The thought of making a major career change is often wrapped in both excitement and apprehension. It involves stepping out of one’s comfort zone, abandoning the familiar and embracing the uncertain. Why would someone leave a stable job, one where they have invested years of education and training, for something completely different? The reasons are as varied as the individuals themselves but often revolve around a quest for growth, a change in personal circumstances, or a reevaluation of goals and values.

For many, the allure of real estate as a career path lies in its promise of autonomy — agents often have the freedom to set their own schedules and choose their clientele. Moreover, this sector allows for direct control over one’s earnings, with the potential for high rewards. Real estate also offers the unique satisfaction of helping others find their perfect home or investment, making it a personally rewarding career that intersects with the dreams and aspirations of others.

However, transitioning into real estate is not without its challenges. It requires not only an understanding of the market and mastery of sales techniques but also a robust network and the ability to negotiate and persuade. New agents must also navigate the complexities of certifications and initial financial instability while building a reputation. The learning curve can be steep, and the competition fierce. Yet, it is the thrill of the chase, the joy of closing a deal, and the personal touch that can make real estate a deeply fulfilling career choice.

The upcoming stories feature three remarkable women who made the leap into real estate from vastly different careers. Each narrative is evidence of the power of determination, adaptability, and the relentless pursuit of personal satisfaction and professional success. These women did not just change their careers; they reinvented their lives around new visions of success, demonstrating that it’s never too late to pursue a dream.

Lauren Klein: The Diva’s in the Details

Lauren Klein’s transition from a forensic specialist in the legal field to a real estate agent is a story of meticulous precision and unwavering dedication. With a degree from the prestigious Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law at Duquesne University, Klein’s unique background provides a fresh perspective in the real estate industry. Originally working as a paralegal and later as a forensic specialist, Klein dissected complex medical content for legal cases, bridging the medical and legal fields. Her role required a deep understanding of details and a high level of organization—skills that are immensely beneficial in the nuanced world of real estate transactions.

While overall happy in her legal career, the catalyst for Klein’s career shift was a negative personal experience with a Realtor during her own real estate transaction. This experience highlighted the potential for improvement in the industry and ignited her desire to provide better, more conscientious service. She says of the experience, “I thought, ‘there’s a better way and I can do it.’ I know that Realtor made a lot of money off of me, but he didn’t really do anything for me.” Determined to ensure no client of hers would feel underserved, Klein entered the real estate market with a robust commitment to excellence.

Adapting to this new field was not without its challenges. Klein found the real estate industry to be less rigid than law, requiring a flexible yet precise approach. Her ability to maintain high professional standards in a less structured field has set her apart, allowing her to blend methodical diligence with the personal touches that real estate demands. Klein’s forensic background has influenced her real estate practice significantly. She approaches each transaction with the same precision and attention to detail that she applied in her legal work. Her organizational skills and clarity in communication ensure that contracts are handled impeccably, and her clients are well-informed throughout the buying or selling process. “It’s all about being organized and being precise in your communications. There are a lot of contracts in real estate and the ability to communicate what is in those contracts is key.”

Despite her formidable expertise and assertive approach in the real estate market, Klein laughs at her nickname — the “Pittsburgh Property Diva.” While the title is catchy and memorable, (making it a valuable branding tool in a competitive industry) she’s quick to point out that the “Diva” moniker doesn’t quite match her personal style. “It’s a bit of an oxymoron,” she admits. The name was chosen more for its market appeal than as a reflection of any high-maintenance traits. Klein prides herself on being straightforward and down-to-earth, qualities that her clients deeply appreciate. Her approach to real estate is proactive and informed, staying ahead of market trends and adapting strategies accordingly; less “Diva” and more “Doer.”

With a vision to maintain professionalism in real estate, Klein continues to refine her practice, focusing on providing exceptional service and fostering long-term client relationships. For each client, she provides a personalized welcome packet that breaks down the entire buying or selling process. She says this level of communication has proven to be one of her greatest strengths, and her clients appreciate knowing what to expect. 

