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  • Writer's picturePriscilla Low

Mid-Career Switch: From Charity To Property

Updated: Nov 10, 2023


Mid-Career Switch: From Charity To Property

This is one of the hardest post to write. How hard is it? Very very hard. Because it needed me to bare my soul. It felt invasive and shy, plus a little scared that I might be judged or criticised. But that's the thing about building relationships - you will need to be able to be yourself and open up to people around you. So here it goes... why did I make a mid-life career switch from charity to property at the age of 40?



When Girl Starts To Work


I am 43 this year - at a not-too-young yet not-too-old age. I graduated from a business faculty and was looking for a meaningful job. I found it in the non-profit and charity environment which is why I spent 20 years there. Those were years that I treasured greatly. I love the work. I love the people. I love the feeling that I could help people in need and also earn a salary for doing good.


Sure, the money isn't great compared to private sector. The real working hours aren't short. The workload isn't light. The work isn't easy. But there's something about the work that draws me to give my all, like a moth to a blazing fire.


I get to meet many survivors, fighters, overcomers and hear their stories of strength. I get to know donors, companies, men on the street and see their acts of kindness. Even the cab drivers will give me a free ride when they hear about what I do.


Of course I also see more pain, struggles and deaths which make me appreciate the simple blessings in life.


When Girl Becomes Mom


As a single working individual, I have no other commitments and I get a lot of satisfaction from my work. On hindsight, things possibly changed when we welcomed our daughter, Little O. A few days after her birth, she was diagnosed with a health condition called Total Colonic Hirschsprung Disease where her large intestines were entirely non-functional aka she couldn't poop.

Our First Family Photo After Her Discharge
Our First Family Photo After Her Discharge

The doctors told us that she needed a series of restorative operations in the early few years to manage this condition. I went back to work when she was two months old. My workplace was very kind to let me use my remaining maternity leave for her subsequent operations.


Because of her condition, we had many sudden episodes of staycations in the hospital. Thankfully, my office was very supportive. My leaders and team members never once grumbled about it. On my part, I would try my best to minimise the impact of my team.

Little O Fussing At The Hospital
Little O Fussing At The Hospital

We even had a wonderful SOP in our home. My mom (aka Popo) was so good with our girl. Although she was a simple homemaker, she braced the courage to be a strong pillar for us. Whenever she sensed something wrong with my girl, she would bring her to the paediatric surgeons on her own. It wasn't easy for Popo but she would try to explain the problem to the doctors in whatever language/terms that she could muster.


She singlehandedly handled the hospitalisation admission and brought my daughter to the various medical checks. She made sure that I was not disturbed at work so that I could prepare a handover for my next few days of leave. This was our SOP for the first five years. I never once left my work suddenly in mid-day to attend to my daughter.

Popo And Little O All Gowned Up For Her Operation
Popo And Little O All Gowned Up For Her Operation

Over time, I wondered if I was a lousy mom? Yes, in many ways but someone had to be the breadwinner, especially when we had an extra burden of my daughter's medical fees.


I also started to question if I was a lousy worker? I don't know. Perhaps, I might have placed high expectations on myself to be as committed as I was when I was a single working individual.


Somewhere along the way, it started getting difficult to balance work and family. It felt like 两边都吃力不讨好 aka pleasing both sides but pleasing neither. To be honest, was my workplace supportive of work-life balance? Yes, they were but it was I, who found it hard to draw the line between work and family.



When Girl Struggles Between Work And Family


What broke the camel's back? Anything and everything. When negativity sets in, everything feels heavy and dreadful.


Perhaps it was my self-imposed stigma that I wanted to do my work well while being a working mother with caregiving responsibilities to my aging parents and my young girl.


Perhaps it was my self-inflicted fear that I could be marked down during my appraisal because of a possible non-existent impression that I was someone with heavy family commitments. For example, I would always work on my laptop by my daughter's hospital bed. I wanted to make sure work progressed smoothly, plus I was worried to leave another impression that I was on leave again because my daughter was admitted. These could be in my mind and I was indeed affected by how people could think of me.


Perhaps it was the repeated tiring annual conversations that next year's KPIs were going to be higher. Did I make my work look too easy? Was I not good enough?


