Our favorite store T.J.Maxx (raise your hand if you’re going this weekend!) just launched the most inspiring campaign that has us going really deep today. The Maxx You Project Lab led by Dr. Serena Chen, Professor of Psychology at UC Berkeley, helps women identify and embrace their individuality by teaming up with partners like businessperson and “Shark Tank” star Barbara Corcoran (love her!) and through immersive experiments and quantitative research. We were lucky enough to sit down with Barbara and ask her a few questions about her life, career, motherhood and more–and were so inspired by her answers! Here’s our full exclusive interview:
SHEfinds: With every career milestone, you’ve continued to evolve. Let’s go back to your very first job, because I think a lot of young people are wondering what advice you’d share with someone just starting out. What’s the one thing you learned from your first job?
Barbara Corcoran: In my first job, I was a salesclerk at a small department store in New Jersey, working very happily and hard for a boss who wasn’t a happy buckaroo. I didn’t’ like him the first day I met him and I liked him least the last day I saw him. He had asked me to spend 4 days in the attic without ventilation and label 800 boxes of men’s socks noting their different colors, either black, brown, or grey. I spelled the word “gray” so he docked my pay and told me I had to re-label all the “grey” boxes all over again. Years later while playing a scrabble game with a well-educated friend, she placed the word “gray” on the board and when I corrected her she explained that the color “gray” can be spelled both ways! The lesson I learned in my first job is this… if you don’t like the boss interviewing you, don’t take the job.
SF: Interviews can be nerve-wracking. What’s the one thing to remember when going into a job interview?
BC: Interviews can be intimidating because the person doing the interviewing seems to have all the control. It’s always smart to size up what you think your best attributes are and make a mental list before you go in. When your assets are top of mind, it assures you put your best foot forward because you’re feeling more positive and confident.
SF: What obstacles or milestones have shaped who you are today?
BC: Good things happen when a little luck comes your way and you’re smart enough to grab it and take advantage of it. My first lucky back was when my then partner, Ramone Simone offered to loan me $1,000 to start a real estate brokerage firm in New York City. I was only 23 at the time, quit my job as a waitress and rented a desk and got started.
Six years later in an effort to generate some publicity in a failing marketplace, I wrote The Corcoran Report. Although it was only one page long with only the average price of the apartments we had sold that year (a grand total of 11!) the report quickly became a big-time player in NYC marketplace. I used The Corcoran Report to work my way into becoming the #1 brokerage firm many years later. When I sold The Corcoran Group for $66M, I simply named 66 as the number as I had always considered 6 to be my lucky number. I was smart enough to turn down their $22 million final offer, thinking I’d get lucky if I used 66 and I did!
Even becoming an investor “Shark” on ABC’s Shark Tank was the result of a little bit of luck and a little bit of hutzpah. After I signed the contract without reading it and sent it back to the producer, they changed their mind about hiring me but I had the presence of mind to sit down and quickly send an email explaining why the producer had made a terrible mistake and he should consider sending both woman out to compete for the one female seat. I got it of course and the rest is history!
SF: What have these ups and downs taught you?
BS: If anything, it’s that I’m one-of-a-kind and that my quirks and personality traits have gotten me to where I am today. Now, I hope to pay it forward by joining the T.J.Maxx Maxx You Project to help other women realize the same.
Feeling inspired? Join The Maxx You Project Online Expedition: Women by visiting www.maxxyouproject.com and answering a few questions to discover the elements that make you an individual.