How do I land a role at a commercial firm (JLL, CBRE, etc.) from scratch at 26?

Am 26, have been working on/off retail for a few years and finally have funds to get my broker's license. I should have it secured by the end of February and am hoping to work in commercial brokerage (or some field of commercial).

It seems like RE has less of a structured track for getting into the industry than banking. How does one get into this industry from scratch? Just applying on websites? Launching massive amount of coffee interviews and riding those network waves?

Comments (31)

Feb 20, 2020

Your best bet is to get into leasing brokerage as barriers to entry are much smaller. Even then it may be difficult to get into one of the larger brokerages. You're going to have to sell the hiring manager on your sales ability and the fact that you're going to be OK with making a whole lot of calls and are willing to do that and make almost no money first at least the first year. Its generally easier to get your foot in the door at a smaller brokerage (although there will be less support and training there) and move to a larger firm once you have a bit of a book of business.

You're on the right path, you should be simultaneously apply on their websites and other job boards while trying to see if you can talk to anyone (fellow alumni perhaps?) to learn about the industry.

Good luck

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Feb 20, 2020

do you have your degree?

Jll/ CBRE/ Cushman all require the junior leasing people now to have a degree and they start off as a leasing analyst or a financial analyst. I work at one of the firms above and analyst start off on salary for a year or two and then start to transition into production. Once you are fully in to production that is when you are put on a draw.

If you have your degree start networking with alumni in your market.

If you don't have your degree I would suggest figuring out who the smaller players are in your market. Not sure if Marcus & Millichap require a degree or not. Figure out what exactly you want to do and what your favorite asset class is and then research from there. In your market CBRE may dominate class A office sales but I am sure there's a smaller brokerage that does deals in the 5-10M range that absolutely crushes it and doesn't require a degree.

Feb 21, 2020

Thanks. I have a BA but no Masters of any kind.

Really just a BA and soon my sales license, do I need something else to really have a shot? I am in DC market and beginning to send out the coffee requests with every middle management (maybe associate) I can find via alumni and just the aforementioned firms.

If financial analyst that'd primarily be through the firm websites or just knowing someone right? Any other tips you could provide if you have time? Thanks again.

Feb 21, 2020

Honestly at 26 with no financial analysis experience and having worked the last few years in retail I think your chances of getting a financial analyst position are slim unless you have an in somewhere. There are just more regular tracks for new college grads with recent internships to get those entry level positions. Not trying to be a naysayer but just trying to speak truth.

If you had previous sales experience it might be a different conversation but really in RE is something you want to get into leasing brokerage is your best bet. If you can carve out some space in leasing it can open a lot of doors in the community, its the path I took.

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Feb 21, 2020

I am going to be honest the sales license really won't do much for you. It may show some initiative but it isn't going to be a factor in you getting a job. SHB above me had great advice. It really is all about who you know.

Start sending out coffee requests and setting meetings. During those coffee meetings ask if they have anyone else they would be willing to connect you with in the CRE industry. With the coffee meetings be on time and wear a suit-optional tie.

You have a couple paths in to the brokerage world-
Financial analyst on the capital markets side for an investment sales team
Analyst for a leasing team

As SHB alluded to the bottom one may be the path of least resistance to you. Go have 20 coffee meetings and you will have a good idea of who the major players are in DC and what is going to take to get an entry level position. The money you were going to spend on your brokerage license may be better spent on memberships to real estate organizations like ULI, NAIOP and others that are strong in the DC market.

Also regarding the company website- for the major companies CB/ Cushman/ JLL most of the time when you see a job posting it is already filled. Best way to get a job is to network.

Feb 21, 2020

So this may be counter-intuitive advice, but I've seen it work....

You may want to apply for internships in commercial real estate (I would look beyond just the big names for sure). There really is no rule that an intern has to be in college, and firms are increasingly hiring "post-graduation" interns. This is a short-term foot in the door strategy, but there are little risks from the firms' perspective.

If you are networking in your city (and you need to be), if you find a manager of a CRE firm, ask about this potential if joining as a producer/analyst doesn't fit. Most people who start in those roles had internships first, and frankly, former/current interns are the first to get hired (presuming that they liked them/did a good job, ect.)

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Feb 22, 2020

It sounds like you are on the right track / keep it up. The top brass will appreciate the hustle you've shown by getting your license, and you can always turn your retail experience into a positive - working through school, dealing with terrible customers, salesmanship.

Fred Trammell, a titan in the industry - escpecially the South - worked for a moving company, and then a grain wholesaler before moving into real estate at ~33/34. So it sounds like you have a heck of head start!

If someone doesn't have a spot for you, ask if they know who else may have a spot - always be asking for referrals, never leave a meeting without doing it (tastefully and respctfully, of course)! Eventually you'll find a place that fits. Maybe it won't be your first choice, but opportunity is opportunity, and a foot on the ladder is what you need.

Finally, don't mess with the associates or middle management. Email the top guys. You'll be shocked how often they respond, and if they don't respond directly, they'll forward it to a VP or Associate to take care of it anyway. Going the other way around, Associate -> VP ->, is going to be a big waste of time. Ultimately, that Associate / VP is not going to make the finally decision.

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Feb 24, 2020

"Email the top guys. You'll be shocked how often they respond, and if they don't respond directly, they'll forward it to a VP or Associate to take care of it anyway."

