Friday, 28 February 2014

The many career paths to real estate

Today’s blog post comes from Jia Jia, Employer Relations Advisor with CAPS, who is currently completing an MBA.

When you read the title above, did you immediately think of that real estate agent, smiling and wearing nice suit and holding a SOLD sign, on the advertisement that was posted in your neighborhood? That’s what I imagined. But I’ve learned to think differently, thanks to the real estate class that was offered by the School of Business at University of Alberta. You don’t have to be a licensed real estate agent to have a successful career in the industry. Don’t take me wrong. Being an agent can be very lucrative and it offers a ton of autonomy, so it can be a great career option. But there is so much more.

A search by industry cluster on the ALIS website resulted in over 50 career profiles directly and indirectly related to real estate. You could become a lawyer who specializes in real estate and property law. You could become a web designer who works for a real estate developer. Or, you could become a financial analyst who works in commercial real estate lending for a major bank. Let’s take a look at a few different career profiles to get a more complete view of what this industry offers.

Appraisers provide professional valuation services to a range of clients including government, corporations, investors, developers, individual home owners, and so on. Appraisers usually provide a written report on the market value of a certain property their clients. These reports are used as the basis for mortgage loans, for setting the sale prices, for tax purposes, etc.

I’ve always been interested in the real estate industry, and becoming an appraiser seems to be a more straight forward path among other appraiser needs to have strong analytical thinking skills and well-rounded knowledge about the industry…depending on who you work with, this career offers great flexibility in terms of time management. The work itself is challenging and involves a good balance of office and field work…I also learned that a growing number of employers are looking to hire appraisers in the next few years, so the demand is high.

Qin Mei, part time student, Post Graduate Certificate in Real Property Valuation-AACI Fast Track Education Program, UBC

Real estate brokers/agents are mediators who charge a fee to facilitate a real estate transaction between seller and buyer. The real estate agents that we often see are those who work in the residential market. There are also brokers and agents who work in the commercial market (for retail, office, industrial properties, etc.) and many of them even work on deals across borders.

Developers purchase property and improve its use by building, developing, or redeveloping. Developers work closely with government to obtain permits for their projects. They work with banks to get financing and construction companies to build or renovate. And they work with marketing professionals and brokers who help them lease or sell newly developed properties. Developers are the people who are in charge of the entire process of development from beginning to end.

Depends on the discipline of real estate you are in, if you are an appraiser numbers are important, if you are a developer or broker as I am, sales skills and integrity are important, being able to do the numbers helps.
Stephen Knight, President, Sitings Realty Ltd

Property managers make sure everything runs its course for the property. Asset managers are at a higher level of management concerning real estate assets, which may involve lease negotiation, purchase or development of new properties, sale or disposition of old properties, etc. Asset managers often manage properties on a larger scale and often work for corporations that have their own real estate properties.

Real estate finance and investment professionals work for banks, credit unions, insurance companies, governments, and even stock exchange market players, to provide financial analysis on real estate related transactions or investments.

If you are interested in finding your career path in this vibrant and fast-paced industry, you will be happy to hear that it is growing. According to Government of Alberta’s Industry Profile, employment in the Finance, Insurance, Real Estate and Leasing industry accounted for 4.8% of total employment in Alberta in 2012 and is expected to grow at an average rate of 1.9% from 2011 to 2015.

Alberta’s real estate industry has been doing well for the past 10 years and will likely continue this trend for another 10 years. 2008 was a very difficult time in the business world around the globe. Alberta, due to its resource based economy and a world-wide demand for oil, hardly missed a step. The future looks bright.

Bill Winter, VP Commercial Development & Leasing, DELCON Development Group Ltd

There are also many real estate jobs with non-real estate companies. Almost every large corporation needs some real estate expertise. A search of “real estate jobs” on LinkedIn brought up over 400 results from a wide range of companies including big names like Rogers, Bell, Canadian Tire, Sun Life Financial, RBC, ScotiaBank, Tim Hortons, etc. So if you have the right skills and the passion, now is the right time and Alberta is the right place to launch your real estate career. May the future be the brightest for you!

