Career Advice? Aka what should my next move be?

Hello fellow monkeys,

I'm sort of at a crossroads and could use some help figuring out what my next move should be. If any of you can offer any advice, I'd be extremely grateful.

I graduated from a non-target state school May 2013. Didn't have anything lined up by graduation and was going insane, so when I finally received an offer I took it. Back office of all back offices at a BB doing tax reporting. Essentially, ensuring that the firm was providing accurate 1099's to clients and the IRS. A few globally applied macros but for the most part just data processing/entry.

After around 6 months of this; I landed a new opportunity. A local real estate developer(around ~3000 residential units and ~4,500,000 sq.ft. of retail)'s CFO and I met under odd circumstances. He mentioned that they had not run a single operating budget since 2010. They were growing like crazy (by 2016 it will be at ~5000 units and 6,000,000 sq.ft. of retail) and extremely hurt for staffing, so it had just sort of gone to the wayside. Further complicating matters was that up to 40% of property level spend was being mis-coded; so relying on past data was useless.

So I came on and spend about 2 months building operating budgets; and then (at CEO's insistence) was running monthly reviews and variance reports. Sort of useless since most bills are net 30 and trickle in several weeks late, but quarterly review was a much more powerful tool. I was learning a lot about how the operating financials of a developer works, and even got to help prepare underwriting documents (especially in relation to projected operating financials) for a couple new deals.

I recently, however, received word that the CEO (mercurial to say the least) felt that each region's regional property manager should be administering the operating budget; since they would have the expertise to say what is acceptable variance due to the nature of the individual property, and what is the result of lax spending. As such, I'm due to be laid off at the end of the year. I'm not exactly sure what happened; I do believe the CFO went to bat for me as they're letting me keep my Christmas bonus (nothing spectacular, but I suppose its the thought that counts).

As for my actual questions:
1) Where the hell should I be looking for my next opportunity? I have done the usual and am setting up a few informational/informal sit downs at REIB's and RE units at larger firms. What and where else should I be doing to find the next gig?

2) How the hell do I explain that I only spent ~7 months here before being let go? I feel like that is such a huge red flag on my resume; that it will come across as if I was so incompetent that they knew in less than a year that they didn't want me. In reality, I'm aware things aren't that black and white, and that the firm itself had an EXTREMELY high rate of turnover. Still, I'm worried about how this will be perceived

3) Any general advice on things I may not be thinking of? New avenues or something that I may not be thinking of? I'm not particularly married to Real Estate; but I did enjoy my first taste of it.

Sorry for the essay, thanks in advance.

Comments (10)

Dec 24, 2014

How the hell did a company with a portfolio of that magnitude not run a operating budget for 4 years...?

If you get good experience operationally, I suspect you may be able to land a gig at a smaller operator/local developer in AM, since thats a big part of their jobs or you can go try intern somewhere in a more "frontoffice" type position.

What exactly in RE are you interested in?

I've been in shittier jobs than you and am working acquisitions now, so this may be a slight setback but I wouldn't let this deter you - you can def. spin your story.

    • 1
Dec 24, 2014

@"JimboUSC"

1) The business is not run anywhere near efficiently. I don't know how else to say it. The owner is a guy whose father-in-law is a wealthy developer (~250 million) with DEEP connections (we wouldn't use a bank if the owner didn't know the CEO personally). There are several residential properties with occupancy below 80% and even one or two below 70%.

2) Since this was my first foray into the real estate side of things, I'm not even sure exactly what Asset Management for a RE developer ACTUALLY consists of. Care to expand?

3) Honestly, my favorite aspect of RE is the fact that there is a physical asset behind it that has some intrinsic value that can almost certainly be said to be worth something. Tomorrow a new law gets passed that changes how car sales work and Tesla could go from several hundred a share to 0. Even if the RE market crashes, the fact is that its got 4 walls and a roof and someone is going to pay something to live there.

Ideally, I'd like to get more and more experience on the underwriting side of things. If everything goes perfectly I want to be in a position to eventually be a small-scale developer myself. Realistically though, I'd like to work somewhere a bit more...institutional? An alternative assets department at a BB or medium sized bank sounds fucking perfect, as an example.

4) Lol any suggestions on the spin? I feel like the usual "it just didn't work out, wasn't a good fit" sounds fucking stupid and will have someone thinking "whats the real story that he doesn't want to tell me".

Dec 24, 2014

Ask them--your current firm--if they can place you in an on-site role at a property.

I'm shocked that a company growing so rapidly doesn't have a need for personnel.

Dec 24, 2014

@"DCDepository"

I've already gone through the HR motions, received my severance, and turned in my stuff. They're paying me till the 31st, but for all intents and purposes I'm done here. In any case, I'm not sure how I'd add any semblance of value at a property. The only on-site staff are the maintenance team, the property manager, and leasing consultants.

The company has an extreme need for personnel. It just recycles people like crazy. There was a period over the summer where over there were 2500 residential units being managed by regional property managers and the corporate office because on-site managers had been let go. Corporate went on an insane hiring drive and hired 5-7 property mangers in the span of 3 weeks. Less than 11 weeks later, 2 of those property managers were canned (and not due to something crazy like getting caught stealing...just being told that they weren't what we were looking for).

I'm focusing on how to move on. I actually think you dropped some advice my way when I was first getting out of college and looking for work. Haha anything you'd like to drop on me now would be awesome.

Dec 24, 2014

From the sounds of it, your experience actually sounds pretty good to me. Depending on how you can spin it, you could make this sounds like a project you took on. You showed a lot of initiative and was involved in setting up a reporting system. Don't play that down!

I would focus on the informational interviews you have lined up. Especially if you are not particular about continuing in real estate, this is a great time for you to think about what you would really like to do.

Dec 25, 2014

@"taliacottage"

Yes, I'm actually pretty happy with the experience I gained, especially in relation to the roughly 7 months I put in. Not many guys get to administer a budget of this size at my age. What worries me is that I only did it for a short amount of time. In my ideal world, I would've spent another year or so here. This would've given me several more quarterly reviews, as well as hopefully gaining more and more exposure to how we underwrite deals.

In the here and now though, I'm more concerned with spinning how they let me go after such a short amount of time, and setting up more informational interviews. Part of this is just the time of the year. Letting me know the week before Christmas put me in a position where I can't set anything up for two solid weeks. And as always, there is no such thing as enough sit downs. I'm just trying to get in front of as many people as possible. In this sort of economy there are so many hungry people that are trying to network their ways into positions that its sometimes tough to get past all the noise.

Dec 25, 2014

What geographic market are you in?

Dec 26, 2014

@"DCDepository"
NY/NJ. I'm back in Jersey right now, but I can commute to downtown in an hour, which has me thinking that I should look beyond just RE. Pretty much any company that runs a budget is something that I can see my experience being at least somewhat relevant to. I'm still pretty on the fence on whether or not I want to stay in RE, and tbh, I think the decision is going to made based upon the first solid offer I get. RE interests me, but I feel like its a business that just doesn't pay the way other facets of finance do (unless you're the owner).

Really, I'm planning on spreading my tentacles as far as I can reach and judging my situation based on the individual opportunities presented to me. If someone offers me work that interests me, is skill building, and compensates me fairly, I'm game. If its in RE, great. If not, thats awesome too. For that matter, I'm 23 and single. If a great job comes up in London, I'll hop on a plane tomorrow. I just don't want this blip to throw me off track;before they let me go I felt like I was learning 10 new things every day. I want to keep growing.

Dec 26, 2014

Emcee PM me..and let me know what company you worked if you want..i'm familiar with the region.

Dec 28, 2014
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