My First Position after Cornell – JJ Fives, SHA RE Minor

When reflecting on my time as an undergraduate student at Cornell, there are many feelings that come to mind. However, one word stands out among the rest: grateful. I am grateful for many of the opportunities Cornell has opened up for me, but what I am truly grateful for above all else is that Cornell taught me how to persevere.

I speak from a unique perspective as a student athlete in the hotel school who minored in Real Estate. I want to paint a picture of how my experiences at Cornell in that role helped me to not only attain my first industry position out of school, but to also thrive and operate at a high level in that position.

Gerald (JJ) Fives III is an Associate at HREC Investment Advisors. JJ completed his Bachelor of Science with a minor in Real Estate from the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University in 2016.

Attaining the Position

Currently, I am a brokerage analyst at HREC Investment Advisors in Denver, CO. We specialize in property and mortgage brokerage in the hospitality and gaming industries. Since my sophomore year, I had my heart set on attaining a hospitality-specific real estate role after graduation. I would not have achieved that goal without the abundance of resources available to me at Cornell through the hotel school and the Real Estate program.

During the first semester of my senior year, I had many personal responsibilities. I was taking a 17-credit course load in addition to being a captain of the varsity football team and a member of Sigma Nu fraternity while simultaneously trying to find a job and fulfill the real estate minor requirements. At a place like Cornell, I know I am in good company with respect to workload. For this reason, I would like to emphasize the resources available through the university that made it possible for me to succeed in each task and role.

Real Estate students are able to find positions in many different ways at Cornell. Career fairs, on-campus interviews, and networking happy hours are a few resources that come to mind. The resource that I utilized was Handshake, the online database where students can filter available positions by interest, send in resumes, and hopefully pick up some interviews in the process.

The months of Fall are a heavy recruiting period in the hotel school; unfortunately, because I was an “in season” athlete, I was not able to attend many important networking events. However, through Handshake, I was still able to express my interest in available real estate positions, one being HREC, which I seized the opportunity with. Although I was unable to fully take advantage of certain opportunities afforded by the hotel school, Cornell’s abundance and diversity of recruiting resources helped me to secure a position during arguably my toughest semester in my four years.

Quantitative/Qualitative Abilities

The hotel school and Real Estate programs’ reputations speak for themselves. Students are trained rigorously to achieve the technical skills necessary to thrive in the industry. What separates Cornell from other similar programs is that the classes constantly demand that students think critically and adapt to the challenge at hand.

While I often felt unsure or even completely lost in many of my Real Estate classes, Cornell continually challenged me to dig deep and find a way to solve the problem. That mindset paired with constant repetition and practice has proved to be invaluable in my position today because clients trust us to execute solutions and close their deals. I would not have this skillset had Cornell not repeatedly challenged me to find ways to get things done.


Cornell has sharpened my leadership skills in several ways and has also taught me to adjust styles given the situation. I am steadily learning that these leadership skills remain an important tool in the industry. Leadership to me is not about just taking charge; at times that is part of it, but it is also being dependable, knowing when to step back and listen, knowing when to help a colleague or teammate, and in turn, knowing when to ask for help yourself.

Leadership takes many forms. As a football captain, group project team member, and student of several leadership and behavioral classes, I was constantly learning how to tailor my leadership style to the situation at hand. As I am separated from the academic/athletic setting, I realize that this skill is not only hard to come by, but also extremely applicable in my day to day routine. I am able to say that I am confident in handling difficult situations when they present themselves because of my experiences and training at Cornell.

I was very fortunate enough to have a well-rounded undergraduate experience that allowed me to develop necessary skills I use every day in my job. Had it not been for Cornell’s resources, rigorous environment, and exceptional people, I would not be in the position I am in today, and for that, I am grateful.