Off The Pitch & Into Property: The Real Estate Industry Awaits
Real Estate offers a world of possibilities to individuals seeking rewarding careers in valuation, building surveying, letting agency, property management, asset management, and investment agency teams.
Whether it is within residential, commercial, or retail spaces; Real Estate encompasses the tangible assets that shape our built environment – land and improvements, including buildings, fixtures, roads, structures, and utility systems.
As the demand for Real Estate professionals continues to rise, employers face the challenges of finding and retaining qualified new talent. Additionally, the Real Estate sector is often misunderstood, and most graduates are unaware of its wide range of career opportunities.
We spoke with Eric Peters, a director at Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) in the Strategic Asset Management team, and James Harris, who works in the Investment Properties team at CBRE, about their careers in the Real Estate industry. Both are former professional rugby players, with Eric playing Rugby Union for Scotland and James Harris being selected for the Wales National Rugby Sevens squad in 2007.
Keeping Your Feet on the Ground by Diving into a Tangible Career
For Eric, the appeal of Real Estate stemmed from his intrinsic interest and passion for the industry. With his property degree earned at Cambridge University, he was able to apply for a chartered surveyor role with King Sturge – which is now part of JLL.
"Every day is different, and you get to meet so many people," he shares. The ability to transform properties and influence their value and performance excited him:
“For example, if you change the use of a building from an industrial unit to a higher level residential unit it is likely to increase value, that’s great for your client, but it could also be that you refurbish the existing building and push the rents on which also increases the value. The fact that you can directly influence the performance means that you can get long-term performance”.
Though James did not initially plan for a career in Real Estate, he shares the same enthusiasm; emphasising the tangible nature of commercial real estate, which impacts our daily lives and is constantly evolving; “We live in cities, work in office space, spend leisure time in shopping centres, eat in restaurants, and stay in hotels. In addition, we travel on infrastructure networks, while consuming retail commodities and grocery products that are also supported by vast logistics networks”. Everything we do as a society is impacted by the commercial real estate that surrounds us”. From changing working practices to post-pandemic behaviours, the built environment provides an exciting arena for those eager to shape the future.
WHY REAL ESTATE IS SUCH A GREAT INDUSTRY TO BE IN?
Embarking on a Real Estate Career after Rugby
Both Eric and James juggled rugby alongside their real estate careers, and their advice is clear: meticulous planning and dedication are essential. Building experience and connections within the industry while still pursuing their sporting passions helped smoothen the transition. Eric advises aspiring professionals to explore internships or work experiences within property companies, allowing them to build relationships and demonstrate their worth.
As the sport was becoming professional, Eric was a surveyor with a very accommodating firm: “I was able to work around my sport schedule, this meant when the others were resting or playing golf, I was in the office”. Despite already having one foot in the door, Eric found the transition slightly more challenging than he previously thought it would be when he decided to retire and go full-time into Real Estate:
“Coming in late to the work environment, I found a lot of people had existing relationships that went back five or ten years. A lot of the investment agents know one another very well, and because of that if you are trying to buy something, it’s easy to say ‘oh I’m going to run the deal with someone I know better’ and I initially found it very difficult to break through that”.
In the Real Estate industry, it's important to recognise that starting out may place you at a junior level compared to those with more experience. It's crucial to overcome the psychological challenge of comparing yourself to others and instead focus on showcasing your skills and dedication. “Success comes from becoming proficient in your work and demonstrating your worth through hard work and perseverance, rather than relying solely on your sports background”, insists Eric.
Essential Skills, Career Pathways, and the Value of Knowledge & Teamwork in Real Estate
In addition to patience and hard work, effective communication, teamwork, attention to detail, and problem-solving skills are crucial in the Real Estate industry. James notes that sportspeople naturally possess these qualities, as they are constantly striving for improvement. He encourages individuals to be inquisitive, to surround themselves with supportive and challenging teams, and to engage in conversations with colleagues in different departments to broaden their understanding of the industry.
Eric highlights teamwork as the greatest quality sportspeople can bring to a company: “Being able to deal with people from all walks of life, is a definite, making sure people are valued and listened to. Working together to set your goals is a bit like a game plan; if you all agree ‘this is our tactics’, once you get there, there’s a great sense of group achievement. A lot of what you get in the game transfers to the office”.
When considering a career in Real Estate, you do not necessarily need a degree. Eric highlights the variety of pathways available, from relevant degrees to one-year master's programmes or combining work experience with part-time university study. This flexibility ensures accessibility and allows aspiring professionals to gain early work experience.
In order to thrive in the Real Estate industry, it is crucial to consistently provide clients with top-notch advice and establish their loyalty. This can be achieved by recognising knowledge gaps, continuously improving skills, and adapting to the evolving market. James stresses the importance of curiosity and the need to surround oneself with a supportive and challenging team. Recognizing the diverse range of roles available in Real Estate, James recommends engaging in conversations with colleagues from different departments to gain varied perspectives and expand one's understanding of the industry.
Unlocking a Greener, Smarter & Distinctive Future for the Real Estate
Looking ahead, sustainability and diversity are key focal points within the industry. Real Estate is expanding beyond traditional sectors, with a growing emphasis on residential spaces and the life sciences field: “The focus has traditionally been in retail, office, and industrial. Residential is already a very established sector. Institutions are buying blocks of flats and letting them, whereas previously it had been done piecemeal by private individuals and property companies on a smaller scale. Office and industrial property have also seen a shift in focus. After the pandemic, the main growth area is in the life sciences; laboratory and office space are certainly what most institutions want to invest in”, relates Eric.
Moreover, institutions are strongly committed to sustainability and have set ambitious targets such as achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 or 2050. With a degree in Sustainable Urban Development from the University of Oxford, James possesses a broad and comprehensive knowledge base that enables him to engage in meaningful discussions with clients. The topic of ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) almost always arises during these conversations about investment decision-making. A recent investor survey conducted by CBRE revealed that an overwhelming 96% of investors have plans to incorporate ESG criteria, indicating a significant and decisive response. Additionally, the future is witnessing a notable increase in the adoption of "green" finance by capital market investors.
Finally, Eric reiterates the importance of diversity, acknowledging the need to mirror the population's makeup within the industry. Initiatives promoting awareness and combating unconscious bias are essential for achieving these goals.
Real Estate offers a plethora of opportunities for those seeking stability, progression, and the chance to shape the future of our built environment. With the right mix of soft skills, a passion for communication, negotiation, and problem-solving, individuals with sporting or military backgrounds can thrive in this dynamic industry.
So, lace up your boots, step off the pitch, and venture into the world of Real Estate, where exciting careers await.