Everyone’s got a past. But, of course, some are just naturally more interesting than others. Three area realtors opened up to LN about how they got to where they are today, and how they transfer the skills they gained in previous careers to give them an edge in real estate industry.

Christy Thompson, Janet McAfee Real Estate

In her illustrious career, Janet McAfee Real Estate agent Christy Thompson has done everything from FBI weapons-training to healthcare public relations to selling houses.

Thompson grew up in St. Louis, and received her bachelors in political science from Vanderbilt University. After graduating, she moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked in the FBI’s Office of Congressional and Public Affairs, helping with press conferences and announcements. The position came with plenty of unique opportunities, Thompson says. She stood on the White House lawn as president Ronald Reagan landed in Marine One, helped with press conferences related to Mafia sting operations, and even sat in on a meeting with Oliver North about the Iran-Contra. Eventually, she went on to work as a legislative assistant for California Rep. Norman Shumway, but home was calling. Thompson returned to St. Louis to get her law degree, and received her juris doctor in 1992 from Saint Louis University.

“After law school, I was very involved in real-estate law,” she says. “Then I segued. My father is a physician, and I became interested in malpractice defense work. I wound up working for about eight years for SSM Healthcare, where I combined my press work and legal background in their public relations office.”

Thompson craved a career that would give her a more flexible schedule with her husband and son. Again, her career took a turn—this time, back to real estate. She joined Janet McAfee as an agent in 2006, and specializes in the central corridor.

In addition to being full-time sales at the agency, Thompson still is a practicing attorney in contract negotiation; she works on a contract-basis as in-house legal counsel for a St. Louis-based software-as-a-service company.

“The two have worked together beautifully,” she says. “I wouldn’t be nearly as informed and proactive of an agent as I am if it weren’t for my legal training. It teaches you to think on your feet, and be analytical and persuasive...What I enjoy most is negotiations and helping my clients know that they got a deal. A lot of that is due to my training and my analytical way of looking at a problem. And I’m pretty darn persuasive when I want to be.”

Jean Noll, Dielmann Sotheby’s International Realty

You need many traits to be a successful realtor. One of them, says Dielmann Sotheby’s International Realty agent Jean Noll, is the ability to problem-solve and persevere.

Before receiving her associate’s degree from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Noll’s first job after high school was at a real estate company, at a time when only men were real estate agents. She also worked in a government position, and took time off to raise her two children before heading back to the work force. Noll says she wanted a position that she could work part-time, and still be off during the summers to spend time with her children. She began filling in for various offices of the May Department Stores Company, and worked her way up to the vice-chairman’s office. There, she helped the vice-chairman oversee approximately 120 department stores across six regions of the country. She prepared travel arrangements, filed reports, did merchandising and acted as a liaison between her boss and the stores throughout the country. Basically, she says, she kept things running smoothly.

“Working for the May Department Stores was a challenge in that they were very tough, but very fair,” Noll says. “You learned a lot, and you had to have the can-do attitude. It was expected. You just got it done, one way or the other. Leaving that company and getting into real estate, I always just think, ‘I can do this. We can get this done.’ If something comes up, you just have to figure out a way to solve it.”

Noll left the company in 1995, after working there for 13 years. She knew she wanted to sell something, and enjoyed working with people. She was in the process of buying a house, and her broker suggested she try real estate. She got her license, and began working for Andy Dielmann, who at that time, owned Blake and Davis Realtors. She’s been working for him ever since. Noll says she loves doing something different every day.

“When you think you’ve seen it all, something new happens,” she says. “It’s an emotional business for people to sell the home they really love, or raised a family in, or that their parents lived in. It’s also great working with first-time home buyers who are excited about having a place of their own. You have to have a kind heart in order to do this business.”

Jim Kerley, Laura McCarthy Real Estate

Laura McCarthy Real Estate agent Jim Kerley says his transition from banking and lending to real estate was a “natural progression.”

Kerley, who says he’s from a little bit of everywhere—his family moved several times when he was a kid—received his bachelors in business administration, and had a long and successful career in banking before becoming a real estate agent. His first finance job was at First National Bank in St. Louis, which later became Centerre Bank. Next, he worked for Mark Twain Bank, and then for Centerre again, working in each bank’s lending department. Throughout the years, the banks’ names changed, as did Kerley’s employers. Eventually, he was named president of First Bank, a position he held for two-and-a-half years before leaving to start his own business, KD Advisory, LLC. (The firm, which Kerley still owns today, does financial consulting and helps companies acquire businesses.) The sluggish economy meant an increase in problem loan resolution and foreclosure work. Kerley already was working in-depth in both residential and commercial real estate, helping banks dispose of problem assets, and he saw an opportunity to expand his capabilities. Three years ago, through Laura McCarthy Real Estate, he attained his real estate license.

While Kerley still actively works as a consultant, he spends most of his time as a realtor. He says his time in finance gave him a deeper understanding of the real estate market, and a leg up when it comes to helping customers understand the loan process.

“My goal is to help people find exactly what they’re looking for, and make the process as easy as possible,” he says. “I’m good at the process and working with people, and banking deals with a lot of different people, as does real estate. In banking, you get to help companies finance themselves; and in real estate, you help people secure a home. I like doing the deal and getting the deal done.”

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