Career 180 Tip
Do what you love; it changes everything. Looking forward to and being passionate about your work turns work into joy, no matter how long it takes to get there.
Croton-on-Hudson resident Lynn Harmonay’s career 180 had been percolating throughout her entire first career in health sciences and healthcare services sales. In her 20s, as she was matriculating toward a PhD in Bioorganic Chemistry at NYU and researching at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s Chemical Carcinogenesis Lab, Harmonay had real estate on the brain.
“I noticed that all the post-doctoral fellows in my research lab lived together in the same New York City apartment,” she recalls. They couldn’t afford to live independently—not an outlook Harmonay was willing to settle for. She chose an investment strategy instead. “With the help of my parents, I bought two cooperative apartments in Northern Westchester and rented them, while continuing to live and work in Manhattan. I got a license in real estate…I hadn’t even the remotest idea that I’d [end up working in real estate] as a career,” she says.
Soon afterwards, Harmonay realized that lab research, while noble (her goal was to develop cancer treatments), was not people-oriented enough for her. “I was given the opportunity to help run and design the first corporate ambulance service in New York,” she recalls, of leaving research behind to sign on as VP of Operations for Empire State Ambulance Service in New York City, which shuttled corporate executives to hospitals when medical emergencies popped up. Afterwards, Harmonay was recruited to New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center (today NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center) to implement new medical services, including the hospital’s first physician-referral service, an international hospital network for traveling executives, and an early preferred provider organization. Eventually, she was snatched up by United Healthcare, hired as SVP of its Behavioral Care Division.
But her aunt’s health began to falter, along with that of other elderly family members, which prompted an abrupt departure from her healthcare career. “I was taking care of them fulltime, trying to get them to the right doctors,” she says. In her little spare time, Harmonay searched for investment properties in Westchester. “My realtor said, ‘You know more about his than I do,’ and it was an ‘aha! moment,’” Harmonay recalls.
Since she became an agent in 2004, Harmonay has thrived—first at Julia B. Fee, now at North Country Sotheby’s International Realty. Since 2012 alone, she’s handled 54 residential transactions in Westchester totaling more than $33 million. She says she wouldn’t be where she is today without a few essential skills she picked up in her former career. “In medicine, there’s something called ‘differential diagnosis,’ where you’re trying to rule out one scenario to determine what the real issue is,” she explains. “It may not always result in a sale, but my approach is to treat each client based on what their real needs are.”