If there’s one predictor of success in commercial real estate, it’s finding a mentor to show you the ropes. Learning from an established professional is a great way to develop as a manager and gain new skills.
This is especially critical if you’re a woman entering a traditionally male-dominated field like commercial real estate, according to a panel of women at the BOMA International annual conference – and later, when you’ve gained seniority in your field, it’s on you to nurture the next generation of property professionals.
Keri Taylor, strategic market leader, Commercial Real Estate for Trane moderates a panel
featuring (from left) Brenna Walraven, a BOMA fellow and past BOMA Chair;
Melanie Bellinger, property manager for Copaken Brooks;
Teresa Foster, executive director of BOMA/Dallas;
and Betty Lagred, national operations manager for USAA Real Estate.
How to Find a Mentor
A mentor isn’t always someone who you sit down and formally request mentorship from, the panelists noted. In a way, anyone you look up to can be a mentor of sorts. Any kind of role model can help you chart the path you’d like to follow.
More: Tips to Attract the Next Generation of Property Managers
Try these tips for finding your role model:
- Find someone who shares your passion. “Look for a role model who is also passionate about their career,” suggested Melanie Bellinger, property manager for Copaken Brooks. “Someone who cares about the career they’re in and who is patient and committed to helping you in your career path.”
- Learn from your manager. You likely talk to your supervisor on a regular basis already, so make sure you’re asking them questions and learning why, not just how. “It’s really important for a manager to be your mentor as well, especially if you have a desired career path,” Bellinger says. “That will help you be more successful.”
How to Be a Mentor
It may feel easier in the moment to just try and do everything yourself, but it’s vital that you invest some time into teaching younger professionals how to climb the ladder so that your portfolio will still be in good hands when you retire.
A good mentor instills confidence too, not just technical training. Grow your team’s technical know-how and boost their confidence with this panel-recommended advice:
- Know your strengths - and your weaknesses. Women in traditionally male-dominated fields often feel the need to prove themselves repeatedly by never admitting to weakness, but sometimes the areas where you’re less strong can turn into great learning opportunities for your mentee. “My boss is an introvert and she’d sit me by certain people so that I had to do the talking,” explained Teresa Foster, executive director of BOMA/Dallas. “It wasn’t something that came naturally to her, but she found a way to make it happen.”
- Don’t forget the help you received. “It’s important as women that we look for opportunities to mentor and give back,” said Brenna Walraven, BOMA Fellow and past BOMA Chair. “Mentoring is hard. It takes time. You’re a leader with a busy schedule and it’s hard to find time to sit down and say ‘Let’s walk through that,’ but it’s something we should all be thinking about.”
- Set a good example. Even if you’re not formally serving as a mentor, you’re likely contributing many insights that a mentor would typically share without even realizing it, explained Betty Lagred, national operations manager for USAA Real Estate. “While you’re doing all of this, your assistant is also watching you, and in a way you’re mentoring or serving as a role model,” she said. “One day we’ll retire and we want to make sure someone else is there who’s just as good as we are. My supervisor fed me everything she knew, and when it was time to take over a leadership position, I did the same thing with my assistant.”
- Stay professional. “One piece of advice to remember is that there’s always someone watching you,” Foster says. “If you’re driving and you feel some road rage coming on, someone is watching you. If you’re home with your children, your children and your children’s friends are watching you. Be careful about what you put on social media.”
Janelle Penny email@example.com is senior editor of BUILDINGS.
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