Q&A: Non-Target State School with 3.1 GPA to REPE Acquisitions in Major Market

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Hello fellow RE monkeys! Finally got my certified star, and figured now is a good time to do an AMA to continue to give back to the community. Truly, WSO is one of the best resources available online for people trying to break into high finance. As corny as it sounds, without the content on this forum, and the balls to take a couple risks, I'd probably be a financial advisor working in a call center for Vanguard making $55,000 a year (one of the offers I received at the end of undergraduate). ####My story So, let's start off with my story, which is going to be very long winded. I went to a large ACC/SEC in the Southeast and majored in finance. Around the Fall of my sophomore year of college, I discovered WSO and subsequently decided that I wanted to sell my early-mid twenties to the highest bidder (investment banks). I absorbed as much information as I could in class and online, but struggled (like most non-targets with very average GPAs) to find my entry point into investment banking. ####Taking an unpaid opportunity After speaking to 50+ people and spending 18 months chasing the white rabbit, I finally landed an unpaid Fall internship my senior year at a boutique bank in a city over an hour from my school. As much as unpaid internships suck, it was the hand I was dealt, my options were limited, and time was not on my side. Looking back, I absolutely have no regrets and would recommend anyone that was in my position to take an unpaid opportunity if that is your only option. I checked my pride at the door, realized that $20/hr is literally nothing in the grand scheme of life, and looked at the internship as an opportunity to learn tuition-free with the hope that the time investment/experience would pay dividends down the road. Here's a hint: it absolutely did. Waking up at 5am and getting home at 7pm three days a week to commute 1 hour each way, while balancing a 15 hour course load along with a social life and extra curricular activities, was extremely stressful. I definitely overextended myself, but I learned a ton, and what I learned most importantly was that I hated investment banking and that it is over glorified brokerage that sounds a lot sexier than it is. ####CRE checked all the boxes In February of my senior year, I came to the conclusion that I did not want to pursue investment banking any further. The boutique I was with offered to keep me on as an analyst post-graduate, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was using investment banking as a stepping stone to some other undefined future goal. The more I thought about this undefined goal, the more I realized that it wasn't traditional PE or really any other IB parallel career path. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that CRE checked all of the boxes I wanted. It didn't require me to do a grueling 3 years in a job I didn't want, it had an obvious impact on my local community, I could still make a shit ton of money, I found it very interesting, and work-life balance would be undeniably better. With the goal of CRE in mind, I evaluated my options and came to the conclusion that timing was good to pursue an 18 month MRED. It would allow me to completely redefine the narrative surrounding my mediocre GPA and when combined with my IB internship it would give me a pretty good shot at a really good Summer internship (and subsequent job). During graduate school I busted ass, took another unpaid internship during the year for a boutique GP doing acquisitions, cold emailed hundreds of people, did another 50+ informational interviews, refined my job search strategy (I'll definitely make a guide on this in the future), and landed an internship at a top 20 investment management firm (similar to Nuveen, AEW, Clarion, etc). ####How I landed the internship How did I get the internship you may ask? Well first of all I did my time doing two unpaid internships during the school years. Through these internships I had gain IB experience and acquisitions experience. Also, immediately after applying online I hunted down the email address for the head of the group and cold emailed him. That got me a 15 min initial phone interview, which resulted in a final round interview. Here's the catch, since I was remote and they had plenty of qualified candidates local, they didn't want to spend the money to fly me to the final interview and offered to do it over the final interview via a phone call. Knowing that I would be at a significant disadvantage by not doing an in person interview, I took about half the money in my bank account and paid about $400 to fly myself to half way across the country to do the interview in person. This was by far the best investment I'll ever make in my life or career. Showing that much hustle and desire for the role ultimately ended in me getting the internship. In the end I got the money back. As soon as they made the offer I asked to be reimbursed for my flight, which they had no problem doing. That internship was the goose that laid the golden egg. I was able to parlay the internship into multiple full-time offers at top shops, and ended up landing an acquisitions role at a REPE firm that sponsors funds focused on industrial throughout the United States. So that's my story. Ask me anything!

