02/24/2012 04:20 pm ET Updated Apr 21, 2012

Toni's Take On Real Estate: The Company You Keep

Here's an interesting stat from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: The average person changes jobs ten to fifteen times during his or her career. This means that a lot of time and energy is spent navigating job change, evaluating prospective employers, and refining what, exactly, it is we want from our workplace.

I want to share a little of my story with you, in case you're going through a similar time in your life, or are thinking of making a change. I have been at Douglas Elliman for 24 of my almost 28 years in the real estate industry. I have been through four owners and in three of our offices in New York City.

But I came to a stage in my career where I felt like I needed to grow, and at the time I felt like that growth was going to be with another company. I interviewed with a company called Town, as well as with Andrew Heiberger who built up a huge company at Citi Habitat sold it for many millions after his non-compete came back into the market with a vengeance. But I felt I wasn't aligned with their culture and philosophy and brand, I went to two other companies including a boutique residential real estate company.

I wanted to explore all of my options. It was a three-month process and throughout that process I asked a lot of questions both of prospective employers and of myself. Fortunately, I had a mentor guiding me and challenging my thought process and he told me, "Ask yourself a better question and you will get better answers."

So I asked myself some very specific, and very difficult questions, and this is what I arrived at: What I realized was it wasn't about going anywhere else. Douglas Elliman is the leader in our industry. We just turned 100 years old and we have two owner leaders who have just spent many millions in rebranding us and our web site and who will settle for nothing less then winning and taking market share.

I came to see that changing my employer wouldn't get to the root of my career funk. It wasn't about my company at all -- it was about me: I had to step up, not tolerate mediocrity, invest more in my business, not tolerate some of the things I have been tolerating, look at my business as a business, and measure where my core business is really coming from. It was a lot to digest, but it came down to taking a hard look at my business and asking myself a series of difficult questions.

Next week I'll be talking about which questions I asked myself and how I arrived at those questions. But in the meantime, I'd really like to hear your experiences in the job market--how many times have you changed jobs? What criteria are you looking for in an employer? Leave it in the comments and let's discuss!