Switch from large GC to Development

I currently work as a project manager for a national GC (Clark, Turner, Dunn). My goal is to work in development, and it seems that switching from a GC shouldn’t that difficult as I see lots of folks on LinkedIn have done a similar switch.
What would be the best way to make this switch? Would it be MSRE? Networking?

Also, I’d prefer to not start as an analyst since I’m already 26. Would it be possible to come in as an associate?

Most Helpful

What's your goal here? 

It would be incredibly easy to switch from a GC to in-house construction management. That's really the only way to get a CM position at a developer. 

If you want to be on the development side, you have three real options:

1. Use Your Network - If you kicked ass on a project for a developer and you know that developer thinks highly about you, talk to them about what you want to do. It is difficult to find reliable, intelligent people who can think on their feet. If you have proven to someone you are reliable, intelligent, and adaptable, they may give you a shot. For reference, there is one PM and one Super I have previously worked with whom I would hire on the development side in an instant if they so wished. 

2. MRED/MBA for a Rebrand - This is primarily to show people you know how to add. Big name brand developers care about things like degrees. If you want to get into a highly institutional shop where the path is analyst -> associate -> vp, etc. then you may have to get a MRED or MBA. It's an expensive box to check, but it does check it. 

3. Target Smaller Shops - The other option is to reach out to smaller shops about what you want to do. A smaller shop is infinitely more likely to recognize the value of a construction background vs. a big shop full of people still jerking off over where they went to college 20 years later. A lot of these larger companies take an incredibly dumb approach to hiring. Plus, there's always the chance that you find someone who explicitly wants someone who is good at construction or who may have come up that way themself. 

None of these things are exclusionary either. You can use your existing network, talk to smaller shops, and apply for grad school all at the same time. 

There are many times I have wished I had your background. I wish you the best of luck. 

Commercial Real Estate Developer

Some larger GCs have an in-house development arm. Clark has one called Edgemoor. What about trying to make an internal move like that and then onto another development shop?


Some larger GCs have an in-house development arm. Clark has one called Edgemoor. What about trying to make an internal move like that and then onto another development shop?

Makes sense to me too if you can pull it off. Might not even have to make the second jump if you like developing for the GC owned company. 

Commercial Real Estate Developer

A smaller shop is infinitely more likely to recognize the value of a construction background vs. a big shop full of people still jerking off over where they went to college 20 years later. A lot of these larger companies take an incredibly dumb approach to hiring.

 Agreed. One of the questions in this thread is "is construction a good background for a developer?" to which the answer is "yes", and the other is "can I directly pivot from construction into development?" to which the answer is "it will be very tough, especially at name-brand companies".

A lot of senior people in development tend to place a higher value on the background that they themselves have. So a developer who got an MBA from Wharton will tend to hire people with elite MBAs, and tend to be dismissive of the value that, say, a civil engineer might bring to a development team. Someone smart enough to become a licensed civil engineer at age 27 is more than smart enough to learn business school math (which really isn't that hard), but that direct transition just doesn't happen that often, even if it should.


I was (am?) in the same boat as you. Working for a GC you named for the past three years and badly wanting to get into development. From others advice on this forum I decided to make the jump and go for an MSRE, which I am beginning as we speak. I wanted to get away from being only a construction guy and this seemed like the best option to do that as I think if you go in house somewhere you will be doing just that, construction. Obviously might not always be the case, but it seems to be common. Personally I really want to learn the finance behind development and use my construction knowledge as another aspect of the value I add. Good luck on your journey whichever way you go about it. 

Editing to add this link here to when I made a very similar post that has some solid advice.



I ended up doing this, would recommend it sooner than later. Would look at full-time programs for MSREs or specifically MBAs with RE focuses or a heavy presence in RE (MIT, Cornell, USC, UNC, etc). Most business programs have a pittance of classes for real estate specifically and you won't get the technical knowledge you need unless you drill into their course offerings. 

Personally I just ripped off the band-aid and took on the debt, It ended up being worth it to me professionally and financially, but your mileage may vary. 


