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Entry-Level Position in Real Estate: Breaking Through the No Experience Barrier

Recruiting for an entry-level position in real estate can be daunting, particularly for those entering this highly competitive field where experience is often prized above all. How does one ‘break through’ when traditional pathways seem blocked by the requirement of prior experience? In this article, we’ll explore practical tips and real-world advice on overcoming the experience barrier, making your mark, and securing that crucial first job.

Entry-Level Position in Real Estate: Breaking Through the No Experience Barrier

Understanding Employer Expectations

Entering commercial real estate at an entry-level position without prior experience can be daunting. However, understanding what employers look for in junior candidates can provide a significant advantage. Employers have varied expectations, but we’ve noticed a few common themes.

First, grades are often a baseline criterion. A strong GPA can open doors, but it’s not the only factor. Employers seek a holistic view of the candidate, valuing experience that demonstrates skills relevant to the job role. This experience doesn’t always have to be in real estate; transferable skills from other industries can also be highly valuable! It’s especially important to leverage your other experiences when applying for entry-level real estate jobs. Show employers that, even though you have low real-estate specific experience, you are still an educated candidate.

Soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving are crucial. Employers often look for individuals who can work well in a team, handle client interactions professionally, and adapt to changing circumstances. Highlighting these skills through past experiences, whether in previous jobs, volunteer work, or academic projects, can enhance your attractiveness as a candidate.

Ultimately, showing a genuine interest in the real estate industry and a proactive approach to developing relevant skills can set you apart from other candidates. Networking with industry professionals and seeking mentorship opportunities can further bolster your profile, giving you a clearer understanding of what specific employers might be looking for.

Gaining Experience for Entry-Level Real Estate

Experience is often a catch-22: you need a job to get experience, but you need experience to get a job. However, there are creative ways to gain relevant experience. Joining or starting a real estate club, participating in case competitions, and seeking internships or volunteer opportunities can build a solid resume.

Additionally, enrolling in our A.CRE Accelerator can enhance your skills in real estate financial modeling, providing you with practical, hands-on experience that is highly valued in the industry.

Finally, networking plays a critical role here as well. Engaging with professionals in the field can lead to internships or project-based work that provides practical experience. Impressing someone with your enthusiasm and resourcefulness can sometimes be enough to land an opportunity.

Choosing a Career Path

Choosing a specific path in real estate before getting into the industry can help sharpen your focus and improve your chances. However, choosing a path can be overwhelming! Our advice is to not fear making the wrong choice initially. Every experience contributes to long-term career growth. Exploring various roles within real estate, such as redevelopment during downturns, can provide valuable insight.

Career paths are not always linear. Opportunities can arise unexpectedly, and being open to different roles can lead to a fulfilling career. Flexibility and a willingness to learn are key attributes for success in the dynamic real estate market. Still, it’s still good to try to make a decision early on to better prepare yourself for an entry-level position in real estate.

Roles, Property Types, and Firm Types

Choosing the right career path starts with understanding what options exist. If you’re new to this subject, you probably think of real estate either as brokerage or development. But there is much more to the industry than that. Real estate brokers and real estate developers make up only a small share of the total professionals in the industry. Here are three decisions you have to make that will determine your career path:

  • What real estate role do you want?
  • What property type do you want to work in?
  • What type of firm do you want to work in?

1. Real Estate Career Roles

There are numerous career roles in commercial real estate. When we refer to career roles, we mean the type of work you perform on a day-to-day basis and the role you play in the overall investment cycle of real estate.

Development: Real estate development professionals manage the development process. This includes sourcing land, handling the design and entitlement process, overseeing construction, managing lease-up, and eventually selling or refinancing the project. While this role is highly sought after, it is also risky and requires a diverse skill set.

Acquisitions: Professionals in acquisitions focus on sourcing, analyzing, and closing on existing properties. They handle properties that are already generating income and can range from underperforming assets to high-performing ones.

Asset Management: Asset managers handle the financial, operational, marketing, and strategic aspects of owning real estate. They take over from acquisitions or development teams and manage the property until it is sold.

Brokerage: Brokers act as intermediaries in real estate transactions. They offer various services, including investment sales, property management, leasing, and capital raising.

Property Management: Property managers handle the day-to-day operations of real estate assets. They deal with tenant relations, maintenance, repairs, and other management responsibilities specific to each property type.Career Paths in CRE – Roles, Property Types, and Firm Types

2. Property Types

Second, deciding on a property type is an important step. Each property type requires a different skill set and offers unique challenges and rewards.

Office: Managing office buildings involves leasing space to businesses, maintaining common areas, and ensuring the building meets the needs of its tenants.

Retail: Retail property management focuses on shopping centers, malls, and standalone retail stores. This type requires an understanding of consumer behavior and retail trends.

Industrial: Industrial properties include warehouses and distribution centers. Managing these properties involves understanding logistics and supply chain management.

Multifamily: Multifamily properties, such as apartment complexes, require management skills focused on residential tenants, maintenance, and community building.

3. Firm Types

Finally, the type of firm you choose to work is important for your career. Each firm type offers different experiences, cultures, and career progression opportunities.

Large Brokerage Firms: Working for a large brokerage firm like CBRE or JLL can provide broad exposure to various real estate services and a wide network of industry contacts.

Boutique Firms: Smaller, specialized firms may offer more hands-on experience and faster career progression but might have fewer resources and a narrower focus.

REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts): REITs own and manage income-producing real estate. Working for a REIT can offer stability and the opportunity to work with large, diverse property portfolios.

Private Equity Firms: These firms invest in real estate to generate high returns. Jobs in private equity often involve acquisitions, asset management, and capital raising, offering high stakes and potentially high rewards.

Final Advice and Other Resources

When navigating the challenges of a entry-level position in real estate, remember that resourcefulness and adaptability are the most important qualities. Many new professionals get caught up on the idea of working for big-name firms. However, we would recommend you also consider the opportunities in small businesses. Smaller firms often offer more rapid career growth and increased responsibilities. Smaller firms often provide a broader range of experiences and the chance to make a significant impact quickly. This gives you a foundation to build your career off of and the experience needed to transition to a larger firm later in your career.

Finally, maintaining a positive and proactive approach to your career development is crucial in an entry-level position in real estate. Always make sure to demonstrate initiative, continually seek out learning opportunities, and build a robust professional network to help overcome the no-experience barrier in CRE.

For further reading and resume opportunities, we have a variety of free resources for career development:

With creativity, initiative, and effective use of these resources, aspiring real estate professionals can successfully navigate the complexities of entering the industry without prior experience.

About the Author: Born and raised in the Northwest United States, Spencer Burton has over 20 years of residential and commercial real estate experience. Over his career, he has underwritten $30+ billion of commercial real estate at some of the largest institutional real estate firms in the world. He is currently President and member of the founding team at Stablewood. Spencer holds a BS in International Affairs from Florida State University and a Masters in Real Estate Finance from Cornell University.