I spend a lot of time talking to undergrads interested in getting involved in real estate. Typically, they know little about the real estate business, its various sub-sectors, and how to break into the business. However, I had a recent conversation with a Tufts undergrad who really impressed me.
He was doing everything right. Rather than hear it from me. I thought I’d let Scott share his experience first-hand.
“You’re doing the right thing.”
But when does “doing the right thing” turn into a job opportunity? For many college students, like myself, finding a job in this economy is a daunting task.
The one piece of advice we consistently hear is to network and network as early and as much as possible. Career service advisors, professionals, even my father all tell me that I am “doing all the right things,” but in this market, the right things have seemingly changed from what they were five or ten years ago.
My name is Scott Anderson and I currently am a senior at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts. I am majoring in International Relations while also double minoring in Economics and Chinese—not necessarily your typical academic background for an undergraduate trying to get his foot in the door in the real estate industry.
To my defense, I had no idea what I wanted to do until about five months ago during the summer going into my senior year when I figured I might as well give my post- Tufts career some thought.
This past summer I interned at a real estate development company in Nanjing, China. The company I was interning for was working on the development of the World Trade Center in Nanjing.
It was after this internship that I gained a strong interest for the real estate industry. After returning to the states, I began networking extensively within the industry with both alumni of Tufts, my high school and parents of friends.
Through reaching out to professionals in my own networks, I have been able to put together an excel list of over fifty people in the real estate industry with whom I have reached out to via email.
Of those fifty, I have either met with in person or talked to over the phone or Skype with around thirty-five of them in the past three months. For me, networking is not something I dread doing, instead it is something I have come to enjoy, knowing that an opportunity could arise as a result.
These professionals I have spoken to include people in all areas of real estate, from brokerage to private equity asset management. Through speaking with each person I have learned a thing or two about the industry that I did not know before. I have also been able to narrow down, within real estate, what I could see myself doing versus what I could not.
Networking is stressful and time consuming, but so far, it has worked to my advantage. Through networking, I was able to land my internship in China and also my current internship this fall at a private equity real estate company. However, while I am grateful for both of these opportunities, they are unpaid positions helping to boost my resume for a job opportunity that is seemingly far down the road.
Looking back now, there are a few things I would do over and they stem back the beginning of my undergraduate career.
The first thing I would do is choose a different major. As a first semester sophomore, I decided to be overly ambitious, having no real idea how important GPA is to employers in the working world.
I chose to be an International Relations major, the most difficult major at Tufts, because it was what most interested me. My overly ambitious self also decided to minor in Chinese, spending at least three hours a night working on studying Chinese characters in addition to my other homework, while also being a captain of the basketball team at Tufts.
I now see history or English majors at Tufts accepting job interviews that I was not presented because they have a higher GPA.
Decide What You Want Early
If at a liberal arts school, I would also suggest forcing yourself to decide if you really want real estate as early as possible.
As with any industry, it is extremely difficult to get the positions you want without the right internship experience to back you up. What I mean by right internships is that if you are looking into real estate investment, for example, internships that give you analytical experience working with ARGUS or excel.
Employers want to see analytical experience, the best way to get that experience before May of your senior year is to have internship experience. The best way to get premier internships is to start early, preferably the summer after your freshmen or sophomore year.
If I could give any other recommendations to younger college-aged students looking into real estate besides starting early and knowing what you want I would say
- Always dress the part—there is no such thing as being over dressed.
- Know when a networking situation is formal or informal, do not send your resume when you’re simply setting up a night to get a beer with a friend of a friend.
- If an option, get a beer with a guy over coffee every time, people seem to be far more inclined to help when the game is on and there is a beer in their hand.
Through networking, you will hear stories of extremely successful, but older professionals, who got their foot in the real estate door through an ad on a bulletin board at their college.
Those days are over.
In today’s economy, the top real estate companies are looking for the best of the best and positions are extremely competitive and limited. Good luck!
In case you couldn’t tell from Scott’s post, finding a job is tough. But with persistence and grit, you’re sure to find something you love. Stick with it.