What RE-specific questions should I ask in networking calls?

Hi all! New to WSO so please be merciful - 

I am a sophomore at non-target incredibly interested in working within REIB or within CRE in financing, valuations, capital markets, etc...

Long story short, had a call with an executive director of real estate financing and was super awkward and completely blew it and was just reading off analyst-intended questions cause I was so nervous talking to him. Most networking calls I have had are IB-related and thus are most of my questions, it was only recently I shifted my interest to real estate - what are some questions I could ask in future networking calls that are RE related that could really make an analyst/associate or a VP/MD that will make them say "wow, this kid knows what's up, I'm going to remember him and maybe pass his resume on in the future"

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Nov 8, 2021 - 3:59pm

Vidal_

I am a sophomore 

Long story short, had a call ... was super awkward and completely blew it... cause I was so nervous talking to him. 

Okay, you are being way to hard on yourself. You are a sophomore, not a capital on industry, you can be awkward and I doubt this person or anyone else would expect you to know tons about the industry at this stage. Clearly, room to improve, but I would still follow up with this person and keep engaging. Also, keep doing what ever you are doing to get these calls, don't stop!!! This is how it works and you have plenty of time.

So here is my "starter pack" for someone at your stage (fyi... I give this advice often.... why... its legit)

1. Read about the industry... GlobeSt.com/Bisnow are solid (and free) places to go, may also be some good ones in your market (if you have a target "market" per se)

2. Join some industry groups (and your schools real estate club if one exists) as a student member (NAIOP/ULI/ICSC are good and cheap), go to meetings (if close, join regardless). This is where you can "practice" networking and meet tons of people. Even if you have to drive a distance to go to meetings/events, do it from time to time. 

3. Go for the "easy" picks... generally that is alumni and "younger" people in the field... no reason not to go target exec. directors/etc., but you are clearly intimidated by it (not surprising or weird at all), go for analysts/associates/vps  then work your way up to EVP/MD/C-suite... Reiterate.. alumni will be the nicest to you, and most apt to say yes to a request on LinkedIn/email whatever. 

4. Target internships for the summer (I'm sure you are), but don't be afraid to ask "is your firm looking for summer interns"... you need/want a job in the field, EVERYONE knows that's why you are networking, don't hide the fact.... spoiler alert... all college kids want/need a job.. no shame!

5. If you don't know what to say... just ask "what do you like about your job/firm" or "how did you end up becoming XZY", and let them talk... then do the old fav "what advice do you have for a college student".... You don't need to impress, don't worry about it, get them telling good stories about themselves and let them associate it to you. No secret on this one! 

Good luck and just have fun!!!

Nov 8, 2021 - 9:45pm

Thanks so much for your response, this is a tremendous help. I usually try to get 3-4 calls per week and try to lever as many connections and opportunities from those as possible. I got my email template and strategy from WSO too and it's helped a lot, usually 80% of my calls are with analyst/associates and the rest are with VP's, MD's, and seniors going into RE. I try to reach out to analysts because I think they provide a better gauge as to work and opps post undergrad.

I'm not sure what my target market would be or what specific opportunities there are, but I want to get experience with deal flow, modeling, etc. I go to a non-target but we have a super strong alumni network that is very brand loyal and they have been the ones I've been reaching out to. It's fun but also a wild ride haha, my friends see me outside on a networking call and think as a sophomore that I am absolutely crazy

Nov 9, 2021 - 8:51am

Sounds like you are doing everything well! Question, are you aiming for specific job/role (like summer intern in XYZ), or just trying to learn about the industry as you are unsure where you wish to target? This can impact the ideal strategy, also do you have specific city/market you want to work upon graduation? Or are you more agnostic or just have a "type" (like major coastal city, smaller southern city, etc.)? I will advise, this is more "useful" when you have some level of focus/targeting (like city and/or firm/industry), but at your stage (sophomore) it's far from that important!

Side note, you are throwing the "non-target" thing a round a bit more than needed for any context here. Real estate is not I-banking/PE, the whole "target" thing is wayyy oversold in this forum and largely far less consequential to most people seeking roles in real estate (unless you are one who must work at Blackstone and the like, then yeah, it matters). Be careful if you think that is a limiting factor... (I went to "non-target" and at a firm loaded with both, we don't care, and TONS of our applicants come from grad of "targets")

Nov 9, 2021 - 10:39am

#3 is great advice.

Networking is hard and awkward when you are first starting out, but it does get much easier with repetition.  I'd recommend starting with younger professionals and/or people you know you already have common ground with (went to same college, were in the same club/sports team/frat, friend of your parents / parent of your friend).  It will be much less intimidating for you starting out and you'll get more confidence for those cold intros with exec level people.

Also, when in doubt, just get the the other person talking.  The less you talk and the more they talk, the less awkward you'll feel.  People generally love talking about themselves so an open ended question like "tell me about how you decided to pursue RE" will get them going for a solid 2-3+ minutes and give you time to calm yourself down if you start feeling awkward or anxious.

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Nov 9, 2021 - 2:53pm

When I was a sophomore, I never tried to impress anyone with my CRE knowledge (I didn't have any) I just tried to have a good conversation with them and let them talk about themselves. Still had a couple of awkard calls but that's to be expected. Awkward/cringe moments are a part of life, don't let it deter you from speaking to people.

Nov 10, 2021 - 5:54pm

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