@WallStreetOasis.com has been invaluable to me since I decided 5 years ago to make a career change into commercial real estate (from non finance) so its my turn to give back. I hope my story can help some people.
- Extreme non-target school (undergrad and MBA)
- Worked 10 years in non-finance employment (and unemployment as a stay at home parent), did some entrepreneurial ventures
- Got a CRE brokerage job in secondary market from a different city.
- Moved to RE development after a year
- Got hired as VP of dev after 3 years
- Look like a loser on paper so I've had to rely 100% on networking
The networking side of my story is really unique and life changing so I've expounded on it below but feel free to ask about the work itself.
My First CRE Job (in another city)
After 10 years of non-real estate related activity (but some entrepreneurship, which CRE people love) I networked my way into an investment sales position with a JLL/CW/CBRE in a secondary market. I was living in another city at the time and got the job solely through informational interviews. A veteran CRE guy told me if I had informational interviews in person with everyone I could, and would ask them three questions (how they got into CRE, what's their favorite thing about it, and what advice would they give to someone looking to break into it), follow up with an email, and then keep in touch, within 6 months I would have a job. He was right.
So I had a friend (the only friend I had in CRE) make the intro, telling them I am moving to his city in 6 months to work in commercial real estate and would really appreciate just getting the lay of the land. When I emailed or called to set up the meeting I told them I'd be in their city these 3 days next week and asked to meet with them. If they had to postpone the meeting I ended up eating the cost of the plane ticket. It was about this time I discovered WSO and I can honestly say I wouldn't have made it this far without it. It taught this non-CRE person the lingo I needed and how to play the office politics game, which didn't come naturally to me. Anyway, got a job offer after a few months and moved my whole family to work there. It was funny, I actually applied with that same group several times before (albeit different cities) and never even got a call back. It took a personal intro since brokers are always hiring and never hiring.
Moving from Brokerage to Development
A year after being a broker's grunt I took a job at a real estate developer company as an analyst. Got the job through another networking win. I went to a speech a guy from the company was giving to a local CRE group and afterward I went up and introduced myself and asked if I could have his card. I followed up with an email thanking him for his speech and how inspirational it was. A few weeks later I applied for an analyst job at his firm and emailed him to say that I just applied for X job and was wondering if he could tell me anything about the job. He told the HR manager to look out for my resume and I got the job. The HR woman admitted if he hadn't had pointed me out she never would have called me (remember, I look like a loser on paper).
From Unemployed to VP
Fast forward 3 years, my company gets bought out. I had seen the writing on the wall and started looking for a new job but didn't actually get one until I had been unemployed for a few months. My acquiring company had offered me a new job with more money but with a worse title which would have made it harder to get another job, so after asking the advice of some recruiters I turned it down and was unemployed for a few months.
From applications I put in for jobs I got some phone interviews, from headhunters it was a bit better with a few in-person interviews, but it wasn't hiring season and I to rely on networking again. I cold-messaged (via linked in) similar dev firms, and all former employees now at other firms and told them I just wanted to connect because I've been impressed with their work and if they ever have an opening I'd love to be considered. I got a few interviews and one of those turned into my dream job (2x my prior salary, 4x prior bonus, as VP of Dev in a primary market).
Doing my Own Deals
I'll be honest, one thing that helped me get to this point is that even as an analyst I was hustling to try and get my own development going. I saw first hand that it was the developers, not the brokers, investors, or owners, who were making the big bucks, so that was my goal. I started finding sites in my city and putting together pitch books to pitch to potential capital partners. One took, and that was all I needed.
I'm hoping it's the start of my own small development company, but I won't see money from it until next year (the dev fee when it starts) and then of course when it sells in 2 years) but in the meantime that one deal helped give me the credibility and "school of hard knocks" lessons I needed to prove myself as a viable VP candidate. I disclosed it to my new company and it wasn't a problem since a lot of my work is done. If people are interested in the specifics of doing my own deal, so I can do a separate post on that.
Do you want a 1 on 1 mentoring session with me? Here's my mentor profile - click here.