Do's and Don'ts - First Time Analyst Gig on the Horizon

I landed my first analyst job with a major CRE firm (think JLL, HFF, Cush) in a major market and it feels great. Coming from a non-target school and having to face 7 months of frequent rejection, I can finally say I found exactly the right gig working on my desired asset type (office).

With that being said, the last guy was fired... So I wanted to ask the WSO real estate forum what makes a great analyst and what makes a shitty one. Can anyone share any stories about their first weeks, months, or years on the job as an analyst in brokerage (or PE / Development). What are the Do's and Don'ts? Thanks.

Comments (12)

Most Helpful
Jul 3, 2018

How to be a great versus average analyst:

Do:

  • Take in the culture initially, read the work landscape before imposing your will so you can figure out best methods for working with your boss, coworkers and teams effectively.
  • Establish your reputation as a hard worker for at least the first year, a strong first impression will get you way more flexibility down the road. This typically means getting in and leaving after your boss and your bosses' boss.
  • Always be willing to roll up your sleeves, particularly in "emergency situations" - pulling that late night with your associate or jumping on a grenade project early in your employment can earn you a lot of respect for a relatively small time commitment.
  • Believe in the importance of details, details, details - in any work product you put together make sure you are at the very least consistent - use the same font, font size, color schemes, decimal places and formatting (for example $0.0 vs $0.00 or $1.0MM vs $1.0 million) - this sounds petty but if you have constant inconsistencies as a detail oriented person I will start to get distracted by aesthetics versus paying attention to your analysis plus if I cannot trust you to get the little things right, why should I trust you to get the big ones correct?
  • Go above and beyond your job description - this will be easier at a smaller firm with less structure and process but that folder structure that everyone complains about? That one weekly task that your Associate dreads doing? Go ahead and do it for them. This is classic "ask for forgiveness rather than permission." You will show proactive thinking and drive and in the worst case scenario you will have to apologize for overstepping boundaries but that is way better than under performance.
  • Check your work - especially if you are in financial analyst position, for a final check always print any materials and get out a physical calculator. Do the math for every calculation, you will be shocked by how many easy mistakes you will catch and make.

Don't:

  • Ditch out early - see above, the exact opposite is true. This will vary by company culture but in general don't expect to move up the ranks if you are a "9 to 5er". The right organization will support a proper work-life balance but working hard with your team is important.
  • Ignore critical feedback - if your associate or manager is sharing feedback in real time, stop and listen to what they are telling you. They likely are trying to help you improve and nothing is more frustrating as a leader when you have a team member who is unwilling or unable to change and repeatedly makes the same mistakes.
  • Be afraid to ask for help - always try to make your best attempt at figuring it out on your own before seeking help but do not be afraid to ask for further clarification. Examples include asking about priority levels of certain tasks, a technical question that is directly impacting your ability to get a critical path project done or clarification on an assignment.
  • Be embarrassed about not knowing it all - no matter what level of knowledge or stage of career progression you are at, we all started from square one. In a field as complex as development or private equity, the best are unabashed in their ignorance within certain focuses and work hard to learn daily so they can improve so do not be ashamed if you do not have all the answers.
  • Show up to meetings without a notebook/laptop - whether it is taking notes for your own learning or for documentation purposes, if you have a good leader they will issue action items as you close any discussion so a notebook helps you keep track of these for yourself and others.

That's just a couple off of the top of my head, I will brainstorm further - this is a great blog topic so thank you for the suggestion.

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Jul 3, 2018

great points. would love to hear others/any additional

Jul 13, 2018

Be first one there and last one to go

Jul 8, 2018

Always check your goddam work people

    • 3
Jul 13, 2018

Wow... fantastic. Thanks for the thorough advice.

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Jul 8, 2018

Soak up as many learning experiences as possible and be proactive (within reason lol) not reactive.

Jul 8, 2018

Always focus on solutions/results, rather than expending time. Learn to be as efficient with your time (and resources) as possible so you can complete tasks in a shorter and shorter timeframe as you gain experience. Knowing if you are expected to spend 20 mins on high level analysis vs a full day, is important to getting your superiors the info they need. Different circumstances call for different approaches.

Look for multiple solutions to everything you do. If you're looking at a new deal that on the surface doesn't pencil, ask yourself why. What are the levers or variables that could make the deal more lucrative? There could be several. Which of these are more likely to happen than the others? Being able to talk to your superior about the end result of the task you were assigned is great, but going above and beyond would include this higher level of analysis AND alternative solutions. You'll know the numbers better than anyone else as an analyst.

Jul 3, 2018

These are great answers, this reminds me of another important point - always try to think "ahead" of your leader. Try to anticipate what questions or data they may want based on your initial analysis and conclusion. Another great way to be proactive and know the numbers better than anyone else (thus advancing your development, learning and knowledge).

Jul 9, 2018

Have pre-formatted templates for everything with proper colors, styles, etc...

Avoid hardcoding figures - link everything in a model to actual client rent roll and financials then use logic formulas to pull the data into the model. This eliminates the majority of human error.

Religiously update footnotes and assumptions detail so your higher-ups can easily follow changes in a model.

Think critically about invest merits and location analysis, don't just spit out regurgitated boiler plate crap like "strategic location, below replacement cost, blah blah blah".

Don't question your superiors, even if they are wrong. It's better to stroke their ego, will get you further (even if it sucks).

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Jul 13, 2018

Volunteer to work on as many deals as possible, this will expand your knowledge of the industry. Remember you are your deal experience.

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Jul 13, 2018

Network your balls off. Build relationships with other brokers and principals - it will multiply the value you can bring to the next firm you work for exponentially.

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Jul 13, 2018
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