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To recap, you graduated from a non-target state school with an excellent 3.9 GPA. You’re currently an FP&A generalist at a F100 pharma company; however, you are not satisfied with your current position and are interested in commercial real estate investing. You believe some of your experience is relevant, especially your contract compliance work, but are curious how you can actually lateral into real estate acquisitions while remaining in your smaller Midwestern city.
Allow me to begin with the positive factors. First, your excellent GPA will stand as a testament to your work ethic and ease the recruiting process. Second, you are only one year out of college and have plenty of time to course correct, especially into a CRE analyst position. Third, scrutinizing contracts and source documents comprises a significant portion the analyst workload, so your work experience is actually applicable to CRE despite your comment above to the contrary. As an aside, when marketing your contract skills, I would focus on anecdotes in which you may have caught a detail that slipped by others. Fourth, commercial real estate professionals admire passion, so your desire to transition out of a good F100 pharma job into CRE will support your bid for candidacy given the effort required to lateral out of your current full-time position. I would recommend you emphasize your passion for CRE as you network and ultimately interview for positions within the industry.
Now, I’d like to touch on a few points you made.
You seem to be weighing the choice of pursuing a Master’s in CRE against recruiting directly into a CRE firm from your current position. I disclaim that I do not personally hold a Master’s, yet have interviewed a non-target state school student who pursued a Master’s in Real Estate Development directly after their undergrad. This individual’s experience shows that CRE experience is not a necessity to pursue a CRE Master’s, given they joined straight from undergrad. Bottom line, I would suggest you aggressively pursue a direct hire for 6-12 months (depending on your patience) to see if you can’t circumvent the pricey tuition and cumbersome student loans associated with post-graduate education. If you can’t stick an offer or at least a couple interviews by aggressively networking, perhaps a Master’s would be a worthwhile path.
Separately, you mention that you wish to work in CRE acquisitions. However, the only firms that you have listed in your city — CBRE, JLL, HFF, etc. — are all brokers. While brokerage is a potentially lucrative career path, I want to ensure you understand that the firms you named do not acquire assets themselves; rather, they advise buyers and sellers. Many of my colleagues in Manhattan Megafund REPE began their careers are local brokerages. Thus, working at a brokerage could be a helpful stepping stone into CRE acquisitions, just keep in mind that analyst positions at prestigious brokerages are competitive.
If your true aim is to work in CRE acquisitions, I suggest you search for alumni, friends, family, or any other sort of connection you can create with individuals that work in real estate acquisitions in your city. First, figure out what firms invest in commercial real estate in your area. For example, if you happen to live in Indianapolis (picking Midwestern cities out of a hat), googling the following terms would result the following employers you could then research on LinkedIn for connections, or even try cold-calling:
Indianapolis Real Estate Private Equity Funds
Barrington Investment Company, LLC: http://www.barringtonllc.com/
316 Investments: http://www.316invest.com/
Indianapolis Real Estate Family Office
Falcon Legacy, LLC: http://falconlegacy.com/
Indianapolis Commercial Real Estate Invesment Fund
House Investments: https://houseinvestments.com/investments/
Charter Commercial Investments: https://www.chartercommercial.net/About
Kite Realty: https://kiterealty.com/
Finally, you have mentioned that you have experience creating a couple large models. I would be careful to understand whether your current modeling experience is relevant before you emphasize it too heavily. Of course, it is great if you are familiar with Excel. Nevertheless, you should understand the sort of cash flow modeling we teach in the REPE starter kit and our larger course, Breaking Down REPE, before you open yourself up to technical questions regarding CRE financial modeling.