Having a very difficult time breaking into CRE (Please Help - I'm Desperate)

Lucky Luciano's picture
Rank: Orangutan | 305

Hello everyone,

I'm opening up about my struggle breaking into CRE as it has become a desperate situation and I'm seeking any advice or words of encouragement I can get. Here is my story.

2008-2012
Attended a large public state school in the southeast. Changed majors a few times, decided to pursue a career in urban planning

2013-2016
My first job out of college I worked at a major, publicly-traded telecom tower company in the southeast. My job was to source opportunities to acquire rooftop space to build antennas and facilitate the acquisition and due diligence process - i.e. legal, regulatory approvals, etc. I enjoyed this work but started to get interested in finance and investment and decided I wanted to try to parlay these skills into a commercial real estate career. Started applying to some real estate analyst jobs around the end of 2016 without much success. I realized I had a lot to learn and decided I would pursue an MSRE to assist in my career pivot.

May 2017- May 2019
I left my job in May of 2017 and moved to NYC to attend NYU's MSRE program in the fall. During the program, I held internships with 3 different boutique real estate firms; two on the principal side and one debt brokerage shop. Graduated in May of this year.

Job Search
I started my job search in back January. Since then I have applied to over 700 jobs. I have had interviews at 21 different companies and only received one offer (I turned it down because it only paid $65k which would have made it very difficult in NYC especially with student loan payments - in hindsight I should have taken it, but I didn't know I would have this much difficulty finding something). Some of the interviews went on to final rounds, but I didn't receive an offer. I had phone interviews with another 25 companies that didn't lead to anything beyond a first call. I largely concentrated my search in NYC and the surrounding area, but there were a handful of applications I submitted out-of-state. I looked for analyst and associate roles for all types of real estate firms: owner operators, LP firms, banks, debt funds, development firms, brokerage shops, etc.

After 5 months of joblessness after graduation, I was unable to afford the cost of living in New York and ran out of money. I'm back home living at my parents house in my late 20s, with hefty student loan payments bearing down on me - feeling lost and dejected. I've been reflecting on my approach and why things have gone the way they have. I have a few ideas:

1) I'm in a weird in-between scenario where I am not qualified enough for associate roles and I'm competing with people who have a few years of full time experience as an analyst, but for Analyst roles I'm a bit of an odd case and I'm competing against people who are coming out of undergrad and are more traditional hires for Analyst roles.

2)Maybe CRE is much more competitive than I originally anticipated. Real Estate teams are mostly lean operations and only hire one analyst at a time, and there is a great degree of scrutiny that goes into each hiring decision.

3)Maybe being in ultra-competitive NYC didn't help my situation either. Perhaps I would be better served in a different market.

4)Maybe I just suck. I don't think I'm super awkward or anything - I have a pretty normal personality and I feel like I have been doing ok in interviews - perhaps there are some things I can work on, but for the most part I am comfortable with my interview skills.

5) Maybe I didn't do a good enough job of networking. I had a couple of coffee chats with VPs of large firms, but nothing really came out of the meetings. I had a couple of connections lead my to jobs that I ended up getting interviews for. I could have done more in this area.

My plan going forward is to spend the next couple of months at home through the holidays and work a part time job, stay sharp on my modeling, and apply for jobs. I'm considering hitting the reset button in January and using my savings to move to a new market and start from scratch - I really like the idea of living in LA for the lifestyle but understand it may have some of the same negative qualities as NYC (competitive; high cost of living). I'm also considering Chicago, Dallas, and Atlanta.

I would appreciate any comments, questions, and advice on what I should do from here. It has been a long, stressful, and exhausting process. I'm trying to stay positive and keep pushing for the hope that something will eventually go my way.

Comments (56)

Nov 5, 2019

Not beating a dead horse (or whore), but if you were "desperate" and your hopes and dreams were to break into CRE, then you should have accepted the job. Some experience is better than no experience. Lesson learned.

Continue to network and reach out to Alumni from your school. Hell, I'd even cold call VPs, Directors, or talent management professionals and seek an internship. Brokerages are usually always hiring as well (SIG, M&M, etc.). You're already living at home so your overhead is probably low. Most people don't have that opportunity. Try and use that to your advantage.

Best of luck!

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Nov 5, 2019

Yeah in hindsight this was a mistake, but I wasn't desperate at the time. I got the offer in May just as I was graduating from the MSRE program and I stupidly thought "hey, this is easy. I should be able to get a ton of offers." I was wrong.

Thanks for your input!