Comments (19)

 
Most Helpful
Dec 21, 2019 - 1:52pm

snortingcaffeine:

Currently pursuing IB, but planning to chase RE on my own. Any suggestions for getting into development/Real Estate in general? I feel I've learned so much about banking, but not much about my real dream (construction company/development/property management/etc)

I'm personally of the opinion that pursuing commercial real estate as a side-gig is a recipe for disaster. Development is a long and arduous process whether it's a 4 unit quadplex or a 2MM square foot distribution center, and owning/operating a building is capital intensive, and by its very nature, not a passive investment. If your dream is to work in CRE why are you pursuing IB? Sure, having IB experience may help because of 'exit ops', but a three year analyst stint at a BB/EB/MM bank is absolutely not required to break into REPE or development (although it might make things easier on the backend). If you have the hustle to land a job at an IB, you have the ability to land a very cushy job at a REPE or development shop if you pursue opportunities aggressively.

 
Dec 24, 2019 - 1:30pm

As someone who has thought about real estate as a potential investment down the road, appreciate this comment. I'm going into IB capital markets full time and figured real estate would be a good way to place my income as a side opportunity, but never really thought about how it's not as passive of an investment and requires a more intensive focus. Appreciate that transparency.

 
Jan 4, 2020 - 9:15pm

I'd argue that if he can invest his salary into projects as an LP, then you're fine. You're gaining valuable experience and can still get the tax benefits like writing off depreciation against your active income.

In IB, you get valuable connections (like financial institutions), plus most BBs probably diversify with some real estate exposure anyway. It's not like being an analyst for Greystar or Tishman-Speyer is immensely different than a GS or JPM job.

 
Dec 26, 2019 - 7:11am

Analyst.2012:

Congrats! Awesome story. Where are you located now and what does the career path look like moving forward?

I work out of DFW. My long-term goal has always been to start my own fund sponsor. There are a ton of obstacles that I will need to overcome to pull it off (the most difficult being the capital required). If I were to start my own fund I envision myself in a CEO level role where take a step back from acquisitions and focus more of the capital markets/corporate structure/strategy side of the business. It's not that I don't love acquisitions/development, but I believe that in order to be an effective CEO I would need to focus on building the business rather than sourcing investments and asset managing properties. Realistically, I'd probably need to partner with one or two other individuals that would focus on building an investment pipeline and asset managing properties.

Short-term I'm focused on continuing to learn. Right now I look as my job as an equivalent to a medical residency. I don't plan on being at my firm forever, but it is absolutely vital that I continue to build the foundational skills that will help me to take the path to of least resistance to the top. My goal for 2020 is to spend more time learning about contract negotiations, and to gain a deeper level of knowledge on the legal theories that protect us during a transaction/joint venture

 
  • Incoming Analyst in IB - Ind
Dec 26, 2019 - 8:45am

Congrats my guy. How did you handle your GPA on your resume when recruiting for full time? Did you just list major GPA if that was better, your cumulative GPA, or no GPA?

 
Jan 1, 2020 - 8:53pm

Incoming Analyst in IB - Ind:

Congrats my guy. How did you handle your GPA on your resume when recruiting for full time? Did you just list major GPA if that was better, your cumulative GPA, or no GPA?

I just owned it. Going back to grad school and getting a 3.9 really helped, and after grad school I didn't put my undergrad gpa on my resume.

 
Jan 2, 2020 - 12:23pm

I think the single biggest mistake people make when it comes to cold emailing is including way too much information. Im busy, most people are busy, spare them the life story and get straight to the point. The goal of a cold email should be to further engage the target and get them to agree to a phone call or in person meeting. Keep it short and sweet. Here's the email I sent:

"Head of Group -

My name is Trunk Yeti and I'm a Masters Candidate in the Real Estate Development program at Large PublicState School. I came across Top 20 REPE's posting for the asset management internship, and have already applied, but would like the opportunity to talk to you to learn more about Top 20 REPE, your team, and the opportunity. Would you be available sometime next week for a 15 to 30 minute phone call?

Attached for your reference is my resume. Look forward to hearing back!