“My clients, especially first-time buyers who have never gone through a real estate transaction before, can be going in blind as far as understanding things like terminology or timelines. It can be a confusing process. I consider it my personal responsibility to not only assist with the transaction, but to educate home buyers and sellers so they feel fully informed.”

Beyond educating her clients, Klein’s career has also focused on being a resource for both the general public and other agents. She has had multiple appearances on Pittsburgh Live and she hosted her own weekly talk radio show, Talk Diva, for two years.  Klein has also offered classes and workshops for real estate agents on various topics in the industry as part of the continuing education requirements for licensing and is looking forward to offering classes again in the future. 

Outside of her professional life, Klein is a dedicated wife and mother who loves to travel. She also enjoys exploring new coffee shops and engaging in local community activities, which further enrich her connection to the area she serves.

Find Lauren online at or on Instagram @pittsburghpropertydiva

Antonia Rendina: Still Serving Her Community

Antonia (Tia) Rendina’s journey from the streets of Pittsburgh as a police officer to a new and thriving career in real estate illustrates a dramatic career transformation. Driven by a desire to serve her community in a different capacity, Rendina’s story is one of resilience, adaptability, and the pursuit of personal fulfillment outside the high-pressure world of law enforcement. Rendina’s career began with a commitment to public service as she joined the Pittsburgh City  Police Department right after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg. Her dedication to maintaining safety and order was unwavering, but over time, the emotional and political challenges of the job began to weigh heavily on her. “It was  a good position as a single childless woman, but thinking about what I wanted in the future, it didn’t line up. I thought about becoming a detective, but there was a hiring freeze, and then I thought about State Police, but it ultimately wasn’t for me. At the end of the day, it was Pittsburgh City or nothing for me.”

The major impetus for Rendina’s shift came from the increasing political involvement in police work and the toll it took on her mental health. “It became so difficult to not bring the challenges of work home with me,” she recalls of the end of her time as an officer. Desiring a career that aligned better with her future aspirations and which offered a less stressful environment, she sought a profession that maintained her core mission of helping and serving others. Real estate presented itself as a compelling new chapter.

Switching from the adrenaline-fueled pace of police work to the more measured rhythm of real estate was challenging for Rendina. The initial phase of her new career required significant adjustments, from learning to manage a more flexible schedule to understanding the nuances of client relations in a non-emergency context. The change tested her adaptability and forced her to develop new strategies for success. 

However, it was Rendina’s policing skills — particularly communication, crisis management, and community engagement — that proved invaluable in her new career. Her ability to stay calm under pressure and to handle sensitive situations with empathy and discretion make her an exceptional agent, especially appreciated by clients navigating the stressful process of buying or selling a home.

When asked what advice she had for someone considering such a big career change, Rendina offered the following wisdom: “Trust your gut! Change is uncomfortable but if you truly want something, don’t stay comfortable. Chase your passion. I thought my calling was to be a police officer, but I realized it was to help and serve. So I would tell others, if you feel stuck in a job you thought would be your life’s work, ask yourself why you wanted that job in the first place. What lies at the surface of your calling, and what are other fields that can help you accomplish that? Every day, I feel that I am helping and serving my community through real estate —helping individuals and families achieve a major dream is incredibly fulfilling.”

Recognizing the importance of community and shared experiences, Rendina has focused on becoming the go-to real estate agent for first responders and military personnel. Her background as a police officer and her deep understanding of this community have allowed her to serve them with insight and respect, helping them find homes that suit their specific needs. She aims to educate these clients on the various benefits and programs available to them, ensuring they receive the best possible service and outcomes.

