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Monday, May 15, 2006

Brandy Baker / The Detroit News

Real estate salesman David Janowski, right, chats with Anna Vitello in her $1.75 million home.

Career Makeover

Ex-engineer is right at home in job

Finding employment after taking a buyout was tough, but he's thriving in his new career selling real estate.

Brian J. O'Connor / The Detroit News


Janowski go See full image

Work tips
Career coach Prudence Cole of Grosse Pointe, who runs the Web site and is the author of "Finding Power, Passion and Joy Being at Work," recommends asking yourself these questions when contemplating a career change:
What am I afraid of? Changing career and jobs is scary. How many of us maintain the status quo because what we know is less frightening than what we don't know? Our fears keep us stuck. One of my favorite quotes is, "Our fears are the dragons that hide our greatest gifts." What gifts are you hiding?
Am I stuck in the wrong field? Many individuals believe they can't achieve their dreams because of what they feel they have to do. They believe they have "no choice." This becomes an excuse and a self-made trap. You always have a choice. The sooner you realize that what you have to do is really what you have chosen to do, the sooner you reclaim your power and take responsibility for your situation. Don't let "have to" become the excuse for not pursuing your dream.
Who can help me? There is a lot of help available, but in reality it is up to you. No one is going to come tell you what to do or define your life purpose. No one is going to rescue you from your current situation. You have to be willing to take the risks necessary to move forward and ask for help. You have to discover what it will take to make a job move and then make plans to move forward. You have to find the people who will support you as you take this important step to realize your dream.

Have you remade your career?

Did you switch from engineering to sales? Escape the boss from hell? Use your severance pay as seed money to start a small business? The Detroit News wants to hear from readers who've successfully remade their jobs, professions and careers for future stories. To tell your story, e-mail Personal Finance Editor Brian O'Connor at


David Janowski is grateful to the auto industry for two things:

1: Hiring him and training him.

2: Kicking him out.

"I thank the automotive industry for giving me all that sales training," says Janowski, an engineer-turned-real estate salesman.

"A lot of it is business sense," says the 56-year-old Troy resident. "When someone calls, you call them back. When you have an appointment, you show up on time. It's basic, common-sense business I learned in the auto industry."

Where he came from: After graduating from Eastern Michigan University with an engineering degree, Janowski started as a blueprint operator in the early 1970s. He worked his way up to engineering and managing projects for testing and assembly equipment at automotive suppliers.

By the mid-1980s, Janowski had moved to his third employer, earned a master's degree in business and was working as a product manager when the firm was sold. With engineering jobs being reduced, he was offered a chance to move into sales.

What changed: Seven years later, in the summer of 2001, that job was eliminated as the auto industry hit hard times. Only a few months shy of his 20-year anniversary with the firm, he took a buyout.

"My wife came home from work and we had a drink and asked, 'What are we going to do now?' " he recalls.

What he did at first was take the summer off to fix up his house and his mother-in-law's house. Meanwhile, he sent out 150 resumes and landed a few interviews but got no offers.

"It's a rude awakening, when you're my age and you're going for jobs and begging for employment. I thought I'd find something even better but, oh, man, my bubble burst within months."

By fall, the September 11 attacks had pushed the economy -- especially the auto business -- to contract even more, so he decided to wait until January of 2002 to decide on a new direction.

Moment of truth: Instead of Janowski finding a new direction, the new direction found him.

His wife worked for a real estate broker and, on a visit to the broker's house, he suggested Janowski try selling houses.

"He said, "You have sales experience and a good personality, so why don't you try real estate?' Janowski recalls. "After two bottles of wine, I said OK."

Stumbling blocks: By 2002, Janowski was in real estate school full time, getting his training and his license.

"I thought, if I can go up to a company and wow them with a Power Point presentation, I can certainly do that for a husband and wife." Still, he admits, "It was scary because I was always used to getting a paycheck. It was a big change in my life."

The next step was getting away from his business-casual wardrobe and drumming up business.

"The routine of getting up and going to work in the morning, I had done that for 30 years and it paid off. I put on a tie and suit and started going to work and basically prospecting, knocking on doors. In the first six months I had to pay dues and license fees and it was tough, but going to school at night had been tough, too."

Another difference is as a real estate agent, he didn't have the corporate trappings and support.

"Working for yourself, it's you who has to put the stamp on the envelope and address the envelope. In the automotive world you always give it to someone else."

As that discipline started to pay off, Janowski discovered another big difference between being an industrial supplier and a real estate agent.

"With the auto and aerospace industry, you can work on a contract for two years before you get a commission payment," he notes, "but in real estate you can get a check as soon as 90 days."

By the end of his first year in 2003, he was a top producer in his real estate office, he says. "Its been great since then."

Words of wisdom: "It's a great feeling when you go to a closing and everybody is shaking hands and smiling," Janowski says. "They've just spent two-hundred-and-fifty thousand, but they're smiling. I really enjoy it."

It's a stark contrast to his friends still working in automotive and manufacturing companies, he adds.

"My buddies say automotive is just not the same, and they can't wait until the day they retire."

Despite the downturn in real estate for the region, Janowski says that his disciplined approach has paid off. While many agents take off during the slow months of October, November and December, for example, he makes it a point to work that much harder.

"Business is great -- I make more money in real estate than I did in the automotive business. I should have done this years ago."

You can reach Brian J. O'Connor at (313) 222-2145 or

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