I actually love this - I like to think I am presentable/well-spoken so not afraid of actually engaging in a meeting if I can get one in their office, coffee, etc. Are there any other certifications I could potentially get to get someone's attention? I am attending/taking the Level I CCIM at the end of March but obviously looking to be building foundation until then too.

Funniest
Feb 23, 2020

The key is to get a 4.0 GPA and 2000+ SAT in high school so you can get into a top 20 undergrad university. From there you're going to want to join a few finance clubs, finesse your way to a leadership role with your public speaking ability and then send out a few resumes to the top groups on the street for SA internships your junior year. Preferably you intern at your fathers global consulting, logistics and/or wealth management firm sophomore year but no worries if you're poor. Once you get a SA gig your junior year, don't fuck it up and you'll get invited back for a FT job offer at one of Wall Street's top M&A or industry groups. From there exit opportunities are essentially limitless and you can jump to the buy-side after two years and invest in and operate the world's largest companies, lead a business vertical at a fortune 500 company and/or stick with IB and continue to broker transactions among the Amazon/Exxon/Walmart's of the world.

This could be hard given you're 26 and your hairline is likely already receded but there is literally one path to greatness in life and if you miss it you're fucked forever.

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Feb 24, 2020

@SHB had great advice.

It will be an uphill battle getting your foot in the door but you can make it happen with persistence and the right approach.

I'm curious, why brokerage?

You need a story you can sell. You say this is what you want in a career but you currently have only an outside perspective. You'll need to address everything else that has been mentioned on this thread but your success will very likely hinge on being able to sell the person across the table from you on your story because this is more or less all you have to offer an employer right now.

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Feb 24, 2020

Excellent, thank you - and interested in brokerage because I am more of a 'people-person' (cringe) compared to data (otherwise I would've just gotten a CPA or even CFA) and feel brokerage is the one field in RE where what the day-to-day work boils down to is sales/negotiating but can lead to real-world earnings. Also, in the interest of honesty I want to be in a position where I could be making 7-figures/year (this is WSO afterall). Additionally, I originally moved to DC for real estate, fell out-of-love with it or never really had a reason for interest aside money, and have rearrived at it after living in DC for a few years and become obsessed with being 'in the know' with neighborhoods, developments, etc. and like the idea of leveraging that interest into a career - rearriving to, RE, but with a solid long-term reason.

Feb 24, 2020

You're going to have to work on your "why brokerage" and "why real estate" answers. Those are going to be the anchors to every interview at your level and need to be fleshed out and perfected.

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Most Helpful
Feb 24, 2020

I'm sure you would approach this differently in an actual interview but a lot of these points are common roadblocks for people trying to break in that are not familiar with the industry.

TLDR: Your story is everything. You need to 1) Demonstrate interest and commitment to the industry, to the firm, and to the role. 2) Show that you are competent, professional, and willing to work/learn.

donaldtrumplightweight:

interested in brokerage because I am more of a 'people-person' (cringe) compared to data (otherwise I would've just gotten a CPA or even CFA) and feel brokerage is the one field in RE where what the day-to-day work boils down to is sales/negotiating but can lead to real-world earnings.

From an employer's perspective, being a people person means little more than having a generic predisposition that can help with sales in general...the key is tying it to CRE.

Day-to-do brokerage is likely very different than you expect. Yes, relationships are everything but it isn't just networking and schmoozing on the golf course. You'll likely be making 50-100 cold calls a day and it can be brutal...it requires discipline and commitment and you should demonstrate these qualities equally or more than having the right personality for the job.

donaldtrumplightweight:

Also, in the interest of honesty I want to be in a position where I could be making 7-figures/year (this is WSO afterall).

Ok, but be cautious. If money alone is your principal motivation it will show and can reflect poorly in an interview if you aren't careful.

First, you're not making that kind of money any time soon. A couple years at least even for the exceptional outliers...very few brokers ever make that kind of money on commission revenue alone. Second, you will sound like an idiot if you come in with no experience and appear naive to the amount of work it takes to succeed in brokerage...this happens all the time and interviewers will sniff that out almost instantly. If it is a commission only role they won't care but if they are offering a salary they aren't going to waste it on someone they feel has a high turnover risk....Limit to something to the effect of "I like the high earning potential and the ability to be compensated directly on my ability to produce."

donaldtrumplightweight:

Additionally, I originally moved to DC for real estate, fell out-of-love with it or never really had a reason for interest aside money, and have rearrived at it after living in DC for a few years and become obsessed with being 'in the know' with neighborhoods, developments, etc. and like the idea of leveraging that interest into a career - rearriving to, RE, but with a solid long-term reason.

This jumped out as the most as problematic to me because it suggests that you either lack direction or you lack commitment...If you came to DC for RE 3 years ago what happened? I don't follow the gap here...Either spin this or just avoid it all together and brand yourself as new to the industry.

Another potential red flag is that your current aspirations for RE don't sound all that different from what they were 3 years ago based on what you wrote. You say that you are "rearriving to, RE, but with a solid long-term reason" but I didn't really get a reason other than passive interest/income and I'm not clear how you re-arrive into RE if you have never worked in the space. Your actual motivation is not really that important...you just need to tweak so that it conveys what I wrote in the TLDR.

Both of the above can be addressed easily, my intent is only to shine light so you can prepare.

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Mar 29, 2020
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