She emigrated from India and was anxious to get ‘Canadian Experience.’ I hate how much that seems to matter, but my observation is that it remains a common barrier. She has an architectural background and has experience developing a commercial office building in India. I can tell she is frustrated that her resume and networking meetings haven’t garnered her any job interviews. She asks “Should I widen my search to include residential developers, until more opportunities open up with commercial developers?”
My advice is to focus on commercial real estate if that is her true end goal. Focus shows employers you are committed, not just interested. I even encourage her to narrow her search to commercial office developers based on her interests and experience. This narrowing of prospects may be counter intuitive, but I have seen more professionals succeed with this approach than not.
Focus on getting the position, not just getting the interview
As you deeply research five to ten office building developers, you will pay more attention to nuances about their competitors, geographic focus, social responsibility initiatives, and market deals. You even notice what events or conferences they sponsor. Your resume, your networking interactions, and your interview responses will organically produce more opportunities because of your authentic commitment and focus. Conversely, if you focus on the five to ten of the largest real estate developers regardless of their core business interests, your scattered efforts will be transparent to most hiring managers.
Focus helps you frame your skills in the right context
If you have technical skills in civil engineering or legal agreements, those skills will be valued by a wide variety of developers. However, a residential developer who is building for families, has vastly different concerns than a commercial developer who is building for multinational office tenants. Many top firms want to learn more about what you have done with those skills that resonates with the context of their core business. Your narrowed search will position you to frame how your skills recognize the significantly different risks inherent with a specific type of developer. Broadly emphasizing your legal or engineering experience to large developers dilutes an employers’ perception of your skills. Especially when most applicants have similar technical backgrounds.
Focus helps you avoid sounding like all the other candidates
Smart students can often excel by just cramming before the exam and ignoring any subject area that is unlikely to be tested. I have often seen this approach filter into job searches. Unfortunately, this leaves you in the position to acquire only superficial information about a company. You end up sounding like all the other candidates that crammed for the test. Often repeating terms found in a company’s scripted press release. Those who have focused on a niche don’t give familiar answers. They offer unique questions about the business because have greater insights about specific real estate industry dynamics.
I can empathize with the need to be open to many possibilities in a very competitive job environment. However, I have seen those broad searches burn out job seekers as the number of applications and ‘coffee’ meetings accumulates with little progress. The path that will open up the most opportunities is a focused effort in a niche real estate career path.