Hi WSO, for the past year, this community has been extremely helpful to me, helped answer some of my stupid and basic questions on real estate finance. I have now secured a summer internship at a solid BB in their real estate finance group, I could not be more grateful and wanted to post about my journey so that other people could also learn from my mistakes and successes .
After graduating from college few years ago, I worked in residential real estate for 3 years. While I made decent money for my age-close to six figures, I felt the finance side of real estate is more interesting and will be personally more fulfilling for me. That led me to New York for their MSRE program. I am in my third semester now and have one more semester to graduate. For my first two semesters, I was a full time student and started a spring semester internship in Jan of this year. I will be soon leaving this internship for my summer internship which is at a solid BB.
My internship journey
Around august of the last year, I started to apply for 2018 summer internships as many of the structured internship programs (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Blackstone, JP Morgan, Wells, Morgan Stanley, Tishman, Related, etc) posted their internships in Aug/Sep of last year. I quickly realized applying online and waiting for a response is not a smart strategy. For students (particularly those with minimal RE experience) who are planning to do their MSRE or MSRED even in good schools like NYU, keep in mind folks when you apply to a job or internship , you will be competing with undergrads- juniors and seniors who could have two or even three relevant RE internships, put yourselves in the employer's shoes, who is more attractive? I soon realized that I am competing with undergrads with more relevant RE experience, yes I had "residential" experience, but it was a gut punch to realize that residential real estate might as well be astrology when it comes to relevant experience needed for commercial real estate internships.
I had a great "why RE" answer prepared and it was backed by my experience working in real estate and with clients, had my talking points ready to go and prepared, had a solid grip on RE fundamentals/technicals, but it means nothing as I was not even getting a first round phone interview with HR/behavorial interview. Working in real estate sales and becoming very good at building relationships/selling gave me the confidence and the belief that if I ever get myself to a second round and in front of the hiring manager, it is a done deal and I will get the internship. But, it was demoralizing that I could not even get a phone interview. I got rejected straight away with no phone interview or did not even hear back regarding my online app from 27 places. At one point, it got almost comical- was getting rejections without even being phone interviewed from places like Arbor, Walker & Dunlop, no offense to people working there, but c'mon. That was rock bottom for me, I decided to take my job hunt up a notch and rely on my networking.
I started reaching out to NYU's alumni via linkedin, played the "I am a student card" and explained that I would love to get some career related advice/insights, got a decent number of responses, spoke to some on the phone, met up with some for coffee. Joined a mentorship program with one of the professional real estate organizations where they paired me with a experienced real estate professional. It was a great relationship that opened a few more doors. After all that networking, it was funny that I ended up getting a summer internship offer from applying online. In Feb, I applied on NYU's career site to a job posting by this BB. Luck is a real thing. I think this bank only posted on a few schools career sites. I can never complain about my misfortunes in life, because I have always been a beneficiary through my life of some extremely serendipitous moments. I have always been at the right place/right time.
This BB had already done their hiring for most of their departments like IB. Their RE finance department is pretty small, middle market at best, they are however trying to grow their team and are on a hiring spree. Last moment they decided to hire a summer intern for this year with the possibility of having the intern continue working during the school year even after summer ends.
This was an golden opportunity for me.
Within two weeks after applying, I got a phone interview and nailed it. I mean, there was no excuse not to nail it. For the past 8 months or so, every day during my morning run, I would practice my answers to common questions such as why RE, why CRE, why XYZ firm, what are your strengths/weaknesses, time you failed/succeeded, time you worked in a group, etc. So during my phone interview, I was firing from all cylinders. Even asked a question at the end when I was asked if I had any questions for the interviewer, that question got him to open up a little more and and it was a good and very natural back and forth convo for a little bit. Got great vibes at the end, told I will hear back regarding a second round. Even was told, I am exactly the type of person they are looking for.
A week later
I got scheduled for a second round in person interview. The in person interview had no question that I didnt prepare for in the past 8 months or so. "RE" questions were pretty much elementary questions- on cap rate, going in cap rate vs terminal cap rate, three types of valuation methods, LTV, DSCR, DY etc, and my general take on the CRE market/stage of the cycle today and also what were the sectors I am bullish on and bearish on- I had been preparing my answer for these two particular questions for the past 8 months , every day- I would practice these to the point I could nail these questions with solid answers - with statistics and with no "um's and ahs" in between. I was certainly overprepared.
Two days later
I heard back from them with an offer. So, I received one second round interview during my internship journey, and got an offer. I always knew that all I had to do was get a second round interview, but it's much easier said than done right. It is still disappointing that some places like JP Morgan or Wells didnt even have a phone interview/first round with me. I mean would questions they ask even in a second round be that much different from the ones I was asked? but such is life. I am now ecstatic that I have an offer from a solid firm, and my focus is now on work hard and work to the best of my ability as I would love to continue working here even after the summer internship ends. Soon after I heard back about an offer for this firm, I heard back from 2 other places about scheduling a second round and I politely declined the interview request as the offer I had was exactly what I wanted in terms of the work I want to do.
As this is too long already, in the comments, I will post about my general thoughts on MSRE/ particularly NYU's MSRE.