Friday, 21 February 2014

Tapping the wealth of volunteerism

This week’s post is from guest blogger Cristabel Sosa who graduated from the U of A in 2012 with an MSc in Public Health - Health Promotion Specialization.
Dwelling with books and highlighters, countless hours spent within a classroom unpacking theories, paradigms, and approaches; navigating an array of iterations of formal education has certainly taught me a whole lot. I do feel a humble pride when I look at my educational achievements, and I am certainly grateful for those opportunities. Yet, there is a cornerstone of my career that has given life and character to my identity as a professional and person. Those are the lessons learned on the field by volunteering and engaging at different levels within my community. This may not be foreign to you, as most of people have formally or informally volunteered and many find value in doing so. Regardless, I hope this personal reflection resonates with you, particularly on aligning your personal and career interests to be a rewarding experience that also benefits others in your community.

I really enjoy volunteering. I see it beyond a nice addition to my resume. I see it as investing my time and energy in rewarding ways. I see it as an opportunity to make a positive change (however cliché that sounds), even if the change is minimal. I see it as contributing to what matters to my community and a bridge to a greater sense of belonging. I heard once that by volunteering you gain more than what you give. This is one of those things that are not subjective, and there is always a depth of learning, which will sooner or later be of benefit.

Here is a little bit of my journey. My experiences have varied in nature: from doing the dishes for a floating library where I met people for over 100 countries to learning about trade fair agreements between developed and third world countries with Oxfam; from cooking Christmas rice while participating in a collective kitchen to supporting administrative tasks of an Edmonton NGO. I hold these experiences dear to my heart because they have shaped how I see and interact with the word. In addition to all the societal and mental health benefits of volunteering, for me it has been foundational to gaining transferable skills that are essential for navigating the workplace and building my career. These include a range of skills such as confidence, facilitation, respecting and celebrating diversity of opinions/backgrounds, and moreover, learning about interesting content areas. It is a way of exploring and contributing to your passions, which will not only be rewarding but will help you keep perspective on challenges in life.

Now, not all is flowers and whimsical experiences; there are challenges too, while and around volunteering. For starters, volunteering is a luxury that not everyone can afford. It often requires time, resources and most importantly passion. There can also be expectation conflicts between what you see as your contribution and what the organization expects you to do, and/or there may organizational issues that can be discouraging. But I think any challenge that may arise before, during or after any volunteer experience is an opportunity to strengthen your problem solving skills such as negotiation, assertiveness, diplomacy, and communication overall.

I would keep in mind a few things when narrowing your quest for voluntee opportunities. First, consider where you are in your life and career. The types of things I did ten years ago are quite different than the things I look for now. Of course, I want to have fun but I am much more intentional about where I volunteer. I try to find a balance between what I am passionate/interested about and opportunities that will contribute to skill development. Another aspect to consider is how align those opportunities to where you want to see yourself in the future. If you are deeply interested in an area (e.g. business development, homelessness, food security), look for opportunities that will provide exposure to that context. For instance, while I was doing my health promotion masters I volunteer with a local non-profit board in the area of healthcare, which provided me with a good understanding of the political and social context of healthcare in Alberta. Volunteering in your areas of interest will also provide you with opportunities to me key actors in that area of work, learn from their leadership skills and build connections that could go along away.

When you have found an opportunity, clarify the time commitment and logistics (how to apply, where, when, how many times, etc). Sometimes, it is hard to see past the excitement of an opportunity. We promptly commit and then realize that we are not able to respect the agreement. You don’t want to waste your time and excitement, nor the organization’s resources either.

Now, what has been your experience? Benefits? Drawbacks? Lessons Learned? I would love to hear them!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

A resume by any other name...

The other day one of my colleagues sent me a link to Leonardo da Vinci’s resume. That’s right, Leonardo da Vinci! Thee Renaissance man. The guy who, among many other things, painted the Mona Lisa. His resume is in the form of a letter, which he wrote in 1482, to the Duke of Milan outlining his expertise and offering his services as a ‘skilled contriver of instruments of war.’

