What you will learn by reading this series
You’ve likely been taught that networking is a critical element to securing your dream job. Yet, what does networking actually entail? Most colleges advise students to sign up for LinkedIn, search for relevant alumni, then develop relationships over email, phone, and coffee chats until they land an internship. Although technically correct, such advice lacks actionable detail.
This series aims to provide a detailed set of instructions that you can follow to success. Aside from breaking into the industry as an outsider myself, I developed these techniques through hundreds of conversations with industry aspirants and professionals. I supply the roadmap, you provide the effort.
A couple quick notes on structure and perspective before we dive in.
This blog post marks the first of a series in which I will explore best practices for networking into real estate private equity. This first post frames my perspective before I divulge the recipe. Following this post, I will list every step of my process. Subsequent posts will then break out each step in greater detail.
Why I write from the undergraduate perspective, and why this article is still helpful if you are not an undergraduate
Why I write from the undergraduate perspective
I presume the perspective of an undergraduate for the following reasons:
- The undergraduate junior internship is crucial to establish a foothold into any elite career, not just real estate private equity
- Undergraduates have the least experience. Thus, tailoring this article to them will improve their ability to relate to its content. More senior readers are better experienced to apply these methods to their own perspective.
- Undergraduates have the most opportunity and are the least constrained with current work or family obligations, which allows me to explore most possibilities for networking that would otherwise be restricted from another perspective such as a lateral hire
Why this series is still helpful if you are not an undergraduate
If you are not an undergraduate, do not worry. Although I first developed my techniques as an undergraduate, I reapplied these same principles as a graduate networking from real estate investment banking into real estate private equity. If anything, these techniques were further improved by my experience as a graduate recruiting into the exclusive world of real estate private equity with zero alumni or firm connections.
Plan of attack
Why networking as career advice is often unsatisfying
Imagine you visit your school’s career center, eager to secure an elite job in real estate private equity. What will the career center tell you to do? They will tell you to search for alumni on LinkedIn, figure out their email (perhaps using a service like Rocket Reach), send them an introductory request for conversation, and repeat. In fact, I won’t tell you anything that contradicts this wisdom. However, this conventional career center advice is often too vague and non-specific to be helpful. Undergraduates already face enough generalized uncertainty, what they need is a specific plan of action.
I will cut down that uncertainty. This series will detail a much more specific and actionable plan of attack that you can apply to conquer your own networking strategy. Let us now frame a more concrete understanding of networking before we detail each specific step.
What is networking?
Imagine any single real estate private equity fund as a graphical web of connections that adheres to a hierarchical pyramid structure. Each node of this web represents an investments professional, the different strata of the pyramid represent the ascending ranks. At the bottom of the pyramid are the junior analysts and associates. The pyramid narrows as you move beyond senior associates to vice presidents, managing directors, and partners. Now imagine each node of this pyramid is completely grey, meaning you have no contacted anybody in this organization. Your mental model may be slightly different, but perhaps imagine a node turning green after you’ve conversed with that professional.
When you network, you want to conquer that pyramid. You want every node to be green. Each time you tick off a node, your reputation at that firm increases. And as you increase your connections at the fund, your reputation grows exponentially stronger. Once you have developed a strong reputation, you will sit at the top of the list for potential hires once the opportunity arises. Further, the very act of conquering a firm’s network web develops your strength as a candidate. After all, your conversations with each connection will teach you something new about the nature of your dream job.
Why you never directly ask for a job
Let’s step back to imagine the perspective of a real estate private equity fund looking to hire their next analyst or associate. For the first week or two, you will open the position to internal transfers. More often than not, nobody will come through internally and the position will remain open. After the internal phase, you will ask colleagues to recommend friends, family, and alumni. Perhaps you will find a good match, yet odds are still slim that you find a candidate that stuns you. Now, you’re left with the most common and expensive option: pay a headhunter 10% of the analyst’s all-in compensation for the first year if they can find you a hire.
This storyline plays out every week across real estate private equity funds in every city. These firms are growing and need to hire talent, but talent is hard to find out of nowhere.
How proper networking can score you the job before the position goes to market
Now, let’s reimagine this entire storyline. Let’s imagine there was an eager candidate that every single person at the fund had spoken to. This candidate took the initiative to dial every professional on the phone for a brief chat out of sheer interest in the fund. This candidate is clearly passionate about the industry, and knew everything there was to know about real estate private equity and your particular fund’s history.
Would you even bother with the drawn out, inefficient hiring process if you already had a stellar candidate in your back pocket? Of course not, this candidate already put in the effort to develop fund-wide approval of their candidacy before the position even opened.
This is why you never need to directly ask for a job. If you conquer a firm’s internal network and clearly demonstrate your superior candidacy, your hire will be a no-brainer. To arrive at such a status only requires you to pick up the phone and start conquering those networks. Stay tuned as subsequent posts will explore the specific steps you can take to become that candidate that conquers the hiring process before it even starts. In the meantime, start writing those emails. I suggest no fewer than two emails every day, and a minimum of two phone calls per week. Remember to ask to speak with another colleague at the end of your call, and keep the conversations informational. Do not pressure for a job offer; the network will select you so long as you effortfully demonstrate your knowledge and passion for real estate private equity.
In the meantime, check out our course, Breaking Down Real Estate Private Equity, to hone your technical skills so you can not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk.