Am I crazy to turn down a chance to work on luxury high-rises?

I'm a project manager with an opportunity to work on luxury high rises for a relatively small development shop, and they have a line up of towers I could work on for the next 5-10yrs. These guys are shaping the skyline of my city (2-3 million population). Base pay is 25% less than what I would like it to be, could be somewhat made up on discretionary bonus, but would not go up much over the next 5 years (we discussed this openly).

The real problem I have is they want the person they hire to stay as a PM long term (at least 5 years), and I want to move to the development side soon (within 2yrs max). I'm a bit older and I want to make this jump soon. It sounds pretty clear I won't get that opportunity here so I'm thinking of turning it down. Am I crazy to pass up on the opportunity to work on this asset type? Seems like opportunities like these do not come around often, but they admitted there's not room right now for fast advancement at their company. I have another offer to keep doing PM consulting work at a 25% higher base pay (think JLL/CBRE) so I'm thinking I will do that and seek out another development role later.

tl;dr Talk me into taking this offer to work on high-rises. What benefits am I not thinking of long-term that I will miss out on by passing up this opportunity?

Comments (18)

Aug 23, 2018

I'm thinking about my response for a minute. How much leverage do they like to use, and is it all condos?

Aug 23, 2018

I don't know how they structure deals. They have some towers that are all condos, some hotel/condo combination towers, and some mixed use sites. Money is mostly foreign. I won't be involved in the finance side of how deals are done, I'll be doing strictly construction project management.

Aug 24, 2018

I agree with @CRE below, if that's the deal they've laid out for you, don't let that factor into your decision- worry about yourself and how this experience will get you where you want to be. I'm not a developer, but I have to imagine working on only high-rises may pigeonhole you into high-rise development (which is fine, just something to keep in mind).

If considering this myself, I think I'd have to weigh it against my other options/current position and how they are going to position me to get where I want to be in the next ~5 years.

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Aug 24, 2018

What they want (5 year commitment) shouldn't really factor into your decision, especially given the low pay and apparent inability for your compensation to scale over the next 5 years, which is bullshit anyhow.

If you think it's worth the 25% pay cut to get two years of fantastic experience and then jump ship, and on a very, very high level it certainly sounds like it could be, then go for it. I would hire a PM on the construction side of a development shop over a PM consultant at JLL, all things equal.

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Aug 24, 2018

The low pay is bs, but they weren't looking for someone as qualified as I am - I applied anyway. I'm also starting a part-time MSRE, that's why I want to push the two year timeline. My resume has some significant names and numbers on it, and this would polish it off like no other. But fuck, I'm torn. To do it does make sense for my long term goal, but I could also use the cash flow right now by moving to this other consulting office.

The last point on hiring you make is pretty good, didn't consider that.

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Aug 24, 2018

~50 days ago I was deadset on leaving my current company--I was ready to go immediately. I was offered a job--and almost took a job--in a random city in Maryland that would have required me to move out of the D.C. area, my lifelong home. I was seeking advice about what to do and my buddy proverbially grabbed me by the collar and said, "Bro, you've got a great resume and the economy is strong; you're not happy at your current job, but it pays well and it's safe. You have no reason to make a move out of desperation. Wait for the perfect opportunity to come along." A month later that perfect opportunity came along about 10 minutes down the road.

None of us can tell you what to do, but if you feel like you're taking a job out of "desperation" (not actual desperation, but maybe exasperation with the process or fear nothing better will come through) then my advice is to wait for a better gig. The worse thing you can do is take a job where you enter it dissatisfied day 1. If you enter it with the wrong attitude then it's going to suck.

OTOH, if you enter this job with a good attitude and you're at peace with the comp, then that's great! That changes the equation.

Aug 24, 2018

nobody gets pigeonholed into doing high-rise. i would echo CRE's comment.

so you're currently in PM consulting? fuck that, go to the developer

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Aug 24, 2018

I would make sure they aren't talking a big game; based on my limited--but multiple--experiences (and these could be total outliers) I get the impression that the small companies are really hit and miss.

My current company (where I have 1 week left before moving on) hired a position very similar to yours--they told the hire that there would be endless development opportunities for her to work on. Yeah, well, turns out that there was so little work that she was about to jump off a building before we terminated her employment <12 months in. Then, inconceivably, 2 years later now, we've re-hired the SAME position promising endless work to the new guy. He's logging <10 hours a week of work. Finally, my friends and I threw in some money with a small developer into a luxury high-rise development about a year ago and it is stalled out due to lack of funds.

In any event, take what a small company says with a grain of salt. They may or may not have easy access to capital. They may or may not have a truly dire "need" to work on that project.

For me, I would never work for a small group again without a substantial pay increase and/or a very strong indication that they really are actively working on projects.

Aug 24, 2018

The shop seems pretty legit/stable. They have multiple completed projects in my city. They have two towers in progress now, one just starting that I will be taking over, and a very publicly known mixed use site (multiple buildings, 1 will be a tower) to break ground very soon.

Aug 24, 2018

Yeah, well, we had projects we were actively working on, too, when we made our hires. Plans changed. If you work with a large group, they re-assign you to another project when plans change. If plans change with a small group you become redundant or bored to tears; not sure which is worse.

Aug 25, 2018

Yes, I'd do my homework on the project sites they have. High rise development requires further revenue/sales price growth in the face of rising construction costs, land basis and rates. Does your market seem tapped out in terms of growth?

The other question is the quality experience of folks you get to learn under. I'd say five years ago, a company like this might be very start uppy but maybe now things have changed.

Still, if you are trying to transition from
Construction Management to Development, why not Just Do It.

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Aug 24, 2018

Thanks for the thoughts guys. Helps to be able to think out loud, even to strangers.

Aug 28, 2018