A career in real estate consultancy
History student Mark von Weiler was offered an internship through his network. This led him straight to the career he wanted! You can do the same: read this article and follow the tips from the career adviser.
Actually, my first contact with the CBRE real estate organisation came about quite informally. I had decided by the end of my Bachelor’s programme in History that after my Master’s in American History I would like to have a career in commercial real estate. That’s why in addition to my studies I also followed an evening course in Investing in Real Estate.
Someone I knew through my network was working for CBRE as an international real estate consultant. I called him and asked whether I could drop by for a cup of coffee so that he could explain to me how commercial real estate worked. What I really wanted to know was how he ended up in this position without having completed a study in economics. A few days later, there I was, at the Rotterdam office. We had a really good talk, after which to my great surprise he asked me whether I wanted to do an internship with them. This was not at all what I was thinking of at the time; I still had to begin my master’s programme and was due to leave for Washington to do research.
A year later, while putting the finishing touches to my thesis in Washington, I called him once again to ask whether his offer of an internship still held. He said ‘yes’. In the end, I did a 4-month internship, as a kind of apprenticeship with the director of the Rotterdam office. When I completed my internship, a position opened up in the Industrial & Logistics team. I applied, and got the job.
CBRE offers its clients integral advice regarding all issues arising in commercial real estate. I work in a team of five which focuses on logistics and industrial real estate. This involves, for instance, large corporate halls which are used to supply shops with goods, deliver packages or manufacture products. We advise users, investors and developers and answer their questions about commercial real estate. I personally focus primarily on the investment aspect, which means that I guide clients through the commercial aspect of investment transactions. Actually we are always working on more than one transaction at a time; a transaction can easily take up to six months. On a typical day, in the morning I might view a building with potential investors for one case, and in the afternoon work on writing a sale contract for another deal. There are also a lot of e-mails to answer and phone calls to return, and all sorts of other issues that require attention also end up on my desk.
My History studies most certainly come in handy in my work. Real estate transactions are complex affairs which often involve large sums of money. It is essential to keep an eye on the larger picture, while at also being aware of the smallest details. If you don’t, the client suffers. This ability to critically analyse details while keeping the larger picture in mind is definitely a skill that I mastered in my studies. In addition, I notice that I find writing easy and that I am used to reading a lot. This is very useful in a sector in which contracts play such an important role.
Don’t be afraid to approach interesting people for an informal meeting. Most of them don’t mind spending half an hour with an enthusiastic young student. And you can only benefit from the interaction.
The world of real estate is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of where you might end up after your humanities programme. Mark’s story shows that as a humanities student, you might end up anywhere. What matters are the skills you bring to your work. As a consultant, you should be good at analysing, researching and offering advice. These are all skills that you will have learned in your Leiden programme. Job market surveys (Student Careers Service/TNS Nipo, Autumn 2013) show that approximately 5% of our former students now have a job in consultancy.
You can become a consultant/adviser in virtually any field, from communication to ICT, marketing, management, national and international commerce, etc. Just think of the field that you are interested in and work on developing the above-mentioned skills in your studies, for instance by taking on an internship or a relevant student job.
- Job database at consultancy.nl (in Dutch)
When searching in job databases, use the search terms ‘consultant’ and ‘adviser’. For instance in the job database of Intermediair (in Dutch), or in the Dutch National Job Database (Nationale Vacaturebank, in Dutch).
Consultancy for government organisations