  • Analyst 1 in RE - Comm
Nov 5, 2019

This is a pretty brutal read. Hopefully you get your big break soon.

Have you tried reaching out to the places where you interned? If you did a good job, I don't see why they wouldn't bring you on. I would also focus on landing analyst positions. I know you could probably do associate work and are "too old" for an analyst position, but many associate positions are reserved for those who already have real estate experience. You may be just wasting your time with associate level interviews. If all else fails and you really can't land an offer, I would take an internship. Some money/experience is better than none. You can always keep hunting while interning.

Good luck.

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Nov 5, 2019

The internships I had were all at very small boutique firms that don't have the bandwidth to bring folks in on a full time basis. After working 3 internships in school, I'm not thrilled about the idea of taking another one - but it may come to that unfortunately. Thanks for your input.

  • Analyst 1 in RE - Comm
Nov 5, 2019

It's just bad timing with everyone and their mother preparing for a downturn. I have noticed a slowdown in hiring across most industries. I think you just have to start networking really hard and landing a job that way. Many jobs actually don't make it onto the job boards due to being filled internally or by postings on school-specific boards.

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Nov 5, 2019

Have you applied for investment sales and/or debt capital markets roles? Those are a good way to get experience. My best analysts have come from those roles ... they know how to model, they know how to put presentations together, they've been exposed to "selling" (ie, telling a coherent and compelling story), and they're hungry to get on the principal side. Also, I presume you have Argus training? Lastly, is there a particular real estate asset class you're trying to get into (office, retail, multifamily, industrial) ... you should have a perspective on this.

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Nov 5, 2019

Thanks for the reply. I did interview for an analyst job with a capital markets team at JLL/CW/CBRE but unfortunately didn't get an offer. I would love to get in with a group like that and will continue to apply at brokerage shops.

I do have Argus experience. I took an Argus course at NYU and also used it at one of my internships.

I'm pretty agnostic to asset class and obviously would accept a job at a firm that invests in any one of them. I focused on a different class at each of my internships so one of them was multifamily, one of them was retail/office/industrial and one of them was all asset classes. I try to use that to my advantage during interviews and explain how "X" was my favorite based on whatever property type that company invests in.

Nov 5, 2019

Yes, RE is way more competitive than people realize. Barriers to entry into the industry are low. Additionally, you are not qualified for an associate level position because you have no direct experience. There has been a glut of students going into MSRE and firms know hiring one of them means a larger expected comp.

I give this advice to anyone who listens to me for breaking into RE - get certified in Argus and start marketing to yourself with intensity to investment sales and capital markets brokerage firms. These firms always have analyst turnover and always have a scarcity of go-to Argus analysts. This is a guaranteed marketable skill set that is in current demand. It is a numbers game - cold email 100+ VP's/MD's across a wide array of markets with the Argus certification in hand plus your education and you will get a hit.

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Nov 5, 2019

Great piece of advice. Thank you.

Nov 5, 2019

For sure. I know how it feels man, and it is tempting to throw in the towel and give up. Instead, relentlessly keep going, send more emails and apply to more jobs. Use your free time to get in the best shape of your life and focus heavily on personal health. Focus on what is controllable and accept what is not controllable, this is difficult but imperative.

From my experience, Dallas and Atlanta still have a ton of opportunities in RE. I wanted to get to Houston badly and for whatever reason it has been impossible to get any interest there.

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Nov 19, 2019

Preach

Most Helpful
Nov 5, 2019

Stop beating yourself up, it isn't going to help you moving forward. I obviously don't know you personally, but based on your story I have a few thoughts on how to boost your traction:

  1. Start treating the job search as a full-time gig. You need to be spending 7-8 hours a day trying to generate traction and make this happen.
  2. Stop applying to online jobs, period. These are a huge time suck and your resume gets thrown in with a billion others. You have gaps in your resume which may make it difficult to compete with 100 other candidates at once, but that can be overcome via #3.
  3. Start old school networking like your life depends on it. You reference "a couple of coffee chats" that "didn't lead to anything." You need to take a much longer-term approach to these meetings, and they should be your bread and butter going forward. I would recommend you find a way to physically get to your target market and schedule at least one a day, but preferably 2 or 3. It may take 4-5 months of these meetings to gain traction, but RE jobs are frequently a function of being in the right place in the right time....you want to be top of mind for someone who has an opening they need to fill ASAP.
  4. Use a couple of the hours in the 8 hr. block you are working each day to take a GETREFM or other modeling class.
  5. You need to come up with a story to explain your job gap in 2019 that isn't not being able to find a job. Say you traveled and are just coming back into the job market after the MSRE or something.

