How To Break Into Commercial Real Estate [From a Different Industry]

Just because you chose to major in a subject when you were 18 years old doesn’t mean that interest is going to last forever, and most people don’t know exactly what they want to do with their lives the minute they graduate from college.

And if you’re looking to break into commercial real estate after spending time in a different industry, you’re not alone, but actually making this happen (and doing this successfully) isn’t always an easy or straightforward process.

So if you’re trying to transition into commercial real estate as a second act in your career, this article walks through through 3 things you can do to make your career switch into real estate as fast, simple, and painless as possible.

If video is more your thing, you can watch the video version of this article here:

Create a “Real Estate Resume”

The first step in this process is to adjust your resume and cover letters to highlight your existing skills and experience that relate most closely to the skills and experience you’ll need within an analytical real estate role.

Even if you’ve spent years following a completely different career path, this doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have transferable skills that would be both helpful and applicable within a real estate context.

Many people find the real estate business after establishing themselves in areas like corporate finance, accounting, banking, architecture, and construction, and experienced professionals coming from each of these backgrounds can have very valuable perspectives to bring into commercial real estate.

As a job applicant, it’s your responsibility to clearly make the connection between your previous work experience and the things you’ll need to do in the types of roles you’re applying for. And to pinpoint exactly what you should be highlighting and what employers will look for when reviewing your application, one of the best ways to do this is to look directly within commercial real estate job postings themselves.

Looking for jobs you’d be interested in on sites like SelectLeaders, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor can help you identify patterns in the skills and experience these roles require. From there, you can then use this information to pick out select responsibilities or qualifications that you’ve already proven you have throughout your career, and then highlight these things on your resume directly.

For example, if you’re coming from a construction or architecture background and looking to land an analyst role at a real estate development firm, experience in things like cost estimation, project management, working through the entitlement process, or working with city officials would all be applicable to the types of jobs you’re targeting.

And if you’re coming from a career in corporate finance, accounting, or investment banking, things like your Excel skills, experience with budgeting and cash flow modeling, or even just experience with monthly, quarterly, and/or annual reporting can all help you get your foot in the door for a commercial real estate interview.

In the vast majority of cases, there’s going to be a sector of the real estate industry that your previous work experience could be applied to, and if you’re open to careers in different parts of the business, you very likely already have an existing skill set that could get your foot in the door at a commercial real estate firm.

Pursue Certifications & Self-Study

Unless you’re moving directly into a 100% commission-based role, your entry point into the business will very likely be an analytical position, which means that a strong foundation in Excel and real estate finance is often a necessary prerequisite to break into commercial real estate.

Even entry-level jobs will often say they’re looking for candidates with 1-2 years of experience, but given that people who actually meet this requirement are generally looking for more senior-level roles, companies are really looking for candidates with a proven understanding of real estate finance and financial modeling in Excel.

One of the best ways to go about proving that you do have these skills is through adding relevant coursework and certifications to your resume, ideally those that are directly related to real estate financial analysis and require passing some sort of an exam.

This could involve listing Break Into CRE modeling coursework you’ve completed, listing the Break Into CRE Analyst certification once you’ve passed the exam, or even going through the process of getting certified in ARGUS Enterprise. Including relevant courses and certifications within your resume and LinkedIn page also adds real estate-related keywords to your profile, which helps recruiters find you on LinkedIn search and can help you make it through an automated resume screening.

Consider a Real Estate Master’s or MBA

If you’re looking to break into commercial real estate after building a career outside of the industry, another thing worth considering to make this process easier is heading back to graduate school for a Master’s in Real Estate or general MBA.

I don’t always recommend this route, primarily due to the cost and lack of significant technical training that most degree programs tend to offer. However, for people looking to make a career switch after spending many years working in a different industry, going back to school can often help significantly during the job search process.

One of the biggest benefits of graduate school is the ability to expand your professional network in a very short period of time, which tends to make it much easier to land internships and full-time job opportunities upon graduation.

Graduate school can also help you land better entry-level roles than you may have otherwise been able to without the degree, and even though real estate firms tend to care most about what you can contribute to the team, students coming out of top graduate schools can often command higher salaries immediately upon graduation.

Graduate school is also a great place to explore different disciplines within the real estate industry through things like informational interviews with university alumni, internships, or even site visits with local employers.

Again, in almost all cases, a graduate degree is not a necessary prerequisite to landing a role in commercial real estate. However, if this path won’t set you back too far financially and you’re fully committed to making the move into the industry, going this route could be a great way to get your start.

How To Break Into Commercial Real Estate

If you’re looking to transition into commercial real estate from a different industry and want to 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 interview 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.

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