Building a successful real estate club at a university is crucial for students looking to enter the commercial real estate industry.
Many students come into college unsure of what career path they want to take, and a real estate club can provide the opportunity to learn about the business and determine if it is the right fit for them. Real estate clubs, if done well, can provide valuable resources and networking opportunities to help students land jobs and get their start in the industry.
In this article, we interviewed the heads of prominent real estate clubs about their clubs’ best practices to success in their respective programs. We asked each club president six questions, which we will share with you in hopes that you can find something in their process and procedures to ensure your club is thriving. These best real estate club best practices work for different scenarios, such as starting a new club, reviving an inactive club, and growing a thriving club.
This article is the first half of this interview, keep an eye out for the second half to learn more real estate club best practices!
A big thank you to Madison Chaney from Florida State University, John Schallese from Emory University, Grace Zhou from The University of Texas at Austin, Julian Sternberg from Baruch University, and Alexandre Fisse from Georgia State University for their insights.
Best Practice #1: Defining Success for Your Real Estate Club
Building a successful real estate club at a university requires a clear understanding of what success means. The definition of success may vary, but it is important to have a plan in place to achieve it.
Some possible definitions of success for your real estate club could include the following:
- The number of members
- Job Placement of members
- A high level of attendance and engagement among members
- The core competencies of members
- The reputation of the club among industry professionals
Before each semester, many interviewers recommended sitting down with the faculty and club leadership team. These meetings are great for discussing what success means for the club so that you can benchmark results at the end of each semester.
Best Practice #2: Bringing in New Members to Your Real Estate Club
It is essential to focus on bringing in new members to build a successful real estate club.
One strategy for achieving this is to use a combination of organic growth and targeted efforts to promote the club, such as events on campus, social media, and networking.
The most common social media strategy for the real estate clubs we interviewed was LinkedIn.
One of the important positions cited in our interview with Schallese from Emory University was Vice President of Marketing and Communications. This position runs the LinkedIn account and creates marketing flyers that promote club events to students who may not know what the club offers.
Additionally, the club can use its LinkedIn to showcase the success of its current members by highlighting job offers and other achievements they have received due to their involvement in the club.
This will help your club develop a reputation on- and off-campus, resulting in job placement, club speaking events, raising funds for resources, and being a beacon of hope for students who need help developing their real estate skills to land an internship and job.
Another effective strategy for bringing in new members is to hold various events. This will be the VP of Events’ sole responsibility.
Casual and professional meetings, networking events, and school-sanctioned events allow potential members to learn more about the club and allow current members to connect and build a sense of community.
Some of the most commonly cited events among the interviewees were:
- Bringing in Real Estate Industry Professionals Online and In-person
- Off-campus Site Tours
- Career Fairs
- Corporate Treks
- Case Studies
- Mock Interview Sessions
Lastly, the club can use its existing members to spread the word about the club. By having them share information with their classmates, friends, and professional contacts, clubs can increase their membership.
Best Practice #3: Providing Tools for Real Estate Club Members
To build a successful real estate club, providing valuable tools to its members is crucial, which is the job of a Vice President of Corporate Relations.
This role will differ across university real estate clubs as some are fortunate enough to have real estate education, but others may still need specific real estate curriculum.
Some of the most cited tools for real estate club members include:
- Technical Skills (e.g., real estate financial modeling and ARGUS)
- Interview Skills
- Organization Membership
It’s important to start building your real estate education early. An internship is much needed for you to land a full-time job post-college!
Technical skills, such as the A.CRE Accelerator, are an excellent way for your students to jumpstart their Excel skills.
Understanding how to navigate the interview process is extremely important. Reaching out, emailing industry professionals, following up promptly, and practicing your elevator pitch are critical parts of the process.
These skills will help your club members build confidence and increase their probability of landing meaningful internships and jobs.
Professional Organization Membership
Providing memberships in professional organizations such as ICSC, ULI, and industry news publications will help provide different forms of education and professional networking opportunities to assist in helping students learn about market insights.
Best Practice #4: Building an Effective Executive Team
An effective executive team is vital for the success of a university real estate club, which means your university should have one President of the Real Estate Club.
The President’s background should consist of someone with a mix of hard and soft skills, a track record of participating in club events, and strategic thinking abilities.
Additionally, a clear succession plan is necessary to ensure the continuity and growth of the club even after the current leader graduates.
Hard and Soft Skills
The club president should be a hands-on leader “dedicated to helping members with their job search and interview preparation,” said Fisse.
“The ideal candidate for this role is someone who will put in a lot of effort, not discouraged by setbacks or obstacles, and hands-on,” continued Fisse.
A track record of participating in club events
According to Chaney, “the President plays a vital role in fostering alumni engagement, organizing corporate tours, and providing mentorship and guidance for the members.”
That can only happen if the President has been a past participant in the real estate club.
Sternberg recommends hiring “from within,” which means promoting one of your Vice Presidents who has successfully played a different role within the real estate club and has relationships built with current club members.
Strategic thinking abilities
The President must consider the big picture, communicate effectively, empower the leadership team, and mentor other club members.
One of the best examples of this is Schallese, who created a real estate conference at Emory and has planned and executed a conference with more than 500 paid guests, top-tier industry speakers, and alums attending the conference.
These strategic thinking initiatives compound into benefiting the real estate programs enrollment among students, help in job placement, and increasing the likelihood of developing other young leaders.
Best Practice #5: Liaising with the Director of the School’s Real Estate Program
It may seem obvious, but another major part of the real estate club is the role of the school itself.
For a real estate club to thrive, the Director of the Real Estate Program and the administration must be supportive.
Schellase recommends that once a new executive board is elected, a meeting between them and administration should be scheduled to discuss ideas for future events and what types of assistance students need.
This ensures that real estate students get the help they need from the driven students on the executive board and the expertise of the school’s administration.
Additionally, the administration should actively participate in helping club members secure jobs, organize career fairs, facilitate networking opportunities, and provide professional advice and exposure.
Zhou says that her club members benefit from the school’s organization of career fairs, with hundreds of real estate alumni from The University of Texas coming to the school to meet students.
Furthermore, Zhou discusses how the administration is helping students set up interviews and resume workshops, using their industry knowledge to help students be optimal candidates when applying to competitive roles.
These efforts from the Director and administration are crucial in ensuring that the club can provide valuable resources and opportunities for its members, helping them succeed in the industry.
While club presidents can give their students tips to succeed in real estate, the admin has the connections and funding necessary to organize ad hoc events to get students exposure to alums and companies.
Best Practice #6: Active participation of Students and Alumni
The role of a student in a real estate club is crucial for its success.
Students should participate in club activities and utilize the resources and opportunities provided.
Sternberg advises that it is only sometimes on the admin or club’s leadership team to help students, but students should play a large role in helping to bring in speakers to the club using their connections.
Not only will it help the larger club thrive, but it also helps club members develop the skills and connections needed to succeed in the industry.
Chaney discusses her club’s emphasis on the alumni network, saying it is one of the most crucial characteristics of success. Her club ensures that students have researched before any alumni event and are fully prepared before meeting alums.
Once students have met with alums, Chaney suggests reaching out a month later to tell the alums how their advice was beneficial, thus keeping up the relationship and utilizing the value added.
Lastly, once students graduate, they must give back to ensure the club’s success.
This can include mentoring current members, sharing job opportunities, and networking opportunities.
Active engagement by all alums benefits the club, and the more interactions students have with professionals who were once in their shoes, the more prepared they will be for the future.
This will help ensure that the club continues to thrive and provide valuable resources and opportunities for all students who actively participate.
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