I think you need to consider running with some of the steps above for at least 3 months before you consider that you have a "problem." Crushing some old school networking like a full time job, with an NYU MSRE and 3-years of pretty relevant real estate experience...you'll be fine.

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Nov 5, 2019

@Ricky Rosay Thank you for the great advice. I will ramp up my networking efforts.

Nov 16, 2019

I know I'm late but I don't mind taking a look at your resume to give you some feedback. I recently went through the whole job hunt cycle so I completely understand where you are coming from.

Nov 20, 2019

This is tee'd up nicely. And if you just aren't feeling it along the way - put on a David Goggins interview or video clip on youtube.

Nov 5, 2019
  1. Try and get feedback from the people who interviewed you. I also had a great deal of experience graduating and interviewed at several top brokerages and boutique firms on the principal side. I was nailing all of the technicals and acting appropriately and could not figure out why I was not getting the offer after a few different superdays. One associate was kind enough to give me feedback about what I was doing wrong and at my next interview I tweaked certain things I was saying/doing and landed an offer.
  2. Apply for analyst roles and do not over estimate how much you think you know. I am sure you learned how to underwrite and analyze data well at internships and in school, but there are a million things to learn on the legal/management/negotiating/ etc. sides of the business that you could not have learned in class.
  3. Take online RE courses to build that "story" as mentioned above. I have a friend who is studying for the CFA as he has not landed a job yet since graduating (he is aiming more at mainstream finance roles)
  4. Use SelectLeaders.com to find positions. Its the best source for RE jobs. Don't just click apply, spam the people who work at the firm on LinkedIn/Email. It is also easier to find roles at brokerage shops (but the pay might not be as good or can be commission based)
  5. Use your RE network from previous jobs or in school and ask for introductions or referrals. (Also, like half of NYU's RE students come from family offices so they will 100% know people.)
    • 1
Nov 5, 2019

@LarrySilverstein-ish Thanks for the feedback. PMing you a question.

Nov 6, 2019

One year ago I was in your exact shoes and I couldn't understand what was "wrong with me".

Really, there was nothing wrong, its just the supply/demand of roles (RE is hot right now).

Biggest pieces of advice:

  1. Call the decision makers (the CEO or big time broker you assume are impossible to reach), and get in front of them. Stop calling the middle or lowest people on the totem pole. It's the people at the top that make the decisions and can change your life at the snap of their fingers.
  2. Prestige doesn't matter. Acquire a skill, and then go for prestige later. Just get your foot in the door.
    ..It's likely your CEO worked his way up from a smaller firm elsewhere.
  3. Remember this experience and how painful it is. It's moments like these that build you up to be great. It's what makes you the hungriest analyst at the company; it's what makes you the hardest worker. Internalize this shit so when you get your opportunity, you never come back.
    • 6
Nov 6, 2019

Thank you - this is motivational and gives me hope. Thanks for the advice.

Nov 6, 2019

No worries, happy to help.

Don't quit and make sure to keep us updated on what happens! Good things are ahead

Nov 6, 2019

If you're targeting debt funds, devo shops, or owner operators, have you thought about appraisal?

Probably not the most glamorous way to break into the industry, but I think this is a good way to get your foot in the door and gain a solid fundamental understanding of real estate valuations, which then becomes a useful tool for lateral movements.

From experience, I found myself in appraisal shortly after graduating when I was lost trying to figure out what to do. One of the guys I worked with ended up moving to MF acquisitions at another firm, and I myself transitioned to acquisitions after doing appraisals for about 6 months. Ill never forget the experience of driving up to the middle of nowhere in the New England winter to inspect shitty <10k sf mixed use buildings....

It seems unusual given the typical acq. pool consists of former REIT banking analysts, but one of the guys at my new company came up this way as well and recruiters have told me that they do consider such backgrounds.

Depending on the size of your shop, you just get such a broad exposure in valuations, from examining scope of the industry for the asset class or tenant and market demographics etc on top of the actual valuations. Knowing this helps a lot in showcasing your knowledge in interviews

    • 6
Nov 6, 2019

This is absolutely spot on. My first job outta UG was at a boutique appraisal firm and was able to leverage 8 months of that to get into asset management. Not the most "sexy" part of the industry, but provides you with a lot of ground-level real estate knowledge that you will use for the rest of your career.

