John Maher, M.B.A. ’08 and U.S. mortgage director at Sun Life Financial, took his place among a raft of Boston College alumni who gave pointed advice to undergraduate students at a forum last month titled “Launching Your Real Estate Career.”
At the start of the forum, sponsored by the Joseph E. Corcoran Center for Real Estate and Urban Action, Carroll School Senior Lecturer Ed Chazen shared his assessment that the current real estate cycle is nearing its latter days.
“We’re in the 6th or 7th inning of a ballgame, not the 2nd or 3rd inning,” said Chazen, a former real estate financing professional, looking ahead to the stage at which the market begins to cool down. At the same time, Chazen said the “underlying fundamentals”—including compensation and job growth in the industry—should be encouraging to those seeking to enter the field.
Following Chazen, a dozen alums on two separate panels offered a range of advice to the 50 students who turned up for the October 6 event in Devlin Hall. Striking a common theme at the forum, Joseph Launceford ’15 told students that the characteristic well roundedness of a Boston College education would prepare them well for this highly diverse industry, in both good and not-so-good times.
“Whatever field of real estate you’re entering, you’re going to have to be multi-dimensional,” said Launceford, who majored in economics and theology at the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences and works as a project engineer at Suffolk Construction. He was alluding to such facets of the work as data analysis, financing, communications, and face-to-face interactions with diverse groups of professionals and clients.
“It’s the organic knowledge that’s so valuable,” added Nicole Napolitano ’14, a commercial real estate analyst with CIT, a financial holding company. She studied finance and marketing at the Carroll School of Management.
The best-known adage in real estate may be “location, location, location,” but another critical piece of advice heard repeatedly at the event could be summarized as “networking, networking, networking.”
Maher—the only Carroll School graduate-program alum among the speakers—stressed, “It’s a relationship business, when you break it down.”
He also said those starting a job should think quickly about how they could add immediate value to an operation beyond their assigned roles—for example, by improving Excel processes. “It’s wherever you could bring added value, on day one,” said Maher, whose title is Director, US Commercial Real Estate Mortgage Production, and who works at Sun Life Financial’s offices in Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts.
“Exploit your strengths,” advised Maher. At that moment, Chazen interjected: “It’s an industry where resourcefulness and polite tenacity are rewarded.”