Many years ago, while working for a public real estate investment company, my second job after graduating from Cornell Law School, I swore to myself and everyone who would listen that I would never work on Wall Street. As Charles Dickens said first, “never say never” and I spent almost 15 years of my long real estate career working for two well-known investment banks in New York City completing billions of dollars of transactions and managing teams focused on commercial real estate banking, investment and finance.
I am a Lehman Brothers refugee and in 2009 I started a campus recruiting strategic advisory firm. We partner with employers, primarily real estate and financial services firms, who do not have in house campus recruiting teams to enable our clients to build their brand and compete against the Wall Street firms for the strongest talent at 101 campuses throughout the U.S.
From Cornell to Wall Street
Over the more than eight years of our existence we have heard over and over again from students at the top ranked schools that Wall Street provides the best option to begin a real estate career. So many clamor to join the ranks of Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan where they will spend their days putting together pitch books, running models and never being involved in the decision-making process for the acquisition, financing, development or redevelopment of an actual real estate asset.
While Wall Street may be the perfect place for a certain type of student who is more passionate about numbers than buildings, we believe that students should broaden their horizons and consider Wewatta Street (hint – it’s in Denver) and other streets throughout the US in addition to Wall Street.
Consider Another Street
For example, each year we have seen an increase in the number of Private Equity firms and REITs based outside of Midtown/Downtown Manhattan who have hired undergraduates rather than MBA students. Those lucky new hires get the chance to work with and learn from real investors. Also, as companies redesign workspace, residential units and retail space to meet Millennial and Generation Z preferences, there are corporate opportunities for exciting work in less “buttoned up” atmospheres throughout the world. And finally, with entrepreneurial spirit at an all-time high and creativity abounding in technology, design and finance in the real estate space there are growing opportunities for graduates who are willing to take the leap at startups and early stage businesses.
Non Traditional Real Estate Opportunities
Finding opportunities at non-traditional firms can be hard work. Some non-Wall Street firms do visit campuses but many do not have the resources to devote to what is a very time-consuming process. Many of the smaller firms cannot project out staffing needs almost a year in advance and so participating in the September/October full time and summer recruiting process is way too early for them. The search for these opportunities as well as the typical Wall Street Analyst role is well worth the effort. If you are someone itching to make your mark quickly, the career trajectory at a non-traditional firm can be much more rapid than at investment banks where there is a rigid structure.
We recommend broadening your search, thinking hard about your priorities and the cost of living in NYC and doing your due diligence carefully about every opportunity that you uncover. And by the way, Wewatta Street is pretty amazing.