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Advice to Students: Find Mentors, Look for Challenges, and Treat Properties as Your Own

February 28, 2017 | Nancye Kirk

Students in the Residential Property Management (RPM) program at Ball State University in Muncie, IN, recently received insightful career advice from six property management company executives from around the country.

“Always look for the challenge,” advised Erick Waller, President of Property Management at The NRP Group in Cleveland, OH. He urged students to volunteer for special projects or extra assignments if they want to grow their career, adding that this is a great way to learn more and get noticed.

“Treat each property as if it was your own” was the counsel offered by David Seiler, Executive Vice President at Trinity Property Consultants, LLC, in Irvine, CA. Show that you care about the property and be the property’s advocate, he recommended. “Make decisions as if you owned the property.”

Several of the panelists mentioned the valuable role that mentors can play. JaMarcus Fanning, CPM, Operations Manager at IRT Residential in Chicago, advised students to find a mentor, “Someone who knows a lot about what you need to know.” He encouraged students to take advantage of every opportunity they have to shadow someone, find out what they do, and absorb knowledge that will be useful in the future.

Jill Herron, Senior Vice President of Property and Asset Management at Flaherty & Collins Properties in Indianapolis, reinforced this advice. “Go outside of your comfort zone. Talk to the maintenance guy. Talk to people in the construction department, in marketing.” She reminded students that people in other departments see a property through a different lens and have a different take on the situation. “Learn their perspective,” she advised. Understanding what kinds of challenges others are dealing with can be extremely valuable.

Asked what he likes about residential property management, Jerry Norman, Marketing Director at Pecor Homes Corporation in Carmel, IN, was quick to point out that “No two days are alike.” It’s a broad, diversified discipline that also can be rewarding financially. He noted that he left property management at one point in his career, but missed it and returned, primarily because property management offers so much diversity within the job and is such a people business. Because of the strong industry connections he had made, said Norman, it was easy to return to the business that he loves.

Gabrielle Gonzalez, Vice President and Director of Property and Asset Management at J.C. Hart Company, Inc., in Carmel, IN, reminded students that when they manage an apartment community, it is more than just a job. “We are meeting a basic human need. We are delivering housing,” she said. This means “You can have a profound impact on someone’s life every single day.” Not only will you get to know people you work with, said Gonzalez, you’ll also get to know the residents and you can affect their lives.

This advice from property management industry insiders was offered as part of a panel discussion during the spring meeting of the RPM Advisory Board meeting at Ball State on February 8. One thing all panelists agreed on was that there are plenty of employment opportunities in property management, and students who have a property management degree from a program like the one at Ball State are well positioned to get these jobs and succeed in the business.

About the Author
Nancye Kirk, in her role as IREM’s chief strategy officer, supports real estate management businesses, helping them address the big issues with which they are wrestling – issues related to business strategy and growth, talent management, and best practices. 

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