Career Ins (and Outs)Shona

(in some ways, this is a continuation of my ‘About Me‘ page.)

I am not apologetic about getting my undergraduate degree in Liberal Arts, no matter what the critics say and no matter who wants to jump onto the S.T.E.M. bandwagon. In spite of being quite proficient in mathematics and computing; I really shine in the area of communication.

While I did eventually earn my M.B.A., my very first position was in the real estate/insurance industry. I would wholeheartedly suggest either the real estate or insurance fields to liberal arts majors for the following reasons:

  • There’s no such thing (really) as a “real estate” or “insurance” undergraduate major. So hiring managers won’t be weeding you out on the basis of your degree type.
  • Just about every skill set is needed. It is a myth that all of the well-paying real estate and insurance jobs are in sales (although you can make a nice amount of cash in those positions – more on this below).
  • You can make a good salary and leadership opportunities are abundant. In my firm the salaries and benefits are good; and it is pretty much the same among all the players in the commercial real estate industry.
How To Get Started

(from here on out I will only be referring to the real estate industry, since I haven’t worked the insurance side of things for quite some time)

I’ll be honest with you, real estate is a field where it helps to have an inside connection. Barring that, you can find entry-level (so low paying) administrative positions in real estate firms, title insurance offices and brokerage firms. From there, you can work your way up.

In my humble opinion commercial real estate is the bees knees. Residential can allow you to have more freedom, to be more entrepreneurial and you don’t have as much corporate politics surrounding you. But the pay is also lower; unless you are selling in the upper & high class markets. Monster.com has a good article on how to choose between becoming a residential or commercial real estate sales agent here.

Additionally you have more opportunities to find a good fit in commercial real estate. Commercial firms have accounting departments, finance departments, property and facilities management areas, IT, leasing & legal, administrative, human resources, marketing, etc. Lots of additional areas to work in if sales are not your thing (like with me).

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

The real estate industry has a high turnover rate; which is a good and bad thing. There are many of my peers who have turn down this path as a second career, after being out of the job market for a while (or just job hopping), or because their first choice career didn’t pan out. I can see that unless you’re involved in residential real estate…and you get the joy of handing someone the keys to their first home or something…the work can seem rote. Dare I say that it is even tedious and boring at times.

However I love it. I love being part of a “hidden” industry. You know…a job that is not in your face…but isn’t really going anywhere either. Real estate may have ups and downs but it never goes away completely. People will be buying and selling and leasing property for as long as we live (and as long as we don’t become communist). So I can go to sleep at night without really having to worry too much about my job becoming obsolete.

Oh, and if I can end with this; please, please, please stay away from residential leasing office jobs. Even if you get a swanky title…the work is hell. Residential leasing is a nasty can of worms as it is…but as a residential leasing manager, especially of apartments, you do all the work and get little glory. Not a week goes by without some sort of crisis (i.e. going to court for eviction, cleaning out a place a tenant trashed, showing apartments 10 times a day — only getting 1 lease signing & now you are hours behind work you had on your desk, etc.). I did this for like 1 month and I couldn’t take it anymore. Everyone I’ve talked to agrees…I was smart to bail.

In the best of luck to you and feel free to contact me if you want some inside information on some jobs that are available.