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Finding an entry level property management job: What students need to know

The graduating class of 2020 is doing what all graduating classes do at this time of the year: listening to commencement speakers, polishing their resumes, and preparing themselves to enter the workforce. Admittedly, things look a bit different than in years past, with commencement addresses being delivered virtually and job interviews taking place online. Still, as students search for entry level property management jobs the fundamentals persist: Networking. Preparing a resume.  Getting ready for a job interview.  These topics and more were tackled during an IREM webinar on “Navigating the New Normal: What Students Need to Know.”

Building your network

Building relationships is more important than ever, and while the coronavirus may have brought an end to hand-shaking and traditional face-to-face networking, other channels for making meaningful connections are available. One of the webinar panelists, Debbie Phillips, CPM®, of The Quadrillion in Jonesboro, GA, advises starting the process with who you already know – professors, mentors, industry professionals met at school events, the parents of friends. Also worthwhile is following leaders on LinkedIn and other social media platforms, especially if you engage in what they’re saying.

Phillips urges going beyond just reading posts of leaders you want to connect with.  Send them an email and say “I saw your post and here’s my perspective.” This tactic was reinforced in a recent Wall Street Journal article that said you can “stand out if you’re amplifying other people’s voices instead of just competing to be heard. Share what other people have said by adding a comment of your own. Try re-sharing an article by a business leader you admire, with some reflections on what their work has meant to you, and why you admire them.”

Once the connection has been made, nurture it and take maximum advantage of the opportunity. “Become a sponge,” advises Jasmyn Sylvester, CPM®, ACoM, of Jacksonville, FL, another webinar panelist and chair of IREM’s Diversity Advisory Board. “When you see someone who is in a position you want to be in, attach yourself to them.” This can be done over a 15-minute phone call or during a virtual coffee chat. Don’t ask for a job; ask for advice and information.  “Ask a million questions, and soak in everything you can.” This way, says Jasmyn, “They will know who you are when opportunity arises.”

Creating a resume

In addition to networking and building relationships, create a strong resume that has life and captures attention. “Strive for five,” says Phillips, who believes that an attention-grabbing resume will contain five essential components:

  1. Academics:  What’s your core? What’s your foundation? Go beyond saying what you majored in. Highlight some of the most meaningful classes, what you learned from them, and how they’ve shaped you and your interest in real estate.
  2. Extracurriculars. What have you done outside of the classroom? Provide information about organizations you belonged to, especially real estate organizations, plus any other activities that show your range of interests and serve as tangible proof of your desire to be actively engaged and go beyond what’s required.
  3. Community service. How have you served the community at large? Corporate social responsibility is important at many companies, and your commitment to causes and socially responsible programs will deliver this message.
  4. Skills. What has been your experience? What are your transferable skills? Even if you don’t have any direct property management experience, discuss the skills you’ve gained from other experiences. If you played sports, you’re a competitor. If you worked in food service, you’ve learned about customer experience. If you were president of a school organization, you gained leadership skills. Describe your skills by telling stories from these experiences to demonstrate what you can do.
  5. References. Who can speak to your character? Who knows you best and can speak to the essence of who you are? When people hire you, they’re hiring for a set of behaviors that will be a good fit for the organization. Think carefully about who you ask to serve as references. Your list might include a coach, a professor, a mentor.

Getting ready for the interview

When your eye-catching resume does its job and turns into an interview for a property management job, jump into preparation mode. It’s very possible the interview will take place remotely over Skype or Zoom. Even so, dress for the occasion – from head to toe. Be sure your audio and video equipment is working properly. Think about your Zoom background and the message it will send about you and who you are.  

Above all, thoroughly research the company you’re interviewing with and the people you’ll be meeting. Make a list of your strengths and accomplishments as they relate to the specific job, and be ready to show you’re a good fit. Be prepared to answer questions, and also be prepared with questions of your own. Use them as a way to demonstrate both your interest and your alignment with the position and the company. A few examples of questions you might ask: What is it going to be like to work here? Tell me about your organization? Why is this position available? Is it a new position? Why was it created? Based upon my background and skills, how can I best help you succeed?

One trait that’s important to success in any property management position – and which recruiters will be seeking evidence of throughout the hiring process – is empathy. Given the ongoing personal interactions managers have with clients and vendors and tenants, and noting that no two days in property management are ever the same, panelist Sidney Ingelson, CPM®, of The Northern Trust Company in Pasadena, CA, said during the webinar that she has “learned to go into work every day with my empathy fully loaded. Empathy promotes growth for your career and your relationships for the long haul,” she said. “Bring your empathy to the table always.”

For Phillips, who has guided both graduating students and older career changers in her role as a mentor, an IREM instructor, and a professor at the University of Georgia’s property management program, one thing is for sure: You need to find a way to stand out from the crowd rather than standing in line. “Do what you can to put yourself at the front of the line,” she said. Stay curious. Stay humble. Discover your strengths talents, and gifts – what Phillips calls “your genius zone” – and work to build your personal brand every single day.


Thank you for sharing these wonderful tips on how to find an entry level property management job. Many students do not know where to start and this article is very informative!


Thank you, Yesi. And if you're looking for a property management position, see the IREM job board: or, become an IREM member and tap into our network of 20,000 members worldwide!


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