Founder of Upward On
An industry leader with over two decades’ experience in real estate management, recruitment, mentoring, business development and coaching, Concetta Raz has accrued a wealth of resources, relationships, contacts and clients at the leading real estate companies in NYC. Her passion for personal and professional development brings her full circle to the founding of Upward On, a talent acquisition and executive search firm specializing in the real estate industry, primarily in the greater New York City area.
Raz began her career as a licensed real estate agent at Citi Habitats in 1998, which segued into a senior management role with the firm. In 2014, Raz became the vice president of sales, leasing and marketing at Manhattan Skyline, where she oversaw their residential portfolio of 2,500 units. In addition to her experience in recruitment and business development, Raz is also an accredited real estate instructor with the New York Department of State.
How long have you been in the business?
I’ve been in the business for 22 years. I started my recruitment company, Upward On, two years ago. We specialize in executive search and talent acquisition in the real estate industry.
What made you decide to get into the industry?
I fell into real estate at the age of 23. I was having what I call a “20-something existential crisis” — really unsure about what I should be doing. After graduating from SUNY Albany, I first worked in fashion and then in advertising. At the end of the day, I didn’t feel any sort of connection to my work. I quit the ad agency and became a cocktail waitress. I knew that if I was waitressing, it would force me to look for new opportunities. I met a friend who suggested I try real estate and introduced me to Larry Goldblatt, then a manager at Citi Habitats in Greenwich Village. He gave me my first shot at real estate, and I was hooked from day one. My first 16 years were in brokerage at Citi Habitats, and in 2005 I became a senior managing director, where I spent the bulk of my time recruiting, hiring and training agents. I developed a knack for finding talent and became really passionate about fostering career development.
In 2014, I had a terrific opportunity to work at Manhattan Skyline, overseeing their residential portfolio. I eventually decided to open up my own firm and focus on the recruitment side of the business because I saw a real need for an industry insider who understood the nuances of different roles within the real estate landscape and could help companies attract and hire the right talent for those roles.
What advice do you give to someone starting in this business?
Like any business, you have to be focused, committed, and go all in. You cannot dabble in real estate. Decide which segment of the industry you want to work in. For example, if you are starting a career as a broker in commercial real estate, interview with several companies in order to find the right culture and fit for you. Narrow down what you want to specialize in — retail, office, industrial, tenant representation, etc. — and learn that niche. Be prepared to work, and work hard. You will need to learn how to prospect. Know that you will not make money for at least your first 18 months — your mindset needs to be so unbreakable that the lack of income does not impact your ability to be tough, not get emotional, put in the time, be consistent, and be patient.
Who inspires you?
My seven-year-olds Ana and Sophie, who are identical twins. They inspire me to be the best type of person I can be, and to lead by example. As clichéd as it sounds, being a parent is the hardest job in the world but also the most rewarding, and teaches the greatest lessons.
What is the greatest personnel challenge facing this industry right now?
A major challenge is the lack of mentorship opportunities for young people who may not have a connection to the industry. Also, within the last six months, I’ve seen companies cut costs by combining roles. It’s great for saving money short-term, but once your employee starts to feel undervalued, they will start looking elsewhere. Retention then becomes a problem, which is costly and disruptive to the flow of business.
What does a candidate need to succeed in this industry?
Consistency over time. Courtesy and professionalism. If you’re the kind of person someone wants to do a deal with, you’ll always have opportunities for business in the future.