CCIM Feature

Career Connections

This CCIM helps real estate professionals find employment opportunities.

In Hillsborough County, Fla., where Robert Lee Barber, CCIM, managing partner of Accelerated Real Estate Services in Pinellas Park, Fla., resides, the invisible hand of the real estate market maintains a visibly tight grip. Vacancy is up, rents are down, deals are rare. And fewer transactions, of course, mean fewer real estate jobs. Overall unemployment in the county is poised to reach 10 percent, and many of the cuts can be attributed to the commercial and residential property downturns.

Recognizing a growing need for support among laid-off colleagues, Barber joined Real Estate Lives on behalf of the CCIM West Coast Florida District Chapter. An all-volunteer organization, Real Estate Lives provides counseling, training, and job placement opportunities to unemployed real estate professionals in Hillsborough County. “As 2009 chapter president, I’m responsible for promoting the designation locally across a variety of platforms,” Barber says. Participating in Real Estate Lives is an ideal way to connect with industry pros who can take advantage of the institute’s education and networking programs to regain a foothold in the marketplace. Led by Tampa, Fla., real estate attorney Ron Weaver, the group currently assists more than 260 people. Of that number, approximately half have worked in the commercial sector.

Since joining the organization in February, Barber has taken an official role on the executive committee, coordinating marketing and communications efforts. “Our focus is to find ways to promote Real Estate Lives and get the word out,” he says. His current projects include reaching out to local businesses to identify job openings, soliciting volunteer support, and maintaining a Web presence through social networking sites and the group’s home page, www.realestatelives.org.

With Barber’s assistance, Real Estate Lives already has helped more than 40 people land new jobs. One commercial real estate professional who had been hit particularly hard by the recent bust even was able to pursue a lifelong dream. “The downturn had caused this person to reflect on whether to continue in the real estate industry or foster an underlying passion for teaching at the collegiate level,” Barber says. “By networking at one of our meetings, the person gained the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to teach a course at a local university.”

The success stories are spreading. “As the organization has taken root and grown, other professionals around the state have approached us about replicating our model,” Barber says. A group in Fort Myers, Fla., for instance, currently is rounding up volunteers for a yet-to-be-named organization styled after Real Estate Lives. As Barber notes, the resources already are available in each community: “There just needs to be a central hub or conduit to help people navigate.”

But as rewarding and — right now — necessary as this work may be, Barber recognizes that such volunteer organizations are transient. “The real estate market will turn again, and there will no longer be a need for Real Estate Lives,” he says. “In the meantime, we’re here to lend a hand.”

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