Former deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett is starting a new career in real estate when she stands down as an MP next month.
Bennett is joining the senior management team at Bayleys Real Estate in the commercial property division two days after the general election.
She told the Herald she was recommended by former Prime Minister John Key, who praised her talents at a function with Bayleys' managing director, Mike Bayley.
"I wasn't there. They were talking about me, not with me. There you go, sometimes when you're talked about it's not all bad," she said.
"I'd been talking to John and he said 'Well, if there's any set of skills I can just see you using it's definitely in that property market', and that kind of got me thinking and that got me talking to Mike Bayley and then we've kind of gone from there."
Bennett, who was elected as an MP in 2005 and held 14 portfolios during her political career, from social housing and welfare to finance and tourism, said she was excited about the "completely random" career change.
"It's neat, eh? Just do something completely different and exciting and interesting," she said.
The skills she learned since dropping out of school at 17 and ending up deputy prime minister will enable her to see the bigger picture and to problem solve for her new corporate and high-net-worth clients who are working in what is now an uncertain environment because of Covid-19.
"I suppose I bring the ability to see change – if there's nothing else you get from politics it's that. Lot's of change, lot's of that horrible word resilience, and bringing all of those relationships as well."
What the job boils down to is selling real estate, she said.
"My new job is called strategic adviser for Bayleys Commercial and Industrial Property Division but ultimately, yeah, we're all salespeople and I'm really looking forward to selling, mainly in the corporate and private wealth sectors of the commercial property market."
Bennett said she was attracted to Bayleys because it's a New Zealand-owned success story with humble beginnings, just like her – once a beneficiary, Bennett worked her way up the ranks in Parliament.
"I had other things going on as well (since announcing her retirement from politics). I've been pretty lucky and then I just went 'you know what, this one makes my heart beat a bit faster and genuinely gets me excited and is so far removed from what I've been doing that it just feels like absolutely the right move.
"I genuinely felt it just kept ticking all the values for me, and they displayed the attributes I liked, which is roll your sleeves up, work hard, take some risks and when you get a knock get back up and do it twice as hard and keep going."
Bennett is studying hard to finish her real estate qualifications for when she starts on October 19 and says while politics will always be a big part of her life she can happily leave it behind.
"I've done it, I've got near the top, I'm really happy and I can very comfortably draw a line under the politics but still work with Government."
Bennett says she pinches herself daily at what she has achieved which is "not bad from this high school dropout that had a baby at 17 that can now kind of hold her own and hopefully add value for Bayleys and their businesses. It's very humbling."
Mike Bayley said Bennett's role would be focused on further strengthening Bayleys' position in the corporate and private wealth sectors of the commercial property market.
"We're always looking to recruit a proportion of our staff from outside the property industry to bring a fresh perspective and new ideas into our business and we are delighted to have been able to secure someone of Paula's calibre.
"She has obviously built up a large network of connections during her 15 years in politics and is clearly a very driven high achiever. She is well equipped to deal with the often complex requirements of larger clients."
Bayleys director of Auckland commercial real estate Lloyd Budd said Bennett would be a huge asset for Bayleys commercial, which works across business sales, hotels, leasing, capital markets and industrial.
"You think about 15 years in Parliament, nine of those in government, 14 portfolios – it means she's touched so many different parts of our economy, so many different parts of our infrastructure to make the country work and property's a huge part of that, whether it's social housing, whether it's Meridian Energy looking at their requirements at a corporate level."
Ryan Johnson, Bayleys' national director of commercial and industrial, said Bennett was a natural fit for the Property Council's strategic goal of diversity and inclusion, including more women in leadership roles in the commercial property industry.
"There's not too many that can have the former deputy prime minister's leadership skills in your business," he said.
Bennett joins a range of well-known faces now selling real estate, including Shortland Street stars Angela Bloomfield and Shane Cortese, former TV journalists Hamish McKay and Rawdon Christie, and ex-sports stars Manu Vatuvei and Logan Swann.