Beginning a career in CRE advice

How's it going, I'm currently a junior in college studying finance. I'm looking to break into CRE by doing an internship this coming summer. I have a couple questions related to starting in CRE.

  1. How does one decide the right market to start their career in. It seems that in real estate most end up in the town they begin at (is this true) due to their connections built.

  2. My school is connected with the local CRE association which lands students internships in the area. The problem is, I've been in the area all my life (pre k - college) I want to experience a new area and leave the comfortability of the old. Should I try to land an internship in the area since I have no experience? Then upon graduation try to move to a more preferred area. Or skip the local internship as a whole and find one in a desired city.

Comments (3)

Most Helpful
Dec 6, 2021 - 12:36pm

Here are my answers... but first a general thought.... there are "market" driven CRE roles (like most of brokerage, development, prop mngt, leasing, appraisal, etc.) and there are more "national" type roles (capital markets, investment management, research/strategy, corporate real estate, etc.). So, if you are going or aiming for a more "national" type career... where you start has much more to do with your opportunity set, than really your career potential. IF you go "market" and stay in that lane, then yeah, you can easily get wedded to your market and moving can be very painful (like restarting even). Many people start "market" then go "national" or "corporate" so that is also a point. I drop that point as my answers to your questions really only relate to "market".

1. A lot of people start where they get offered a job, then they stay. Clearly, some markets are growing faster, are larger, and thus need more people, those attract more as a result. I'd say, yes a lot of people build a career where they start, this is expect if you have a market driven job as described above. That said, I know many people with market driven jobs who do actually jump to other markets for market driven jobs.... this is easiest when junior (like analyst), much harder when you are more senior. 

2. I guess you could attempt both... meaning apply to target market jobs/internships (like where you want to go), and seek some local (kinda like "safety jobs"). If at all possible, I'd strongly try and go with a national/big name. If you intern with a CBRE/JLL office locally, getting referred to another office is possible. Even if the internal deal fails, the big name will be recognized and help you more in other markets. That said, there are always major, legit local firms in every market (some even dominate in secondary markets)... these are great places to work/intern, and do not make it impossible to move to other markets (especially if just as an internship). So, get the best internship you can (most deal exposure and/or legit work), that's what matters now. Truth be told, a well connected university real estate program will land you the best ops often (but they will be back yard ones often as well). (so, a note to add to question 1, yes some people start in the market where they go to school or the ones closest/most connected, regardless of where they are from, this does happen very often).

If you have a list of target/interested cities, you can network and try for an internship, or at least make a run for that type of job after graduation. Local CRE organizations are often part of big national ones with other local outposts (like NAIOP/ULI), so you can actually use those to make out-of-market connections (hint, ask the local members who serve on the national boards/committees to help you). You can also search out school alum in the target cities. So, finding out-of-market jobs/internships is totally doable (happens all the time in reality), but is much more work on your part (including trips to the city to meet people at your expense). 

So, to your real question.... how do you pick a market???? Eh, I think you have to just find the place you kinda love/want to work in (and this can shift over a career tbh). If you want to leave the 'home town', then you should. The question is do you want to come back there to raise a family, or do you really want to leave forever. This is far from a fair question to ask someone who is a junior in UG, you have no real idea (as you have only lived in that town apparently). So, if you go to another city (I'm guessing one that is larger or even major metro like NYC, Chicago, LA, etc.), you just have to decide if you want to keep flexible by working more "national" type roles (of which there are more in major markets) or want to go all in on the "market" career there. 

The real bottom line.... the best job is the one you get offered... which is also where it is offered. A similar construct for property type and specialty can be argued as well. My advice, just get in the game, can figure all this out. You may do an internship or two and find you hate CRE and want to an actor or something, won't be first.  

Dec 7, 2021 - 11:37am

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