On February 24, Holy Cross alumni who have distinguished themselves as leaders in the commercial real estate business shared their wisdom, advice and experiences in a COES event focused on educating students about careers in real estate.
James Whelan ’00, Senior Vice President at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and Colin Blair’00, Account Manager in the Corporate Services Group at Cushman and Wakefield, described some of the opportunities in the industry before introducing keynote speaker John Power ’80, Principal and Co-Founder of Fairley, White. Four panelists, Matt Harvey ’02, Principal at Cresa Partners ; Sean Duffy ’86, Executive Director, Brokerage, at Cushman and Wakefield; Catherine Britt ‘04, Senior Project Manager at Northstar; and Tim Mulhall ’10 of Colliers International also offered advice on how to stand out as a potential intern and job candidate.
As someone who has been knocking on the door or real estate companies for the past several months, I was especially interested in hearing their views on what it takes to break into, and succeed in, the industry. Their response: passion, persistence and networking.
John Power, who has more than 30 years of experience in the field , sought advice from another Holy Cross alum, Bill McCall, and described how standing in McCall’s office, he became fascinated by the buildings he saw through the window. He began to imagine the possibilities for the building and knew from that moment that he wanted to be involved in commercial real estate. “Commercial brokerage is the best profession. It involves no risk, and it offers high rewards. But you must be willing to invest your time,” stated Powell.
Here are some other insights:
— All majors can apply. Both Whelan and Blair pointed out that commercial real estate offers opportunities for students of all majors and with a variety of interests, whether it is sales, finance, law, or marketing. Work ethic and personality matter more than major.
— One building, many opportunities. Every building offers a range of transaction/business opportunities: sales, rentals, leasing, purchasing, financing, management/operations, etc. This is what makes the industry so dynamic.
— Learn the business first. Harvey stressed that new recruits should take the time to learn the business and not be frustrated if they aren’t involved in big deals right away. Knowledge about the business will help you in future deals.
— Sell, grind and build relationships. Duffy emphasized that every day you need to sell both yourself and the product. He reminded attendees that relationships matter, always – and that persistence pays off.
— The Holy Cross advantage. Power pointed out that Holy Cross students have an advantage in the field because of the school’s high reputation in the real estate industry. Mulhall added that his Holy Cross education boosted his confidence and gave him an edge because his writing was stronger than his peers.
The lesson? Holy Cross’ liberal arts curriculum and the reputation of its alum can help open doors to a vast array of career opportunities in commercial real estate.
Thanks to Kevin Kennedy ’16 for covering this event and to all the alum sharing insights to the real estate industry! As always, don’t forget to “like” us on FACEBOOK and follow us @HCPrebusiness Watch for our next blog post…
Associate Director, Entrepreneurial Studies