Learn Hard- First Internship in Review

I've just completed my first internship ever at a prestigious RE Developer, multifamily side- privately owned. They have developed many Class A properties (podium style and wrap style apartments mainly) in the Houston area as well as nation wide. Though I know RE is not a primary focus on this site, I felt I would share since it is under the finance realm, and they call primarily on BB's, PF's, and IB's and other institutional investors for their equity partners.

I learned quite a bit, but maybe the most important thing I learned is how much more I have to learn.

Going in, I did as much research on the firm as I could before the interview. My school's career center advisor was extremely helpful through the process, particularly with interview etiquette and what to expect. They flew me down from Lubbock for an interview, and offered me the internship. For a non-traditional student getting his first internship, I had to guard my mind closely against getting too excited about these things, because to be honest, I felt kind of special that they flew me in. I knew I shouldn't since it's probably pretty standard practice, but anyway this is my first go around on these things, my first taste of the real world, that is, the corporate world.

Upon getting the offer, the MD, who was my also my supervisor since it is a relatively small office told me to ask as many questions and learn as much as possible. I took his words quite literally, as I am quite a literal person.

Though I have no other formal internship to compare it to, I did have a scenario in my mind as to how I thought it would be or how it would turn out. The main theme of the scenario is that I thought the internship would be a lot more structured than it turned out to be. This proved to be a struggle for me during the internship, as I may have had it built up in my mind too much. While I was given the opportunity to see many aspects of the business, as well as to work on finance packages for prospective equity partners, there were times I did a lot of "busy" work- filing, etc, and there were times I found myself sitting at my desk doing pretty much nothing other than reading WSJ or BizJournal articles to occupy my time and feel somewhat productive. This occurred even when I made sure to make it a point to ask just about everyone in the office if there was some work I could do for them, and they were busy doing something else and said I would be assigned to something "in a bit".

Upon completing the internship last week and speaking with the MD, some of my suspicions were confirmed. Having never been in an office environment before, my "office etiquette" was pretty lacking. The MD was very gracious and tactful about how he told me this, but believe me, I got the message. No FT offer was extended, and it seemed as if the MD was "letting me down easy", so to speak. However, I have absolutely no ill will. That said, I would have welcomed some more direct constructive criticism during the internship on things to improve on rather than at the exit interview. The MD did complement me on my eagerness to learn.

It was a great experience and I was exposed to some really cool things, notably, I got to see how RE deals are done and learn some about the negotiations that go into land deals. Also, areas I need a lot more experience and improvement in were exposed to me as well, and that is a good thing. And heck, they paid me pretty good!

All in all, I have had some mixed emotions, trying to figure out if my mistakes were all me and if I was supposed to "just know" some things, or if maybe they could have had a better structured program. I am not sure since it is the only real internship I have done. But no matter. I know some things I can work on and improve on going forward, and it also gave me a perspective on some things to expect going into graduation and my career.

Main Things I Learned:

  • I have a lot more to learn.
  • I need to improve my office etiquette. Mainly working on not unintentionally interrupting people/ choosing a better time to ask questions.
  • When told to ask as many questions and learn as much as possible, sometimes I might need to ask when the best time to ask questions is.
  • While I can see myself doing RE Finance and Investing, my career will not be with the firm I interned with.
  • Fortunately, there are plenty of firms out there as well as plenty of other areas of finance to work in.
  • Houston, for at least the next few years, is a great place to start a career, and many industries are hiring. There is a ton of opportunity in this city as the recovery has picked up more steam more quickly here than most of the country.

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