CCIM Feature

Will Recovery Spark New Hiring?

CCIMs reach for better career opportunities.

Commercial real estate professionals have done their best to ride out the economic storm and the deep real estate recession. The focus for many professionals has simply been staying afloat, as opposed to moving careers forward. However, that tide may be starting to turn as the recovery gains momentum.

There is no doubt that the past three years have been extremely challenging for commercial real estate professionals across the board. The industry saw very limited hiring.

“There were certainly job changes, but it was more reactive — kind of like a game of musical chairs,” says Paige Palmer, CCIM, CPM, RPA, an executive search partner at Search Professionals International in Plano, Texas. “There were not many job opportunities out there. You just had to try to find a seat, even if it was not the right seat.”

Given the number of people who are still unemployed or underemployed, it is still very much an employer’s market. Even industry veterans were displaced during the downturn, as transaction activity ground to halt and companies were forced to cut back on staffing to run more efficiently.

“People would have been more tempted to move out of the commercial real estate industry and change jobs if there was somewhere to go. But, in this particular recession, there was really no place to go because other industries were suffering as well,” Palmer adds.

New Optimism

Hiring gained momentum in the second half of 2012. In particular, activity has picked up on the East and West Coasts and is now expanding into other markets in the rest of the country, notes Palmer. “There is not any one area that is really hot. We are seeing a wide range of opportunities, which is a good thing,” she says. New hiring in transaction-related positions such as leasing, acquisitions, and development have been virtually nonexistent in recent years. But even those positions are starting to return. “There might not be many, but they are coming back,” adds Palmer.

Greenville, S.C., is one market where hiring has returned along with improvement in the commercial real estate sector. “As the market continues to heal and as financing becomes more and more available for projects, you will see more new brokers getting into the business,” says Brian Young, CCIM, SIOR, senior vice president, managing broker at Cushman & Wakefield/Thalhimer in Greenville. “I think you will also see more brokers that weren’t making it over the last two to three years start to make money again and be rewarded for having stayed in the business.”

As part of its ongoing expansion in the Mid-Atlantic, Richmond-based C&W/Thalhimer acquired the South Carolina firm of Coppedge & Tison in February 2012 and established offices in both Greenville and Charleston. In June 2012, Young was hired to serve as broker in charge of the new C&W/Thalhimer office in Greenville. His main focus is growing the brand in Greenville, recruiting new brokers, and pursuing corporate business.

C&W/Thalhimer hired three new brokers during 3Q12, and Young hopes to grow the team of five brokers to eight or nine by the end of 2013. He also expects to add support staff and recruit a summer intern. “We are looking for retail and office brokers, in particular, to help us execute on new business opportunities,” says Young. “We are also considering hiring junior-level brokers who would work on a team with senior brokers in our office.” C&W has seen hiring pick up across its broader network of affiliates. The company made 1,900 hires in 2011 and an additional 1,200 hires year-to-date through August 2012 across its 253 offices in 60 countries.

Facing Fierce Competition

Commercial real estate professionals who are actively looking for jobs or to advance their careers are finding an intensely competitive market. Candidates need to be on top of their game when it comes to setting themselves apart, sharpening their skills as they work to identify and secure new positions.

Dan S. Martin, CCIM, CPM, RPA, can speak firsthand to the challenges in the current market. Despite an 18-year career in the industry and a reputation as a top investment sales broker, Martin found himself scrambling to find a job. After months of searching, he landed at the University of Illinois in September as the assistant director of real estate.

In this job market, the key to finding opportunities is doing everything: networking with other CCIMs and using LinkedIn, Facebook, and Monster.com. “It is literally a full-time job,” Martin says. “You can’t assume that because your resume is put in one time that they are going to keep it in their top drawer. It doesn’t work like that.”

Commercial real estate professionals are increasingly taking advantage of technology and new resources such as social media to network, maintain industry relationships, and search for available jobs. “The commercial real estate world is changing and within our jobs we need to continue to reinvent ourselves to adapt to this change,” says Shawn E. Massey, CCIM, SCLS, a partner at The Shopping Center Group in Memphis, Tenn. Massey uses Twitter and also writes his own retail blog atwww.retailrocksinthe midsouth.com.

