Our recent pair of panel discussions offered lots of useful advice on how to look for a job. (It is that time of year when soon-to-be-graduates realize that the classroom is not such a bad place to be, compared to the real world.) Our students heard the usual bits of advice on “taking the opportunities that are given to you” and “making your resume as attractive as possible.” The advice of networking was extremely insightful.
To organize the insights, it may help to think of the various stages of a job search. You might think that the stages are
- to look for a job,
- to be interviewed for a position and
- to accept an offer (or not)
but that thinking limits your opportunities in any profession and especially in real estate.
You increase your opportunities if you build your network long before you start looking for a job. Two reasons dominate. First, because the value of a network depends on the relationships; a pocket full of business cards is not a network. Second, because building those relationships early may make the job search irrelevant.
A student’s earliest network includes some friends, their classmates, the alumni of the program they are graduating from and maybe some of the guests who visited a class.
Many panel members strongly advocated inviting people out for coffee to have an information interview. It was noted (with one caveat) that the real estate industry is sufficiently small and that everybody has an extra 15 minutes. Several member of the panels who are also senior members of the industry noted their willingness.
The caveat, which also reinforces the first reason, is that a productive information interview is not simply some vague questions. You should prepare for a high level discussion: e.g.
- ask about a recent deal or innovation (so that you can learn the secrets omitted from the superficial media coverage)
- know enough about the company that you know their future plans (so that you can learn the reasons behind those plans).
The goal is to make you memorable in their eyes or, to use words from the Intro to Marketing class, to add brand value to YOU.
It can be intimidating for shy people or for people whose first language is not English to open themselves up like this. Since that group includes me, my advice is to accept it and move past it. Preparation helps. And it gets easier with practice. Plus, as was noted, lots of senior people want to give back to the profession, if you give them a chance.
Maybe, these conversations lead to a good job without an interview. If you have to sit for an interview then the network helps in other ways. Preparing for an interview means learning as much about the company as possible (and your network might include somebody else works there, or who used to and chose to leave).
If the company decides that you are great then prior conversations with your network enables you to understand your bargaining position. Many students are so happy to get their first job offer that they do not think about waiting for a better offer or making a counter-offer. (Women especially are encouraged to find a reason to make a counter-offer. Don’t be obnoxious about it but find a reason which adds value for you and for the company.)
When you have a job, your network plays a continuing role, again because the real estate industry is fairly small. First, because it is easier to look for a better job when you have a job. Second, because not all jobs are advertised loudly. Third, because there is always something new and professionals are always learning. (You may find that the learning in school is easier than the unstructured on-the-job learning.)
Finally, and since both relationships and help flow in two directions, it is time to return the favour. There is always a new generation of students who are looking to learn from experienced professionals.
Hopefully, this advice from our panels helps you during your job search. Good luck.