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How to Break into Commercial Real Estate

Commercial real estate, or “CRE,” is one of the most compelling industries in the world – it’s simultaneously all around us, yet so often invisible to those without a family or friend in the business. CRE is full of interesting asset classes (types of properties), career paths, and opportunities - and the work we do has the power to shape and transform communities and markets around the globe.

My career in the CRE industry has been incredibly fulfilling, as I value curiosity, learning, and professional growth, building long-term and mutually beneficial relationships, and an environment that is dynamic and ever-evolving.

When I moved from another industry into commercial real estate, everything I knew about the business could fit on a post-it note! I learned from scratch, and so can you – here are my top 3 tips for breaking into CRE:

Begin to learn the landscape of the industry through IMMERSION

The terminology and acronyms used in the commercial real estate (“CRE”) industry can feel daunting, and can feel a lot like learning a new language – and the best way to learn a new language is through immersion. One of the simplest and most effective first steps you can take is to subscribe the newsletters of CRE-focused media outlets.

BisNow, GlobeSt., and ConnectCRE are three excellent sources – they also host in-person and online events you can attend, typically focused on a particular market or sub-market, or type of real estate properties (asset classes) for instance, multifamily. You can find other news sources and event hosts by googling “commercial real estate news and events” and the market you’re interested in learning about.

Schedule time at the beginning or end of the day to go through email newsletters, and look up the words you don’t understand, along with the companies and asset classes that you’re most interested in. This helps you to identify individual areas of interest you can explore further in step 2 –

Explore your specific interests through SPECIALIZATION

Your understanding and mastery of the language of CRE will build your confidence as you navigate more specialized conversations and spaces within the industry.

Once you have come across a particular asset class, like industrial, it’s time to explore the vast network of opportunities available to you through industry associations and/or designations. One example is the Society for Office & Industrial Realtors, or SIOR, which is both an association and a highly respected industry designation. Another is the CCIM Institute and their rigorous Certified Commercial Investment Member designation program, for those who are more advanced in the CRE careers.

These groups offer professional development, networking, business building, and leadership opportunities for their members.

I’d recommend attending a variety of different organization’s events, reading articles, signing up for free webinars, and utilizing their free resources first before making a large financial or time investment. A quick note – many memberships are significantly less expensive (or even free) for students and have scholarships available based on financial need, so be sure to do your research!

To understand what specific organizations and/or designations are most aligned with your interests, a simple google search like “retail commercial real estate networking organizations” or “multifamily real estate designations”, or a conversation with an industry expert in the field you’re most interested in are all great ways to get started. I’ve also included a partial list of organizations at the bottom of this article, to save you research time!

Commit, and go DEEP

Once you have identified what you’re most interested in, embrace that interest, and focus on being both a student and a teacher. As a student, get curious about the trends affecting your specific niche area of the market.

For instance, if I’m passionate about affordable housing – go down the “rabbit hole” of resources available to you. Everyone has different learning styles and preferences, which could include:

  • Reading/listening to books

  • Listening to podcasts

  • Watching videos

  • Taking online courses

  • Enrolling in a designation/certification course

  • Finding a mentor

  • Participating in networking groups

  • Joining a forum or online group

I’ve found that combining a few different methods of learning is most powerful, as our knowledge increases as we actively use it – in conversations and interactions with others.

This is where we can become both student and teacher – someone who is continuously learning, contributing to the larger conversations happening in our industry, and therefore adding value to others.

One of the ways I do this is by sharing what I’ve learned, my unique viewpoints, and experiences on social media platforms. The added benefit in sharing this kind of content is that you become known within your niche (or area of expertise) – that helps you build your network and personal brand at the same time as you’re helping others.

Breaking into commercial real estate requires the tenacity to learn our unique language, the passion to pursue specialized skills and expertise, and the willingness to commit to the path of continuous learning and professional growth.

I hope these three tips help you, as they helped me, journey into a successful career in CRE.


Allison Weiss has recruited hundreds of CRE professionals of all experience levels, and possesses over 10+ years experience in talent acquisition, recruiting, business strategy, branding, & leadership. She is the founder of CRE Recruiting and the host of the Growing Careers & Companies podcast.

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