving for, it has been nice to figure out what it might be along the way. I think I am the kind of person that could be thrown in any type of environment and figure out how to get through it. Being thrown into something like this industry, of which I knew very little about at the start, gave me a pretty exponential learning curve. The cool thing is that every morning when I go through that office door, I know that when I walk out that night, I will have gained something and leave in a better position than before. That’s sort of my day-to-day motivation too. Knowing that I have finished something or I have made significant progress on something really gets me through.

What have you learned about yourself this year?

I have to be so on top of everything with work every single day that I find myself transferring the stress into my personal life. My biggest adjustment has been with my relationships. I’m in a serious relationship, and you really have to be mature and think of someone else when you are in this phase of your life. So it is good, but it has taught me a lot.

In one word, how would you describe your young professional life?

Tenacity. You have to be hungry. If you’re not, it is not a direct illustration of who you are, but you’ve got to put yourself in a position to be hungry. Maybe that’s a job change, I don’t know. But if you’re not waking up every morning happy to do what you’re doing, you’ve got to make that change. Make a one-year plan or a five-year plan. Do something to fill in the time, so you have an endgame in sight. Be tenacious.

The YoPro Know's Takeaways:

- It is important to understand the mistakes you make

- You have to be hungry and if you're not, put yourself in a position to be hungry

- If you’re not waking up every morning happy to do what you’re doing, you’ve got to make a change

- Know what your big motivation is and what drives you

Check out: Real Op Investments, Greenville, SC, Furman University