Perhaps I was tired of moulding myself to become the ideal achiever - the fast worker, the dedicated mentor, the caring team mate, the motivating leader, the all-rounder, the one who worked hard and worked smarter.


Perhaps it was just me. I couldn't bring myself to put down my work and be at peace with it. Because I kept choosing work over family, I missed seeing my auntie in person before she passed. That is eternal regret, the kind of guilt that nags at you and gnaws at your heart.


COVID can make people do crazy things. And that was when I decided to throw caution to the wind and resign without a job - live life a little dangerously. I wanted to explore if there was a place that I don't have to choose between work or family. I wanted an environment where I won't feel guilty of my choices. I didn't want to be burnt on both ends of the candle.


This is the part that sounds like I am just complaining, but those were the feelings that were very real to me. Yes, every mother faces that. But sometimes, those feelings can suddenly feel very overwhelming.


One Of My Favourite Quotes: If You Don't Like Where You Are. Move. You Are Not A Tree.
One Of My Favourite Quotes


When Girl Becomes Agent


I stopped working in 2020, and prayed to God for him to show me the way. Somehow, my husband and I started to pay attention to the Skills Future advertisements. We found out that we could use our credits to register for a RES course. What a fantastic way to get a real estate agent license!


While I was unsure if this was the career direction that I wanted, I decided to go for it because I could fulfil one of my long-lost dream - to study with my husband. While we knew each other in the university, we were from different faculties and thus, we never had the chance to attend the same lecture. Woohoo, it was such a surreal feeling to be study mates and trying to out-do each other.

2020 Facebook Post About Our RES Studying Adventures
2020 Facebook Post About Our RES Studying Adventures
2021 Facebook Post About Us Mugging For The RES Exams
2021 Facebook Post About Us Mugging For The RES Exams

To be honest, there were a lot studying needed for the RES exam. Look at these post-it pads pasted all over our cupboards. It has been such a long time since I mugged for an exam. It took me three full weeks of daily mugging - from 10am til 4am every day.


And the exams were crashing! I never felt so defeated by a few sheets of paper and I was so ready to tank the exam! I told God that if I don't pass the exams within three attempts (which would be about one year of trying), I would go back to the 9-to-5 rat race. But by the grace of God and beyond my wildest imagination, I passed both RES papers at my first attempt!



When Girl Becomes A NAVIS


Next, it was about finding the right agency for me. Birthed from the charity sector, I was looking for an agency that isn't all about homes making money.


I was talking to various agencies to understand their philosophy and strategy. I even had a group of agents who told me outrightly that I might as well throw my money into the sea when they knew that I had recently bought a 30-year-old resale HDB. To them, there was only one path. Buy a BTO. Sell the BTO. Buy a new EC/condo. Sell the EC/Condo. Repeat and repeat. This could be a good proven strategy but it may not fit everyone.


My Favourite NAVIS Peeps: My Realteam
My Favourite NAVIS Peeps: My Super Cool Super Fun Realteam Under Vivian Chong

Thankfully, I found my home with NAVIS and I have never looked back since. NAVIS's philosophy is more encompassing - that we don't approach our clients with a list of developments for them to buy. We meet them with a blank paper and let them fill the paper with their plans, thoughts and dreams. Then we discuss the various options suitable for them, knowing the pros and cons. And our clients decide the path that feel more comfortable for them.


Just like us when we made a different choice. My husband and I bought the old HDB knowing that we won't make money out of it. He told me flatly, a home is a home. This home fits our needs and our future plans. If we were to lose money, that is the price that we will pay to be near to our daughter's school. If she has any medical emergency, we are just 15mins to bring her to the hospital for treatment.


And because our finances were comfortable with a lower priced HDB flat compared to a brand new condo, I could recklessly resign without a job, take a sabbatical break and explore other work options.



The Girl Now: After Mid-Career Switch To Property


Was it easy in the first few months? No, it wasn't and perhaps one day, I will write a post about the challenges. But it has been a very enriching journey and one of my biggest takeaways - I find myself closer to God than before.


Perhaps, as a salaried worker, there was certain amount of stability in life and somehow that made me complacent. I didn't need God as much then cos things were mostly under control. As a real estate agent without a stable income, I find myself in a very vulnerable situation. I could be trying hard for months, and none of my leads or clients would open up to me. I don't know when my next pay cheque is and in such situations, I find myself submitting totally to God and letting him lead the way.


