Second Career: From TV to Real Estate

real+estateIn these tough economic times, you will find a lot of people doing things they never thought they would be doing.

Charlie Pfaff is one of those people.

For more than 35 years, Pfaff worked in one industry, local television. He worked his way up from a salesperson at a TV station in Tulsa, OK, to senior vice president and general manager at one of the top-rated Fox affiliates in the country, KMPH TV in Fresno, CA. He also managed a second station and was a regional manager for the company that owned his stations.

-- See average salaries for jobs in television broadcasting.

As he put it, "I was a poor kid from Chicago who worked hard and worked smart, and was fortunate to move up through the ranks to one of the most important leadership roles at KMPH TV/KFRE TV in our Stations Group."

And then the economic downturn hit. The company that owned KMPH and KFRE went into bankruptcy, and the banks holding the loans took over his stations. It's something that has happened to a lot of television stations in the U.S. over the past couple of years.

"People called me up and said 'What are you going to do now?'" Pfaff recalled. "I hadn't thought about it. I had been there for 21 years, and the station was still doing well and making money; but people told me that changes are often made by new owners when this happens."

And sure enough, one day Pfaff was told by the new owners that he no longer was needed there.

"You're in shock," Pfaff said. "I had a very successful 37-year track record in broadcasting. I had to sit back and try to digest it."

Pfaff did what made sense to him: He took some time to assess his situation and started looking around for another management job in TV. But, as he found out, more people were getting laid off than hired in this business climate.

"I asked myself what is my next best option? I wanted to have the time to look and get back into the business on the right terms."

When he realized it might take some time, he took a very positive attitude. "I thought this would be a great time to learn and do new things," he said. "I was always interested in real estate, and I have several family members in real estate and lending."

-- Find out what real estate agents earn in your hometown.

So Pfaff began the process of becoming a licensed real estate agent. It's a pretty straightforward process. You need to take a series of university-level courses in the state where you want to practice. Then you have to pass a pretty rigorous state exam, and then you get your license to practice.

Pfaff took courses online, and he passed the state exam on the first try.

The next step is to align yourself with a real estate brokerage firm. Even though the real estate industry is in a tough situation itself -- or maybe because of it -- real estate brokers are looking for the best of the best these days. It's not like the wild days when pretty much anyone could sell homes at a drop of a hat.

"I actually was interviewing the real estate agencies, seeing which one would be the best fit for me," Pfaff said. He wound up signing on with Keller-Williams Realty in Fresno, CA.

It's been a big change for Charlie, but he sees a lot of similarities between running a TV station and working in real estate: "I'm still doing many of the things I like to do -- help people, help the community and communicate -- just in a different industry. Being self-employed has also been something I have wanted to do."

Pfaff also understands the value of networking. Since he hasn't completely abandoned his television roots and passion for the broadcast business, he also spends time consulting with broadcasters, public service agencies, and production companies to help them develop strategies and programs. "Broadcasting is in my blood, and I could never completely leave it."

Said Pfaff: "I feel like, right now, I am rebuilding my empire."

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