Barbara Corcoran was only 24 years old when she left her waitress job in Fort Lee, New Jersey, to sell real estate across the river in Manhattan.
She had no background in real estate, but her hotshot new boyfriend told her she’d be a natural marketer and had to give it a shot. Their relationship and business partnership would not survive, but Corcoran took her half of the company they founded, The Corcoran Group, and turned it into one of Manhattan’s premiere agencies before selling it for $66 million in 2001.
Later, she became a television personality and has been one of the “Shark Tank” startup investors for the past seven years.
This unpredictable course of events defined her worldview.
“I think the best time to take a risk at anything, including leaving your job and starting your own business, is the moment you think about it,” Corcoran said in a recent Facebook Live Q&A at Business Insider’s New York office.
A viewer asked her for advice for weighing graduate education against jumping into one’s career.
“I weigh it simply, in a practical sense,” Corcoran said. If you want to be a lawyer, get a law degree; if you aspire to a high-level position on Wall Street, get an MBA. The important thing is to consider how that student loan debt is going to affect your life once you graduate, and if that burden is truly necessary, she explained.
“I think the important thing is to ask yourself, ‘What’s going to make me happy?’” she said. It’s difficult to find that answer when you’re young and so you have to approach it “the same way we find out what clothing looks good on us: Try a lot on.”
This embracing of risk is how in her early 20s Corcoran realized that even though she had bachelor’s in education, her natural ability to connect with people and her eye for design meant she was perfectly suited for the real estate industry. In your 20s, she explained, you need to be willing to experiment with your career.
“You just have to try on a number of jobs to see what gets you excited, and that’s where you want to go,” she said. “And more often than not, you’re not going to find that in a classroom.”
Watch the full Facebook Live Q&A:
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