Nov 6, 2019

@shermanmccoy14 Thank you. You make some solid points. Appraisal probably isn't the sexiest way to break in, but it could be a great way of getting some solid experience. I've been humbled by this process so I'm not in a position to disregard appraisal as an option.

Nov 19, 2019

Very humbling... but a means to an end.

As an appraiser, brokers can't be bothered to give you a shred of market info. Once in acquisitions, all of a sudden they're clogging your junk inbox with bs deals each week.

Work hard, be nice to people, and keep your eyes on the prize...

Nov 6, 2019

Message me

Nov 6, 2019

@Lucky Luciano - happy to donate a free 30min mentor sessions with someone from our mentor network in CRE. hit up [email protected] with this post as a screenshot and we'll hook it up.

I think giving someone your story that you aren't trying to network with and can give you an honest quick assessment of your resume + potential interview weaknesses may give you that extra bit of polish so you can convert those final rounds to offers.

Also, what @Ricky Rosay posted above is great advice. The "couple of coffee chats" is a red flag, especially with the high 700+ application #...

good luck!
Patrick

    • 4
  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Nov 6, 2019

Can you not try to go for a PHD? That way at least you will have a stipend to pay the bills instead of living with parents.

    • 1
    • 2
Nov 10, 2019

not a good idea for several reasons.

    • 2
    • 1
  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Nov 30, 2019

Care to state those reasons?

Nov 10, 2019

happy to introduce you to a couple of people as I am in the nyc area. pm me.

Nov 11, 2019

Where are you living with your parents? Still in NYC or a different area?

Nov 11, 2019

south florida

Nov 18, 2019
Lucky Luciano:

south florida

South FL is not bad. There are firms and jobs down there. You might not have to move and if you can find something that either doesn't pay right off the bat or pays peanuts, you could possibly survive with your parents in the meantime?

Nov 11, 2019

Sent you a DM. Happy to try to help.

The advice you got above is really quite solid. I would add to it that you can walk into the room with both "gifts" and "proof."

What I mean by that is that you want to walk into a potential hiring situation with a number of deals in hand to show the person, and get them to think of you as the guy who can find and bring them unique opportunities that you have properly underwritten.

And by "proof" I mean that you can show up in the room with a printed out book of all of your NYU work, and any additional work you can showcase. Doing so changes your risk profile to the employer. You go from handwaiving and swearing that you know how to do a model, to showing them in paper form how you would have analyzed a deal how you would have put together a complex waterfall model, how you would do X,Y,Z. You help the hiring manager go from "I hope the guy can do the job" to "I know the guy can do the job because he showed me."

Happy to spend a half hour with you on the phone if it helps

    • 3
Nov 11, 2019

Thanks for the reply. A friend of mine gave me this exact advice a few months back and my interviews went from "one and done" first rounders to making it to final rounds. I'm going to continue doing this and would recommend it to anyone else going through a similar situation. It's been a game changer.

Nov 14, 2019

Take a look at CRE Investment Sales or debt brokerage at primarily boutiques, nationwide in the major markets. This sell side of the CRE business has a pretty low barrier of entry. It pays low initially, yet it proves your commitment to work in CRE. Over time you'd get paid more 6 months in, then you can transition to bigger things in CRE 2-4 years out.
Remember, you need to get your first break. CRE Investment Sales or debt brokerage are your best options to get hired quickly regardless of experience. Hustle hard, make your mark, and it's all uphill from there.

Nov 16, 2019

solid advice. I took this route and def helped.

Nov 16, 2019

A motto I always follow in life is... don't follow the money, follow the experience and money will follow.

This is an advice for all you young people.

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Nov 18, 2019

Wise.

Nov 16, 2019

This might sound crazy but on top of the other things people mentioned, put your resume on indeed.com and apply for jobs there too. People are going to call me a liar, but back when I was looking, I probably batted over 20% on at least getting calls back after applying for analyst positions. Which is unheard of for online postings.

Nov 18, 2019

This and LinkedIn "Quick Apply" ads. For whatever reason I get a much better response ratio simply sending my resume to these job ads over LinkedIn than I did filling out endless job forms on company's websites. I suspect, and this has been confirmed by talking to HR people I know, that many of these job postings on large company's websites are not for actual positions and instead are data-mining exercises.

    • 1
Nov 16, 2019

Send me a PM. I'm happy to speak with you.

Nov 17, 2019

Just keep interviewing and networking. It took me about 4 mths to get a job in CRE that's not 100% commission.

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Nov 21, 2019

Look into networking with NYC's Real Estate Developers.

Nov 25, 2019
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  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Nov 30, 2019