Real Estate Career Advice By Sonia Savoulian

Where Are the Careers in Real Estate?

Stan Ross and James Carberry interview Sonia Savoulian, managing director of the University of Southern California Lusk Center for Real Estate in Los Angeles, California.

What is the hiring outlook for USC real estate graduates this year compared with 2009?

Last year, there was so much uncertainty that employers found it impossible to make hiring decisions. Now, while some uncertainty remains, employers are moving forward with hiring plans. So far this year, employers have informed us of over 100 job openings. That’s about double the 2009 figure, although still fewer than the 370 openings at the peak of the boom. Another positive sign is that about 60 employers participated in our 2010 industry night—more than last year.

Who is in the market for employees?

Mostly companies on the investment and finance side. There’s very little activity on the development side. A lot of companies downsized, and all that were left were senior-level people. Now these companies need to go out and recruit for junior-level positions such as analyst.

When do companies start interviewing students who are graduating?

Real estate firms typically have a short window for making hiring decisions; it’s a just-in-time hiring process. Companies hire as needs arise. Firms are interested in speaking with students when they are available to start working full time, which means shortly before graduation. Hiring decisions are then made pretty quickly. Students continue interviewing through the summer following completion of their degree, with everyone concluding their job search by fall. Last year, the hiring process took much longer.

What are students’ career goals?

A near-term goal for some students is to work for a few years, acquire some experience, and then go to graduate school to develop the high level of skill in finance and other areas that employers are looking for. Longer term, many students want to go into development, but with few jobs available at present, they are working elsewhere in real estate until development activity picks up and developers start hiring. They have deferred but not given up on their career aspirations. Many students also have entrepreneurial aspirations and look to start their own ventures later in their careers.

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