It made me think about the increasing number of articles I’ve seen and comments I’ve heard proclaiming the demise of the resume. In today’s digital age, the argument goes, employers are looking more and more at a person’s online presence, particularly their LinkedIn profile, Facebook page or personal blog, when deciding whether to hire or even interview that person. While I agree that some employers look at potential employees’ online presence – I don’t know the extent to which and I’m pretty sure it isn’t universal – I don’t think we can say that the resume has gone the way of the dodo bird just yet, or even in the near future. I can’t recall ever seeing or hearing an employer ask only for an applicant’s Linked In profile. The vast, vast majority still want to see a person’s resume.

But what is a resume? According to my handy dandy Oxford English Dictionary – the compact edition, the one I need my glasses AND magnifying glass to read – the definition of resume is, simply, ‘a summary.’ The Merriam-Webster online dictionary provides a more specific definition: ‘a short document describing your education, work history, etc. that you give an employer when you are applying for a job.’

A person’s online profile – in particular, their LinkedIn profile – contains much the same information as their resume. It is just displayed in a different medium (digital vs. paper) and format. I think that if you are using your LinkedIn or any other online profile as a work search tool – or if you think potential employers are viewing it in order to assess your fit for their organization – then a lot of the advice we give about how to write a strong resume applies to online profiles as well.

If you are looking for information on creating a LinkedIn profile or for feedback on your profile, I have some good news to share. During the week of 10 March 2014, CAPS is hosting a series of events and presentations under the banner of Professional U: On and off-line. Among the offerings are a seminar on creating a LinkedIn profile and rapid LinkedIn profile reviews. And over the summer we will be developing full one-hour LinkedIn consultations to add to the other types of individual consultations we offer (e.g. resume, c.v. and cover letter reviews, mock interviews, career advising).

Stay tuned!

Monday, 3 February 2014

Technology and work

I just finished reading an article about the impact of technology on employment – specifically occupations we can expect to be automated or replaced by technology in the next ten to twenty years. The article references a 2013 academic paper that predicts 47% of total employment in the United States is at risk of being replaced by machines or software. (You can link to the paper from the article.)

In terms of machines doing work that was historically done by humans, technology so far has had the greatest impact in the areas of manufacturing and office administration, and on work that is routine and rule based. However, with breakthroughs in robotics and artificial intelligence, tasks which were once assumed as requiring humans to perform are starting to be done by computers. The author of the article cites Google’s self-driving cars as an example: “Even ten years ago, many engineers said it was impossible. Navigating a crowded street isn’t mindlessly routine. It needs a deft combination of special awareness, soft focus, and constant anticipation—skills that are quintessentially human.”

The article is interesting but paints a rather ominous picture of the future, in particular how much and the kind of work that will be left for humans to do and from which to make a living. It ends with the comment: “It would be anxious enough if we knew exactly which jobs are next in line for automation. The truth is scarier. We don’t really have a clue.” An interesting way to end the article given that it is based on a 72-page research paper (which I’ve started but haven’t finished reading yet) that examined over 700 hundred occupations, details the methodology used to determine how susceptible those occupations are to automation and even includes a list of most likely (99 percent chance) to be automated jobs, as well as a list of least likely to be automated jobs, which is reprinted in the article. “We don’t really have a clue”? Hmmm.

There is no denying the impact that technology has had on work – it has resulted in the deskilling of some jobs, the virtual elimination of other jobs and the displacement of workers. It has also created new occupations, which the author of the article barely touches on. But my main critique of the article is that it presents the automation of work and the impacts as a natural process, as a fait accompli. As human beings, we can make decisions about these things, individual and, perhaps more importantly, collectively.

Most likely to be automated:
- Telemarketers
- Title examiners
- Sewers
- Mathematical technicians
- Insurance underwriters
- Watch repairers
- Cargo and freight agents
- Tax preparers
- Photographic process workers
- New accounts clerks
- Library technicians
- Data entry keyers

Least likely to be automated:
- First-line supervisors: fire fighters
- Oral surgeons
- Healthcare social workers
- Prosthetists
- Occupational therapists
- Audiologists
- Mental-health social workers
- Emergency management directors
- First-line supervisors: mechanics
- Recreational therapists