Outside of her professional life, Rendina is an avid outdoors enthusiast, enjoying hiking with her rescue dog and exploring local coffee shops. She is a self-proclaimed “coffee fanatic” and says her love of a good brew helps her explore Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods by searching out locally owned cafes. She also loves traveling with her boyfriend, who is currently a police officer as well.  Rendina is also deeply involved in her community through her support group, Steel City Sisters, which she founded to provide support and camaraderie for women connected to the military and law enforcement sectors. “I created the group to help women cope with everything that comes with being in these roles or loving someone in these roles. I hope to be a friend, confidant, and resource, and to learn from and empower those who have joined.”

Find Tia on Instagram @your.agent.antonia

Stacy Coolbaugh: Blessed by Southern Charm

Stacy Coolbaugh’s professional journey beautifully illustrates the transformative power of a career change driven by personal passion and a desire for flexibility. Her transition from a decade-long career in healthcare and nursing into the world of real estate was not just a professional shift but a profound personal transformation.

Coolbaugh’s initial career in healthcare equipped her with critical skills that proved invaluable in real estate. As a nurse and healthcare administrator, she honed her ability to empathize, assess situations quickly, and develop plans of action. These skills translated seamlessly into her real estate practice, where she now creates tailored strategies for her clients. “My previous career in healthcare and nursing helped me to problem solve, assess things, empathize with my clients, and also create a ‘care plan’ of sorts for their real estate selling or buying journey.”

The motivating factor for Coolbaugh’s career change was her desire for a more flexible schedule to spend time with her children. Despite the allure of healthcare, the demanding hours and the rigid structure made it challenging to balance professional responsibilities and family life. Real estate offered the autonomy she craved, allowing her to structure her work around her life, not the other way around.

Transitioning during the COVID-19 pandemic, Coolbaugh faced a fiercely competitive market and the challenge of establishing a new professional network in Pennsylvania, having relocated from North Carolina in 2016. Despite these obstacles, she leveraged her deep understanding of client care from her nursing days to build trust and rapport quickly in her new community. When asked about the challenges she faced, Coolbaugh says, “Covid was the biggest challenge. The market was crazy during that time, and coming into it then was difficult. I worked more than ever, but it was a good and life-changing experience.”

In real estate, Stacy applies her healthcare expertise in problem-solving and empathetic communication to serve her clients effectively. She emphasizes the importance of understanding contracts, explaining processes clearly, and staying current with market trends and marketing techniques. On marketing she says, “Most agents do have social media now, but many don’t know how to make it work for their clients. Even if an agent has decades of experience, that doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to market your home in the 2024 climate. Social media is also a great tool to help me foster professional relationships with agents outside of this area and even out-of-state, which provides my sellers with a larger buyer pool. Leveraging every tool available is part of my overall strategy, and I know my clients appreciate my comprehensive approach.”

Coolbaugh’s real estate philosophy centers on integrity, knowledge, and client support. She believes that a successful Realtor should not only be well-versed in the technical aspects of the trade but also genuine and committed to clients’ best interests. For her, real estate is not just about transactions; it’s about building relationships and community. 

“I take a different approach than most agents; while I believe communication is crucial, I don’t believe in annoying my clients with tons of emails and newsletters. If you do too much, eventually your message loses its importance. So I stick to only sending my current clients messages of vital importance. But to show my appreciation, I will do client gift drop-offs one to two times a year and I set clients up with Homebot (an automated service that helps track and build wealth with their home). I also love to donate to any of my clients’ causes or non-profit charities. I feel that doing these things helps to build my relationships and creates a more personal relationship with clients as well as their communities.”

Looking forward, Stacy aims to expand her business to include more listings, relocations, and referrals, potentially growing a team that spans her connections in both North Carolina and Pennsylvania. “I am licensed as a broker in North Carolina,  where I lived for the first twenty-seven years of my life. I  do referrals and listings there. I am also currently enrolled in classes to become a broker in Pennsylvania, which will help me to better serve my clients and grow a team.” Her personal goals are intertwined with her professional ones, as she continues to balance her thriving career with her passions for travel, fitness, and family time.

Find Stacy on Instagram @movemetopittsburgh_stacy

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