As a graduate school adjunct professor at the University of Memphis, Massey mentors both students and friends on the importance of using resources such as LinkedIn to identify job opportunities. “Although, face-to-face networking is by far the best way to create a new opportunity, I see multiple jobs offered through the various groups I belong to every day,” he says.

Real estate professionals are using the downturn to enhance skills, which can be an added bonus when trying to differentiate themselves in a crowded field of worthy job candidates. Designations such as CCIM do make a difference. Professionals also are taking the time to pursue professional designations, complete graduate degree programs, and take additional training or courses on financial analysis software, such as Argus.

Ashley Bishop, CCIM, a broker at Southeast Venture in Nashville, Tenn., opted to use the economic recovery period to sharpen his brokerage skills, build on his knowledge, and focus on networking and strengthening relationships. “I thought that if I could do that, then when we came out of this recession, I would be in a pretty good position,” Bishop says. He started his career as a mortgage banker in the 1990s and moved into the commercial real estate sector in 2006 where he worked on developing NNN retail properties. Even though that business came to a screeching halt when the recession hit, Bishop opted to stay in brokerage and decided that it was an opportune time to sharpen his skills. He obtained his CCIM designation in September 2011.

Even as the market recovers, real estate firms remain cautious, and as such, hiring has been slow to increase. “When companies do hire for either newly created positions or replacement positions, there is quite a bit of focus on assessing talent, identifying top performers, and making the right hire, not only for today, but for the future,” says Katie M. Becker, a managing principal at Christenson Advisors in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill. The firm provides executive recruiting and consulting services to the real estate industry.

The flip side is that candidates also are much savvier than they have been in the past. They are assessing the viability of future employers. “Many smart and talented employees found themselves out of a job despite their own performance, and they are using great care when considering their next move,” she adds.

In order to land that top talent, companies need to have a strong message as to why somebody should join their organization, Becker says. Real estate firms need to communicate the short- and long-term benefits of working for their organization to any future employees. That is something that candidates are taking into consideration, because they want long-term stability. Professionals also recognize that too much “job hopping” is not attractive to future employers. “Some of that has been out of their control, but candidates are being careful to make sure that the next move is the right move,” she adds.

Beth Mattson-Teig is a business writer based in Minneapolis.

Are commercial real estate salaries increasing in 2013? Find out in the latest CCIM Career Center survey.

An Improving Market

New employment opportunities are returning and companies are hiring again. Professional and business services added 51,000 jobs in October 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since September 2009, employment in the sector has expanded by 1.6 million, or by an average of 44,000 jobs per month as of October 2012.

Sentiment regarding hiring and new job opportunities in the real estate sector is also beginning to swing in a more positive direction. The commercial real estate job market saw steady improvement in 2012, with job postings up 32 percent over 2011 at the end of third quarter 2012, according to the Cornell/SelectLeaders Job Barometer. Job opportunities in the retail and multifamily sectors grew by 22 percent and 15 percent respectively, while office grew by 9.4 percent. Based on job postings, property management, asset/portfolio management, and accounting/control were the top three job functions, accounting for 30 percent of all postings. Acquisition/disposition job offers grew a little more than 5 percent from 2011 to 2012, while brokerage and leasing job offers declined slightly, indicating the still-recovering state of the real estate market.

“There are pockets of hiring happening, and lots of encouraging signs that we are all grasping. But, in all honesty, I think the recovery will remain slow through the next year,” says Katie M. Becker, a managing principal at Christenson Advisors in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill. “Even as the market recovers, companies are savvier and they are being cautious with their hiring so they don’t bulk up too much and have to go through the layoffs again. So the mantra that we are seeing is that companies are pushing employees to do more with less.”

Beth Mattson-Teig

Beth Mattson-Teig is a business writer based in Minneapolis.

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