Guest contributed by Lauren Leach
For women considering a career in commercial real estate, consider restructuring as the opportunities are vast and varied and sure to offer challenges and fulfillment.
This is a field with a surprising shortage of women. I have always viewed being a woman as an advantage. It means you are more likely to get noticed in a professional situation. As such, it is imperative you are prepared and have the skill set and knowledge to communicate and execute effectively once you are noticed.
It was a circuitous route that brought me to my career. A summer internship changed the professional trajectory of my life. I was working on my psychology degree at the University of Michigan when a family friend suggested I explore real estate. Intrigued, that summer I secured an internship at a prestigious global commercial real estate brokerage and began building the foundation for my career
I found the commercial real estate industry so compelling in large part because of the high-risk, high-reward nature of the business, which has a variety of subsets that allow me to constantly expand and hone new skills. Real estate, unlike some other asset classes in a commercial portfolio, provides a platform to truly measure value and witness tangible progress in the form of brick and mortar. In today’s tumultuous environment, my skillsets and experience in this area are in great demand.
Now, I specialize in restructuring distressed commercial real estate properties. My focus changed to distressed real estate from the brokerage side of the business to embrace new challenges. Working as a broker during the Great Recession provided a fierce and up close look at the volatility of the commercial real estate market. That volatility has perhaps never been more evident than in recent years.
As I’ve ascended in my career, I have learned a lot and offer the following tips for young professionals entering the industry:
- As you begin your career, choose your employer carefully. Get to know your potential boss as much as possible as well as the culture of the organization. When you consider a new position, keep in mind that you are interviewing the prospective employer as much as they are interviewing you. If possible, spend time with your potential peers in advance of accepting a job offer. A stable and supportive work environment is critical to success.
- Real estate, like any industry, is about relationships. Don’t be afraid to ask professionals in your network for introductions. Be willing to take the time to network and get actively involved with industry organizations.
- Write handwritten thank you notes! I am consistently surprised by how infrequently people make time to acknowledge others in writing. The receiver will appreciate the effort and remember your name.
- Follow up and follow through on all things. The old adage ‘reputation is everything’ is partly true. Reputations are ultimately built by doing what you say you’re going to do and doing it exceptionally well.
- Treat associates with respect. Early in my career I was elevated to a management role, leading a team of professionals, many of whom were older than me and some who had more experience in the industry. I found success by focusing on working collaboratively, valuing each team member’s experience and always leading with respect.
- It’s an often-recited adage in business: match your attire to the job you want, not the one you have. Dress as if you are going to cross paths with the CEO or a key client everyday. At the same time, follow the office trends. If you work in a casual environment, do not overdress and potentially alienate yourself from the rest of the team.
I have also been fortunate in that I have not personally experienced sexual harassment or similar inappropriateness in the workplace. Culture is set at the top. Again, do your research as you make decisions related to what organizations you want to work for. If you do experience harassment or intimidation in any form, documentation and discussion with HR is essential. If it is happening to you, most likely it is happening to others too.
About Lauren Leach
Lauren Leach, Director, Conway MacKenzie has negotiated over 8,000,000 square feet of leases with a value in excess of $410,000,000. She also specializes in court-appointed receiverships, leasing matters, portfolio valuations and liquidations, and complex real estate negotiations. Lauren holds a B.A. in psychology and Master’s degree in retail brokerage from the University of Michigan. She resides in Metro Detroit with her husband, daughter and dog.
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