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How I Landed my First Job in CRE: Unlocking Success in College with Ben Fonville – Episode 3

Success in college is often the key to landing your first job in CRE, though it sometimes doesn’t go as planned. This is how it was for Ben Fonville, a Multifamily Asset Management Analyst at Valor Capital Group, who told us, “I did almost everything the wrong way up until a certain point, and then I got involved in our campus real estate organization, and it was the single best decision I made in college. Now the professors are my friends, and without their help, connections, and networks, I could be unemployed.”

Ben’s story shows how seizing opportunities and building connections during your college years leads to landing your first job in CRE. In this blog post, we’ll explore his journey and the valuable lessons he learned along the way.

How I Landed my First Job in CRE with Ben Fonville

Upon starting college in the Fall of 2019, Ben was determined to major in Pre-Med. However, life threw a curveball when Ben decided to switch to Finance. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic then hit and campus involvement became non-existent.

The Real Estate Club

Ben said that, at the time, he had no direction and no internship until the real estate club president at the time motivated him to attend a meeting, and that’s when his life changed.

After realizing he was behind the curve, Ben became exceptionally active—attending all club meetings, visiting the professor’s office, and actively forming connections as the commercial real estate business started to make sense. This was a major factor in his later CRE success.

Advice for Landing the First Job in CRE

In the end, Ben overcame his late start and landed a job in commercial real estate due to the connections he initiated.

Below, we will discuss Ben’s key points, yet the main lesson for current students is to leverage the opportunity of access and assistance while in school, as it becomes significantly tougher post-graduation.

1. Building Strong Connections

Don’t be afraid to strike up conversations and maintain those connections. Second, be proactive in your networking efforts, even when you’re out of town. By doing this you can push back against your lack of experience.Land a First Job in CRE through Networking

2. Initiating Conversations

Taking the first step in networking is essential. Waiting for others to initiate won’t lead to success. There’s strength in numbers – having a buddy by your side can make social situations less intimidating. Furthermore, when attending events or gatherings, be sure to actively navigate the room, connecting with as many people as possible. These proactive measures can broaden your network and create valuable opportunities.

3. Maintaining Relationships

Ben stays organized by keeping a spreadsheet of his connections on his laptop. Every connection holds significance, and he emphasizes the importance of maintaining them, especially those where an initial connection was felt. Consistent communication is key, and he recommends reaching out regularly, even if it’s just with a simple text every now and then. When initiating conversations, it’s wise to lead with business-related topics to keep the relationship meaningful. Additionally, finding reasons to connect, such as planning visits to their cities, can strengthen the bonds with your contacts.

4. Gaining Confidence and Knowledge

Every successful interaction is a confidence booster. Expanding your horizons through networking is vital; you never know where these connections might lead you, and they can open unexpected doors. Understanding the language and concepts of your chosen industry is crucial for meaningful engagement with professionals.

5. The Value of Leadership

Ben’s realization is clear: holding a leadership position in the real estate organization stands out as the best decision he made during his college journey. Leadership roles may bring additional responsibilities, but they also offer extra access, which can lead to exclusive opportunities, such as industry trips that can further your career prospects.


In summary, Ben Fonville’s journey teaches us that the key to success in college and beyond lies in building connections, being proactive, and maintaining relationships. By taking the initiative and engaging with your network, you can overcome challenges and create opportunities that will shape your future. So, for all you current students out there, remember to leverage the access and assistance available while you’re still in school because, as Ben’s story shows, it becomes significantly tougher post-graduation.

About the Author: Tucker is the Head of Training and Career Services at A.CRE where he works with universities, companies, and candidates to provide training and job placement. Prior to A.CRE, Tucker spent two years at the 9th largest executive recruitment firm, where he focused on recruiting top talent in Commercial Real Estate. Tucker holds a BBA in Real Estate Finance from Southern Methodist University. While at SMU, Tucker was President of the Real Estate Club and was instrumental in providing guidance and connecting students with careers in CRE. Tucker currently resides in Dallas, TX. Please email Tucker if you would like to talk.