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Catching the Real Estate Train

There is no denying it. Real estate is all the rage at HBS these days.

The evidence is everywhere: the explosion in Real Estate Club membership, massive over-subscription to the school’s one real estate class, and of course, intense competition for positions in the field. Only a few years ago, interest in this industry was meager at best. Now, more and more people are writing their application essays on a career in real estate. While there is substantial growth in the number of people wishing to pursue real estate full-time, there is also a growing number of people who wish to “dabble” in it. But, what is “it”? What is this field that is so accessible, yet so enigmatic?

Because real estate companies tend to be rather lean, there are few “MBA-track” positions for the recent college graduate. For this reason, very few people at HBS have had substantial exposure to the industry.

And while we all concede that there are many virtues of a general management education, the Harvard Business School curriculum does not provide students with an understanding of the scope and opportunities in industries like real estate and entertainment.

We talk a lot about learning from each other. Our case method learning model depends on our ability to effectively share knowledge. We spend countless hours in study group and in the classroom teaching and learning analytical skills from our peers. But, peer education frequently goes beyond learning how to think. It is also an invaluable way to demystify new industries. It is a great way to explore various opportunities for life after HBS.

On Tuesday, March 4th, the Real Estate Club organized an Internship Panel. Panel members included Arnaud Ajdler, Russ DeMartino, Charles Duhigg, Brooke Herlihy, Harry Lake, and Ben Schall. In addition to discussing tactical job search issues, the panel members fielded numerous questions on industry fundamentals. The real estate industry can be segmented in several different ways. First, there is the division between residential and commercial products. These segments can be further divided into condominium, apartment, single family, retail, office, and industrial. In terms of functions, the industry can be split into categories such as private equity, banking, leasing, services (including brokerage, research, etc.), and development. With regard to size, real estate organizations can range from small-time landlords to global powerhouses. Of course, we cannot forget the distinction between public REITs and private companies. Just like any other industry, real estate offers opportunities in marketing, sales, strategy, finance, operations and much more.

The Real Estate Panel emphasized the importance of understanding the various aspects of the industry and of determining which roles best suit you. Talk to as many people as you can about the basics. Talk to your classmates. Talk to alumni. Talk to non-alumni. Talk to everybody.

Network with the goal of demystification. Real estate is becoming a wonderfully sophisticated game. Although there is more than one way to play it, you must first learn the rules.

Consistently, the panel advised educational networking as a job search strategy.

Fortunately, there are countless points of entry into the industry. If you are serious about a career in real estate, you will find a way into the game.

March 10, 2003
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