Five tips for women beginning commercial real estate careers
by Marcy Gross
Sheldon Gross Realty
I’ve been in the commercial real estate business for decades now, with a primary emphasis on managing industrial, corporate, and retail properties of every shape and size. More recently, I’ve assumed the responsibility of chief executive for the New Jersey-based agency my father founded back in 1962.
In all the time I’ve been in this field, men have outnumbered women. That was certainly true three decades ago, and it remains true – if a bit less so – today. It’s a situation I’ve often been asked about, and my perspective has never changed. While being female does place me in a minority position among my commercial real estate colleagues, I’ve never allowed it to become an issue or prevent me from succeeding.
More to the point, it also shouldn’t deter younger women who are just now moving into commercial real estate from pursuing their desired goals. With this in mind – and drawing on my professional experience – what follows are five tips for my female colleagues who are in the initial phases of their careers.
- Network – Everyone in any type of a sales position knows that developing, maintaining, and growing a network is an essential undertaking. You can’t sell consistently without the appropriate connections. As a woman, you’ll want your network to include multiple female colleagues who you can turn to for input. You will want to discuss challenges, celebrate triumphs, and conduct a bit of mutually beneficial business. Your network should ideally include women who are senior to you. This will afford you the opportunity to draw upon their experiences when advise is needed. Finally, as your career grows, I encourage you to begin including more junior colleagues – so you can help them along at the start of their careers. This will help ensure that women in the commercial real estate pipeline feel supported, encouraged, and fulfilled.
- Embrace your femininity … but don’t obsess about it – I always say my gender has never been a professional hinderance, and I mean it. This has been the case, in large part, because I’ve walked a careful line. I’m proud to be a woman … but I never wallow in it. My goal each day is providing clients with the best possible service, and when I’m working, I see myself as a commercial real estate professional; I never make being female a primary component of this. To put it bluntly, if you want gender to be a non-issue in your business dealings, then be sure you are not the one making it an issue.
- Blaze your own trail – One of the most appealing aspects of a commercial real estate career is the ability to choose your own direction. Do you want to work for a large corporation, or a smaller agency, or maybe be your own boss? It’s up to you. Do you want to focus on office buildings, or retail locations, or industrial properties? Your call. Maybe you’ve always wanted to live and work in a particular city or state – commercial real estate can get you there. Perhaps, like me, you’re inclined toward managing properties. The overarching point is that commercial real estate enables you to tailor your business based on whatever resonates with you. This type of built-in flexibility is invaluable, and I encourage you to fully personalize your career.
- Invest in yourself – This is good advice for anyone starting a career, and it absolutely had to be on this list. If you’ve selected any facet of commercial real estate as your field of choice, you can’t just sit around and wait for essential knowledge, insights, and opportunities to miraculously fall into your lap. You’ll need to be proactive about seeking them out, and may need to spend a bit of money to do so. I’m referring to investing in yourself, including advertising in all appropriate places, and participating both in online and in-person workshops. Women should strongly consider membership in as many professional associations as their time allows for, particularly those that offer chances to meet, interact with, and learn from other female professionals. All these upfront costs will pay off on the back end as your network grows and leads are generated.
- Set BIG goals – Just about every list of business tips I’ve ever encountered recommends having a plan. And since any effective plan will point toward a goal, my additional advice is to always set your goals high. In fact, make them audacious – totally shoot for the stars. You should never be shy about wanting to achieve a full measure of success. Strangely, this seems to be an issue with many women I’ve met – they’re talented professionals, but they limit themselves with mediocre goals. Business is a competitive venture, and not everyone will succeed – so it’s essential that you be your own most outspoken, passionate advocate. The most effective way to accomplish this is by aspiring to something truly spectacular, then pursuing it with everything you’ve got.
I’ve been around the figurative commercial real estate block more than once – and I fully intend to keep circling it. I firmly believe that the field is absolutely well-suited to women, and in a wide variety of ways. So, if you hear a career in commercial real estate whispering in your ear, I encourage you to join me and all the other women who are already actively and fully involved. Success is there for the taking.
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