Real Estate Career Advice By Dusan Miletich

Where Are the Careers in Real Estate?

Stan Ross and James Carberry interview Dusan Miletich, managing principal of Arenda Capital Management in Torrance, California.

What is the near-term hiring outlook?

Right now, there is a deep pool of trained and experienced people in the industry to hire from, and at less compensation than a few years ago. If I hire an inexperienced person, it takes six months to train them for a position such as analyst. A couple of years ago there was a place for such people. There are more people than jobs now. There are not many positions for entry-level analysts.

What’s your advice to students and recent graduates?

I’m a professor in the University of Southern California’s Lusk Center for Real Estate, and I ask my students: How could you add value to a prospective employer? You can’t offer a lot of experience. So what do you do? If you’re in school, you may be able to get an internship. If you are a young professional whose job is at risk or who is unemployed, find a firm that has growth opportunities in this market and offer to work for them as an unpaid intern for a time. That will get you in the door. If you bring outstanding skills and great enthusiam to the position, the company may hire you. We hired a 22-year-old who was mentored by my business partner. He was an exception to my approach of hiring seasoned veterans, but we liked him, and he turned out to be one of the best hires ever in my experience.

Where might job seekers look for work?

Get to the confluence of activity right now, such as trying to get a job with a private equity firm. Many of these firms are specializing in investments in distressed assets. Offer to work for free, if necessary. Whatever it takes to get in the door. If you’re good, it could lead to a full-time job with a growing firm. Another possibility is to work for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The FDIC is closing hundreds of banks, and it has been hiring people to help manage asset liquidations and dispositions. Or you might consider starting as an entrepreneur. Buy a triplex as your first investment. Maybe you can raise some equity from family, friends, or other sources. You will gain experience in investing in and managing real estate, and over time, you could leverage that investment to acquire larger properties.

What can students do while in school to improve their employment prospects?

As I mentioned, try to get an internship. And find a good mentor who can help you prepare for a career. Start reaching out to prospective employers. Schedule information interviews to learn about their organizations. People in the industry, especailly alumni of your school, usually will take time to talk to you. I know one student who did 100 information interviews during a school year. How he found the time, I don’t know, but he did it. I’d say maybe 10 percent of students show similar initiative. The others wait around until near graduation before starting to look for work. There’s no sense of urgency.

Final thoughts?

Today is similar in some ways to the early 1990s, when the economy and real estate were in a deep recession in the aftermath of the savings and loan crisis. One result of that recession was a lost generation in real estate. Many young professionals left real estate to work in other industries, and by the late 1990s there was a shortage of managerial talent in real estate. Likewise, there could be another lost generation in coming years, and for real estate professionals who can hang on, there could be more career opportunities ahead.

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