I’m 26 and have gray hair. I’m a wee-bit Irish, but I’m guessing it’s not the genes that are causing my hair to turn gray; it’s got to be the real estate.

I’m a third generation REALTOR® and have been in the business since before I could walk. My parents used elevator buttons to teach me how to count while they totted me around on their showings. When I was 18, I started helping them with their rental business and when I turned 21 I was fully licensed and selling homes in Chicago. Needless to say, throughout these past 26 years I have seen and remember feeling the market shift many times, even as I grew up and didn’t understand what the “market” was.

But I remember our grocery cart. If the grocery cart was filled with generic items, it was a “bad” market or a scary time for us in real estate. When we were dining out five times a week and the grocery cart was filled with colorful, shiny, non-generic items things were rockin’! People forget that this is not the first time the market has shifted.

My parents taught me early on to get involved in the real estate industry to keep my finger on the pulse so I could always be ready for changes in this fast-paced real estate world we live in. As soon as I was licensed I started getting involved in organizations such as the Women’s Council of REALTORS® and soon took on leadership positions. It was a great way to make sure I knew what was coming when the market was inevitably going to turn again. Which way I didn’t know, but I had surrounded myself with people who were smarter and had been in the business longer than me. When the market did shift I found myself with a great sphere of influence and many friends to keep me motivated and knowledgeable throughout the difficult time.

When I applied for REALTOR® Magazine’s “30 Under 30” issue that sphere of influence was stronger than it had ever been before. The support and encouragement I received leading up to, and even after it was announced that I had joined the 2010 30 Under 30 class was tremendous and very humbling. The road was long, and it took a lot of work and support from many, but it was well worth it. I had to collect letters of recommendation, fill out an online application, conduct a phone interview and finally pass the e-vote. I waited in anticipation as the pool of applicants dwindled from over 700, to 50, and then finally to just 30. I found myself on the cover of REALTOR® Magazine with three other Illinois REALTORS® and among an elite group of young professionals from across the country.

I couldn’t have asked for a better year to join the club. This year REALTOR® Magazine invited all of the past 30 Under 30 classes to join us in Chicago for the 10-year anniversary photo shoot. It was an remarkable opportunity to meet top-notch talent from all over the states and to continue learning from older and wiser peers.

At the end of the day, I realized that things can sometimes look a little gray— even at times your hair—but if you align yourself properly and continue to get or stay involved in the real estate community you can survive and thrive in any market.