This is a very hard move at the big shops. You would need an MSRE at the least, and more likely an MBA, in order to make it to a decision-making role. 

I am at an institutional player, and as others mentioned, we have our own DM/CM team that pulls from GCs that we like. However these spots do not open up often, and are competitive. It is very very rare to then move from a CM seat to an investment seat. Almost unheard of, in fact, although there are examples. The skillset is just very different, and there is a bias against the construction guys because they know little about the planning, zoning, finance and investment part of things, which is the actual "hard to learn" part of development.

As for going directly from a GC to an investment/developer associate seat, it simply cannot happen. Without unholy levels of nepotism, my firm would never do this. The only established pipeline into these seats at my firm is to be hired from a top MBA program, or being one of the very rare ad-hoc junior hires that we pull from other backgrounds/developers. I know that most of our "comparable" competitors operate in a similar way. Development at the largest shops has more in common with PE/REPE than it does with construction or your small local developer that does 1-2 deals per year max. We would look at someone with an IB background before we'd look at a GC.


this dude really just said finance is the "hard to learn part of development" over construction 


You’re cherry picking. He said planning / zoning / finance / investment. And as a developer - he is right. The planning and zoning are the most important portions of the puzzle with the finance and investment bringing it together. The construction guys I work with are all amazing, but they know jack shit about capital structure and investment decision making. They could learn it - just like I know enough about construction to be dangerous. But your comment missed the boat. 


Think that networking should get you where you want to go. I've always thought the less education the better. Just message mid-level people at places you're interested in and meet for coffee or do a call.

My opinion is that in-depth construction knowledge is the most important skill for a developer (aside from proprietary sourcing or ability to get above market entitlements/zoning - both of which are more senior traits). Everyone in RE knows their way around an NOI but true construction knowledge is rare and an area you could really be valuable at the right place. In development the only thing you actually predict with certainty is cost but you'll find that few people actually want to dig in and prefer the abstract (push rents, drop cap, add pari).


For what it’s worth, if your goal is to go out on your own then targeting smaller shops rather than MFs is the way to go.

At the institutional level you’re basically working at a REPE shop and they generally will only hire from M7 MBAs. Coming from someone that used to work at a Hines/tishman/related, the development associate roles are very siloed, you don’t get to wear different hats and realistically, if you want to go out on your own, you’re never going to be developing 700 unit towers, so the skills aren’t as transferable. Having seen both sides I’m much happier at a smaller shop and doing deals on the side.


Developers are heavily involved in design and pricing so need to know construction well and can be a huge value add rather than someone who blindly follows what the architects and precon gives them. Everything pre-ground break is what I would constitute as development, once you go vertical it's just a construction project. Construction oversight is a normal part of a developer's responsibilities but you would almost always have an owner's rep or in-house CM doing the actual construction management. Capital raising function is almost always distinct from development at larger shops. In my experience working at a MF the best developers are the ones who know construction.


General contractor.

I’m met several people over the years attempting to do just this, actually from some of the specific GCs OP mentioned. If you want to give it your best shot, maybe do the MSRE with a concentration in finance. Meanwhile network with smaller/mid size shops as people noted. You’ll want to explicitly state that although you came up on the construction side, you understand a pro forma and the underlying investment fundamentals associated with development. You’re looking for someone who appreciates the construction knowledge and believes that with the MSREF, and the independent study/whatever else you’re doing to learn the numbers, you’re savvy enough to make the transition to development. Zoning and planning isn’t rocket science and hopefully you feel like you naturally have a vision which is why you’re pursuing dev.

Also saw some chatter on how shops are typically structured - personally most familiar with construction managers and development managers tag teaming projects. Dev handles sourcing/modeling/entitlements/design/programming while the CM helps bid the job, lock the GMP, negotiate the contract, and manage OACs/construction process once dirt is moving. Point being they are two very distinct roles.


To echo what a couple others have said - you'll be better off targeting smaller firms (to the extent you can), because they'll value your construction experience WAY more than a bigger shop, which might have that capability/expertise in-house.  If you're required to wear a bunch of hats, the construction end of it is going to be a huge value add.


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