Advice on Career Trajectory and Next Steps

Jsb54's picture
Rank: Senior Monkey | 81

Just wanted to post here because I've been thinking a lot about this and would like to crowd source some knowledge. Thank you all in advance for any advice you may have, I really appreciate it.

Currently I'm senior in college who has one semester left (I transferred schools Sophomore year and I'm graduating late as a result) and I'm an econ major with a real estate finance minor at a large private school in Southern California with a strong real estate program.

I'm interning with a family owned property owner/developer in New York City which is where I also interned last summer. The office isn't large in terms of staff and is not widely known however they own about 25 properties throughout NYC including some very large multifamily/condo buildings and class A office buildings. I've worked on various projects for them that have introduced me to various aspects of the business from property management, to property valuation, refinancing properties, and dealing with legal issues.

My plan this past fall was to use my experience at this firm last summer to get to a larger, more well known company for this summer but after a few interviews at WF, PNC, JP Morgan, and a super day at HFF in LA, I received no offers and I was extremely disheartened. I networked my ass off in the spring semester to try to find another internship role at a larger company and I had a few leads, but ultimately nothing stuck.

This summer my plan was to work here again, make some money and learn as much as I can while I network my ass off in NYC. My GPA went up two points this year which was good because it was a little low before and I'm taking an ARGUS course throughout the month of July and completing the BIWS Real Estate Modelling course as well.

My goal is basically to have a few certifications to my name (ARGUS and BIWS hopefully, for what they're worth) and to have met some people working in CRE in NYC. I know this is getting long winded but I wanted to describe my background and plan first.

I just have a few questions:
- Will companies look down upon the fact that I've worked at this office for 2 summers? It's the only real estate experience I have and the name isn't well known. If so, how should I address this?
- I would love to work for one of the big nationwide real estate companies such as CBRE, Cushman, JLL, HFF, Eastdil etc doing investment sales/debt placement or something similar but every time I apply online, I feel like my application goes into a black hole and I often don't hear back. Is networking the main way to get into these firms?
- Will firms care about ARGUS/BIWS certifications? During my HFF interview I was grilled by two guys on what technical skills I brought to the table and I got a bit flustered describing my projects this past summer and what technical skills I used/learned, which is a big reason why I didn't get the job (I think). I wanted to address this weakness with these courses but I'm curious if you guys think it will make a difference.
- I had a really bad semester two years ago which hurt my GPA but I've since raised it to a 3.4 and have made deans list every semester since. I just wanted to know if you guys think will be an issue for me going forward. I have one more semester and I hope to raise it to a 3.5 but I'm curious if that was holding me back
- My goal (like everyone else I guess) is to work in REPE or at a REIT, I was just wondering which roles would set me up to get to that point in the future.

Any advice or comments you guys have would be a big help, thank again.

Comments (10)

Jun 7, 2019

You got hit with technicals by HFF for an internship? Jeez, I didn't even get any when I interviewed with them for a FT Analyst role couple years back.

Jun 7, 2019

I got hit with technicals by them before too. Might change office to office.

Jun 10, 2019

Not specific technicals per se, two senior guys came in and basically said "so what kind of technical skills do you bring to the table", I proceeded to tell them about projects I had worked on but they didn't seem satisfied by that

Jun 7, 2019

Feel free to PM me. Might be able to point you to some people.

Jun 10, 2019

Just messaged you

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Jun 10, 2019

I would recommend honing your interview skills if you aren't already very good at it. I am currently a summer intern at JLL and I have a 2.4 GPA due to some really bad life stuff a few years ago and I have zero experience. This is my first internship. However, my buddy had just gone through his second year of IB interviews and honed his skills a lot. He pretty much gave me the tools to crash course a year of interview skills and prep. Had it not been for the countless hours of practicing in the mirror, refining my "success", "failure", and "leadership" stories, and coming up with answers to all questions I could think of then there is no way I would have gotten this internship. Some offices care about GPA. That's just how it is. But some just want to see a confident, relaxed, and pleasing candidate across the table. I know I probably don't know shit yet but this is just my experience. Best of luck to you!

Jun 10, 2019

I appreciate the advice man. I told myself I would set up mock interviews with the career center when I got back to school last fall but never ended up following through, definitely need to work on my stories a lot more.

Most Helpful
Jun 10, 2019
Jsb54:

I just have a few questions:
- Will companies look down upon the fact that I've worked at this office for 2 summers? It's the only real estate experience I have and the name isn't well known. If so, how should I address this?

No. If anything it shows you did a good job the first summer and they brought you back. If anything, people will probably wonder why you aren't being brought on full time.

Jsb54:

- I would love to work for one of the big nationwide real estate companies such as CBRE, Cushman, JLL, HFF, Eastdil etc doing investment sales/debt placement or something similar but every time I apply online, I feel like my application goes into a black hole and I often don't hear back. Is networking the main way to get into these firms?

100%. Those jobs require networking - why would they hire someone who doesn't get the concept initially. I am interested though in why you want to leave your owner/developer and go work as a third party broker.

Jsb54:

- Will firms care about ARGUS/BIWS certifications? During my HFF interview I was grilled by two guys on what technical skills I brought to the table and I got a bit flustered describing my projects this past summer and what technical skills I used/learned, which is a big reason why I didn't get the job (I think). I wanted to address this weakness with these courses but I'm curious if you guys think it will make a difference.

No one will care about BIWS. That's for your benefit and knowledge base. ARGUS cert will carry weight with firms that require ARGUS. How exactly did you come up short on these questions? Like, what did they ask and how did you respond?

Jsb54:

- I had a really bad semester two years ago which hurt my GPA but I've since raised it to a 3.4 and have made deans list every semester since. I just wanted to know if you guys think will be an issue for me going forward. I have one more semester and I hope to raise it to a 3.5 but I'm curious if that was holding me back

It may be an issue at Blackstone but for most places it won't be. There are a ton of people here who had sub 3.0 GPAs for whatever reason.

Jsb54:

- My goal (like everyone else I guess) is to work in REPE or at a REIT, I was just wondering which roles would set me up to get to that point in the future.

I would think many people here are not trying to work in REPE or at a REIT some day. For instance, I work in development, and my goal is to be a developer. Perhaps a more thorough understanding of the industry would help not only you decide on what you want, but also your interactions with people in interviews.

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Jun 10, 2019

To answer your questions:

I'd like to leave the company I'm currently at to work at a third party broker after I graduate school in December because I feel that I would be best served being in a position where I can see a lot of different transactions in different markets/asset classes. After more informational interviews that I can count, the one thing I've heard from everyone I've spoken to has been to put yourself in a position to see and learn as much as you can about the industry, this is what really attracted me to working with HFF's debt team. If I were to stay at my current firm, I would start in a property management position and I'd like to be in a more institutional environment for a few years.

As far as the technical question, two senior guys came in and asked me what technical skills I brought to the table. I went on to describe my main project last year which consisted of me exploring strategies of re positioning one of the older, under performing multi-family assets on the upper west side. This involved me valuing the building under different assumptions, assembling comps for other buildings in the area, exploring a sale of the asset, and a re-development plan. I'm not sure if they wanted me to specifically explain the technical skills I possessed, but I remember getting a bit flustered and basically repeated my first answer because I wasn't sure where I went wrong. I had good experiences with all the other groups before that, but that one didn't go too well.

I shouldn't have said everyone else, I know there are a lot of different paths in real estate that aren't in PE or publicly traded REITs, I was just acknowledging that its a common path/goal

Jun 10, 2019
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