Second Shift: Working the perks of a flexible career

"Tango is a great way to connect with other professionals," Santiago Steele, 42, says. Credit: Provided
“Tango is a great way to connect with other professionals,” Santiago Steele, 42, says.
Credit: Provided

We all know living in the city is expensive, so how does the average person make it work? Our Second Shift series features people who get creative when it comes to making ends meet. This week, meet Santiago Steele, a real estate agent at Citi Habitats who teaches tango on the side.

Name: Santiago Steele
Age: 42
Residency: Upper West Side, New York City
Lives: Alone
Number of jobs: 2

Being a real estate agent must mean you have to work around the clock. Do you designate any day as your day off, refusing to work or show apartments that day?

I try to take Saturdays off, but if I can get people to cover for me on both Saturdays and Sundays, that would be great. There are agents who work under me who help with listings, open houses and those sorts of things. I was actually able to take two days off in a row for the first time this year two weeks ago. You may not work the whole weekend, but you work a few hours a day at least. … The benefit of having some assistants under me is that they will show apartments in the evenings. Otherwise I would never have any time to myself.

How did you get into real estate?

I actually came to New York with a degree in graphic design. I did some freelance graphic design projects, but I found that the cost of living was higher than I expected. I started teaching tango as well and that became my main gig for a while. But real estate was a good fit too because of the flexibility of the schedule.

Where do you teach tango?

I usually rent a studio space and teach two to three classes a week there. I used to host parties every Saturday, but I’m taking a break from that for a while. Right now I’m actually teaching my own classes as well as the occasional seminar.

How did you get into it?

I was living in San Francisco and I’d always wanted to do some sort of dance, so I started taking some classes. I studied abroad in Argentina for a year and a half and tango was a way to connect to the local people.

Are you teaching classes to help pay your bills or just because you like it?

I just really like it. I enjoy teaching people and seeing people improve over time. One thing I never expected was that being a dance teacher turned out to be quite useful for getting into real estate. Many of my very important clients I ended up working with for years connected with me through tango. I don’t think I would have been this successful in real estate if I hadn’t been a dance teacher.

Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmLaurence


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