Thanks,

Trunk Yeti"

 
Jan 2, 2020 - 2:08pm

Thanks for doing this, always good to see folks doing AMA's. Couple of questions:

What was your timeline with getting a MSRED? How was the application process? It looks like you went straight in from undergrad, what made you select the school you did? What did you submit for portfolio or work sample?

Regarding your internships, especially for your MSRED, did you do one during and right after your MSRED? When I visited open houses this year, it sounds like they recommended the 1.5 years as it's easier to transition with the internship experience.

 
Jan 3, 2020 - 6:04pm

Dumpster Fire Yuppie:

What was your timeline with getting a MSRED? How was the application process? It looks like you went straight in from undergrad, what made you select the school you did? What did you submit for portfolio or work sample?

My MRED was an 18 month program that went from August to December of the following year. The application process was easy, and surprisingly, fit was much more important than scores. In my program, they really want people that want to eat, sleep, and breathe CRE. I was literally told that if I hit 50th percentile on my GMAT that I'd likely be admitted. I actually attended the same school for undergrad, but that had little to do with my decision to attend for graduate school. My main driver was region. At the time, I planned to stay in the Southeast, but life happened and I landed in Texas (I love it out here). Because I was straight out of undergrad the graduate program did not require a portfolio or work sample. I did have to write a couple page essay detailing why I wanted to be in commercial real estate.

Dumpster Fire Yuppie:

Regarding your internships, especially for your MSRED, did you do one during and right after your MSRED? When I visited open houses this year, it sounds like they recommended the 1.5 years as it's easier to transition with the internship experience.

I did internships during my MRED every semester outside of the first semester. I think that 1.5 years is a good amount of time, if not maybe a semester too long. You can really only learn so much about development/acquisition in a classroom. Eventually you just gotta get the reps.

 
Jan 3, 2020 - 5:55pm

Just received this PM, and I want to answer it in the thread for posterity.

:

I have a call coming up with someone who works in the group that I applied to for a certain position. I'm about 8 months out of school and I work for a very small developer currently and this position would be at a mortgage REIT. I've done informational interviews before and plan to do the usual tell me about your firm/how you got where you are, but I feel like in this situation I should be asking more specific questions or presenting myself in a way that demonstrates value rather than giving off a "I am but a clueless undergrad just trying to learn." type of vibe. Do you have any advice for how I should approach this conversation?

If this is a publicly traded REIT, then grab their 10K and go to town. You'll learn a bunch about their business from that. If they are not publicly traded, then I would maybe look for a publicly traded mortgage REIT that you can use as a proxy for learning purposes.

Outside of that, my recommendation would be do not try to fake it. Nothing is impressive about a know nothing that tries to pretend that they know something. Focus on being genuinely curious and ask intelligent questions. Educate yourself as best you can through your own research, but I would be willing to bet that their expectations are high regarding your knowledge of the mortgage REIT business.

 
  • Prospect in 
Jan 9, 2020 - 2:59pm

That's a great story! I look forward to your guide on job search strategy as well. I'm currently a Junior with a 3.5 GPA at a large BIG10 state school on the East coast and I currently have an acquisitions analyst internship at a small real estate investment firm. However, they aren't large enough that I could work there full time. I also just received an offer in M&A advisory for this coming summer, but I would like to pursue a career in REPE. Are there any RE internships still available now that would set me up better for this goal? If I went with my M&A advisory internship, would it hurt my chances to get into REPE in the future?

Thanks!

 
Jan 12, 2020 - 6:40am

Prospect in :

That's a great story! I look forward to your guide on job search strategy as well. I'm currently a Junior with a 3.5 GPA at a large BIG10 state school on the East coast and I currently have an acquisitions analyst internship at a small real estate investment firm. However, they aren't large enough that I could work there full time. I also just received an offer in M&A advisory for this coming summer, but I would like to pursue a career in REPE. Are there any RE internships still available now that would set me up better for this goal? If I went with my M&A advisory internship, would it hurt my chances to get into REPE in the future?

Thanks!

There's plenty of internships still out there. Real Estate doesn't really work on a defined recruiting season like IB. I had classmates in grad school get internships as late as June. A gig in M&A will not hurt you chances in the future, but I would focus on making that move within the first 3-5 years of your career.

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