If real estate isn't for me, so be it. I have tried and things didn't work out. If it is, he will bring me to my next closing. All we can do is to be ourselves, try our best and let God take care with the rest. With each of my client encounter and their closing, I find myself in awe of God's plans for me - how he steers me into my clients' life and how he brings the best buyers to me - the ones truly appreciate the highest value of my clients' house.


So, I am having the best time of my life. I am no longer making a living, but truly feeling alive and looking forward to each dawn with so much joy, passion and enthusiasm. As a real estate agent, it is truly 'every flower blooms at its own pace'. When the time is right, I will shine. I am also in full control of my work load and my learning schedule. I can choose to ramp up or slow down according to my personal and family commitments. I am no longer in the rat race, living to the expectations and pace that are set by society.



The happiest thing - I don't have to choose between work and family. Family can be part of my work anytime. Popo loves coming to view my clients' house and being friends with my clients. She comes to my office to help with my mailers. She is glad to be so much more involved in my life, to hear my adventures when meeting clients or share my anxiety when there could be a potential closing.


My girl is the happiest. Office is no longer the place that opens its door once every year during family day. She can join me at my viewings whenever she wishes. We make funny faces while waiting for the viewers. She studies while I conduct my viewings. She loves to chirp in and asks the viewers to subscribe to my youtube channel. And I totally adore the fact that she is so proud of me and my job.


My husband is silently happy because there is a guiding figure with our daughter every day. At this age where she is finding her identity and going through self-doubt, it helps that we are not only her parents, but also her friends who will be by her side.


Gong gong or my dad, who had initial reservation about my career choice, is finally at peace with my decision. It makes him proud to see the awards that I have received. Every week, he cleans and dusts them without fail. It still pains him to hear that there are people who are unkind to me, disregard me, snub me or treat me like a lowly creature preying on their money. Every now and then, he will stuff money into my hands cos he is worried about my unstable income.



This Girl Is On Fire


Those that are considering a real estate journey, be prepared to steel your mind and heart. If you aren't ready, you may be rolled under the currents and you may find yourself drowning.


Make sure that you have family support. Make sure that you are ready financially. Take on part-time jobs if you have too. Make sure you have a strong team to help you grow - Don't know who to look for? Look for Vivian Chong or myself!


My biggest self-discovery - I have learnt to rise above everything. I have learnt to be confident in myself and not be overly bothered by what people think of me. Perhaps, I caught them at the wrong day, wrong time. Their remarks aren't personally targeted at me. Perhaps, they had nasty past encounters with agents, thus they are more wary against me.


Perhaps, we are just not meant to be. After all, there will be people who love me and there will be people who won't like me too. Life is like that because we cannot please everyone. It takes chance and fate to be acquainted, to be friends and journey together.



Right now, nothing can get me down. I feel like a winner, both at home and at work. I am a great daughter, a lovely wife, a cool mom and an awesome friendly realtor because I have the time and space for them. And it gives me great satisfaction to be part of my clients' journey, helping them to make independent and good decisions about their homes and taking care of their emotions in the selling, buying and moving process until they are comfortably nested in their new homes. And to all my clients, thank you for giving me this chance!


If my story intrigues you, I invite you to have a chat with me. You can ask me anything - about your property or not. And I will be equally happy to share about my experiences in the charity sector, or how is it like being a mom to a child with health conditions or hand-holding my parents through retirement (trust me, the old folks have forgotten how to face each other all day under one roof). Don't bear your troubles alone, I am happy to lend a listening ear.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

PrisLowxProperty - Clients' Interest Over Mine. Always.

Pris Low has close to 20 years experience in the non-profit sector - representing consumers in their conflicts with retailers and advocating for the less privileged in our community.


Her social service background has helped her to be sensitive and attentive to her clients' needs and feelings so that she can prepare them, both financially and emotionally, to welcome their new homes.


She has thrived because she doesn't tell her clients what to do. She hears their needs and explains the options to them. She respects every choice made by her clients because she feels that there is no wrong decision as long as it meets their needs and they are aware of the possible pitfalls and prepare for it.

Her Clients' Interests Over Hers. Always.




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