A Step-By-Step Guide To Breaking Into Commercial Real Estate
The real estate job search is a multi-step process, but the order you do these steps in matters a lot.
And if you do certain things before or after you should (or miss some of these things entirely), you could be significantly hurting your chances of landing the jobs you’re looking for.
So to make sure you’re making the right moves at the right times during the real estate job search, this article walks through a proven, step-by-step process for breaking into the industry, and what I recommend doing (in order) to land your dream job in commercial real estate.
If video is more your thing, you can watch the video version of this article here:
Start With a Plan
Once you’ve decided that real estate is the career path you want to pursue, the first thing you’ll need to do is come up with a plan for how you want to attack the job search process.
And while there are many different ways to go about this, in my experience, there are five critical steps to this that, if you follow in order, can drastically increase your chances of success when applying for roles in the commercial real estate industry.
Step #1 – Tighten Up Your Resume
Step number one in this process is to focus on your resume first, and put together a rough draft of an update that explains your background and skill set in the context of commercial real estate.
This means highlighting any Excel skills you have that could be applied to a real estate analyst or associate position, expanding on any financial modeling projects you’ve worked on in school or on the job, or describing any in-depth investment analyses you’ve been responsible for throughout your career.
The main goal here is to show that your skills and experience could be directly applied to an analytical role in the commercial real estate industry, and you could get up and running quickly if you were extended an offer.
And if you’re not familiar with the industry yet or don’t know exactly what employers are looking for, there’s no need to worry at this stage of the game. This is really just intended to be a first draft of an updated version of your resume that you can come back to later, and put the finishing touches on quickly once you’ve started the other steps on this list.
Step #2 – Start Building Relationships
Once you have a first draft of your resume ready to go, the next step in this process is to focus on building your network, specifically through informational interviewing.
Informational interviews are some of the best opportunities to build professional relationships, while at the same time giving you access to a sneak peek into the different career options available to you within commercial real estate.
One of the best ways to start your outreach efforts is to begin by reaching out to alumni of your university, since these people are going to be some of the most likely to be willing to talk to you and share their experience.
Many schools have alumni databases with email addresses or phone numbers that you can tap into, but even if that’s not available to you, LinkedIn is also a great resource to find and connect with university alumni.
Running an advanced LinkedIn search for alumni of your university working in the “Real Estate” or “Leasing Non-Residential Real Estate” sectors (located in the city you want to work in) can be a great way to narrow down your search, and significantly increase your chances of getting responses to cold outreach.
Building these relationships before you need them allows you to go into these conversations without desperately needing a job, which is why it’s important to focus on this step at this point in the process.
And if you treat these interactions as investments in your relationships and your long-term career growth, rather than going into these conversations immediately asking for something, these connections can end up making you a familiar name and face when that person (or someone they know) is ultimately looking to hire.
Step #3 – Build Your Real Estate Financial Modeling Skills
Once you’ve started the informational interviewing process, now is the time to move on to step three of the job search, which is to build your technical real estate financial modeling skills.
In most cases, even if you do happen to be invited to interview for a job as a result of an informational interview, you’ll still generally have at least a few weeks to prepare before a you’re given a modeling case study.
And by setting this as priority number three in this process, this can end up making your job search significantly faster, allowing you to build your technical skills as you go (without having to wait to feel like an expert before getting started).
By doing things in this order, this also helps make sure you have clarity on exactly which skills you should be building, whether that’s modeling a specific product type, focusing on debt-side or equity-side metrics, or even learning a software like ARGUS so you can be as efficient as possible with your time.
This step is also really important when putting the final touches on your resume, since having a strong technical skill set on paper is often a prerequisite to being invited in for interviews. And with that, before you start firing off applications, you’ll want to at least get familiar with the foundations of real estate financial modeling and analysis in Excel, to help you stand out when applying for jobs.
Step #4 – Add Technical Skills To Your Resume & Finalize
This all leads right into step four of this process, which is adding technical skills to your resume and finalizing your first draft.
In step three, you may have taken Excel courses, real estate financial modeling courses, or even earned real estate-related certifications that could all be added to a resume.
And once you’ve completed these, now is the time to use what you’ve learned through your informational interviews and technical training to add these accomplishments to your resume, and to highlight different professional experiences you’ve had that would make you a more attractive candidate.
The goal here should be to make it as clear as possible that you have the fundamentals of real estate finance and financial modeling mastered, you’re able to build a dynamic pro forma cash flow model given a set of assumptions, and you’re able to interpret those cash flows and calculate return metrics to analyze a deal.
Step #5 – Start Applying For Jobs
Once your resume is tightened up, you have a handful of connections in the industry, and you feel confident in your ability to pass an Excel modeling exam, you’re finally ready to move on to the last step of the process, which is to start applying for open positions through traditional job posting sites.
The resume “black hole” is a very real thing in commercial real estate, and if all you’re doing is submitting online applications blindly without going through these steps first, your chances of landing a job are usually pretty low.
But when you have all of these things lined up before submitting applications, this gives you a huge leg up during this process, with the right keywords and phrases on your resume, connections in the industry that may be able to help you get your foot in the door for interviews, and the technical skills you’ll need to make it through the interview process.
This may seem counterintuitive, but by leaving the actual application process as the last step in the job search, you’re making sure you’re putting your best foot forward in those applications and increasing your chances of landing a role.
How To Prepare For The Job Search
If you want to be prepared for the real estate job search and make sure you have the technical skills you’ll need to add to your resume and pass an Excel modeling exam that might be given to you during the process, make sure to check out our all-in-one membership training platform, Break Into CRE Academy.
A membership to the Academy will give you instant access to over 120 hours of video training on real estate financial modeling and analysis, you’ll get access to hundreds of practice Excel interview exam questions, sample acquisition case studies, and you’ll also get access to the Break Into CRE Analyst Certification Exam. This exam covers topics like real estate pro forma and development modeling, commercial real estate lease modeling, equity waterfall modeling, and many other real estate financial analysis concepts that will help you prove to employers that you have what it takes to tackle the responsibilities of an analyst or associate at a top real estate firm.
As always, thanks so much for reading, and make sure to check out the Break Into CRE YouTube channel for more content that can help you take the next step in your real estate career.