Skip to main content

The Climb Up The Brokerage Ladder

By October 18, 2019April 19th, 2024Media Coverage

RETS Associates is at the forefront of hiring trends for candidates in every stage of their careers. This month,Real Estate Forum features our own Jana Turner, who shared her insight on how mid-level professionals can advance their careers through research, networking and passion for the industry.


Commercial real estate brokerage is a competitive industry, but with the right support, drive and planning, you can make it to the top. Here are some tips to get there from today’s leaders. 


At the start of his career, John Adams, now a principal at Avison Young, made a key decision: despite shouldering a heavy workload, community and family commitments, he would devote time to join and participate in commercial real estate professional organizations. He earned his CCIM designation in his first two years in the industry, and has since joined SIOR as well. “I worked hard to get all of my course work for CCIM done within a two-year period to set myself apart from other people and younger people in my market,” says Adams, who is also head of the office member group and a member of the communications and branding committee at SIOR.

The advantages were many. “I could talk to brokers that are not competitors with me, and that allowed me to learn from other people that are also successful in the business,” he says. “There is a lot of sharing ideas and trademarks. That has been very beneficial.”

Joining professional groups is a tried-and-true path to climbing the career ladder in any industry but especially so in the commercial real estate community, where relationships are paramount. It is, though, just one part of what can and should be a multi-pronged approach to building one’s reputation and expertise.

Indeed, there are a lot of essential qualities that go into making a successful broker. Some are inherent. Ambition, fierce competitiveness and affability are all markers of a great broker—but these alone will not get you there. You also need a role model, constant education and a thriving network of colleagues and clients.

This is not to say that—the ubiquitous image of a ladder notwithstanding—all career progressions need to be straightforward and linear. However, there are some key steps that most brokers can take to reliably produce the results that they want.



In talking to the leaders of the industry, budding brokers should start by finding a great, experienced mentor.

“Obviously hard work and getting as much education as you can is important, but really figuring out who is going to walk through the process with you and help train you is key,” Adams says. “Even at this point in my career, it is so important to have a mentor and a coach whom I still talk to on a monthly basis. I have had several mentors throughout my career, and I have been really lucky in that sense. Finding someone that is on the path ahead of you is really important.”

In finding the right mentor, the goal is to find someone that can provide guidance and advice early on. “Young leaders should look for mentors within their company and outside of their company,” Brett Weekley, property manager at RiverRock Real Estate Group, says. “A good way to do this is to identify someone of influence to you and ask them to go to coffee or lunch.This doesn’t necessarily need to be someone who is more senior. Even people who are younger than you can be mentors and provide insight on topics from a different perspective.”



Finding a mentor is important, but finding the right mentor is crucial—and can be a challenge. According to Justin Brasell, EVP at Transwestern Commercial Services, certain companies have not invested in leadership and mentor programs, and professionals meant to act as guides, do not always invest the time necessary to make mentoring successful. “Commercial real estate has historically done a poor job of mentoring new employees and has resorted to on-the-job training,” he says. “A good mentorship program goes far beyond job training to appropriately develop a new
hire to succeed in this industry. To help them absorb the soft skills necessary in this business, our team physically places young professionals in senior team members’ offices for the first nine months of employment. It builds loyalty among the team and young people are immensely grateful for the immersive experience.”



Leaders believe that mentorship and education is so important, that young professionals should consider leadership programs when job hunting. For those interviewing, it should be included on your list of questions to your potential employer. “Mentorship is more than important, it is paramount,” says Greg Brown, managing director at JLL, and a board member at NAIOP Southern California. “I highly recommend that people look hard at the leadership of their prospective employers during the job search to identify potential mentors and ask about it before accepting a position.”

Beyond potential mentor-ship opportunities, Researching companies before accepting a job is important. Professionals entering the market should investigate a company’s culture as well as its leadership programs. To find the right opportunity and the best fit, a candidate should conduct research on the company, its leadership and its position in the industry, says Jana Turner, principal at RETS Associates. “This research can provide insight into the company’s culture, the capitalization or financial status of the company, tenure of employees and an overall flavor of the firm. This information can help a candidate understand if a company is well positioned for the long haul and if there is the potential for career advancement.”

She recommends researching through sites like LinkedIn and Twitter, as well as the company’s website.



The journey to the top does not end at the company level. The industry leaders we interviewed all stressed the importance of joining commercial real estate organizations, whether SIOR, NAIOP or CCIM. These organizations provide an opportunity to grow your network, continue your education, participate in leadership programs and the designations give you a competitive edge within the industry. “Get involved with industry organizations right away,” RiverRock’s Weekley recommends. “This will help grow your network and identify mentors within the industry. Pursue a designation or certification which will help educate you as well as demonstrate your commitment to the industry. Most companies offer education reimbursement as an amenity to employees so it shouldn’t cost much if anything at all.”

Even more important in fueling your career, industry organizations help brokers expand their professional networks. Joining professional affiliations can be tremendously impactful when it comes to expanding a young professional’s network,” says Turner. “It’s also important to invest your time, energy and talents in your community. Taking part in philanthropic or volunteer activities will often open a network of people outside of your industry who may become valuable resources as your career advances.”

In addition to expanding your professional network and continuing your education, these organizations can also be a good place to find a mentor; particularly if your company does not have a well-rounded leadership program. “Outside of their employers, organizations such as NAIOP provide a fantastic opportunity to find a mentor through structured mentor programs,” says Brown. “It can be beneficial to have someone outside of your company as a mentor during times when you want to discuss potential career moves that may not be appropriate to discuss with co-workers.”



As a broker, networking is an essential part of the job description; whether within the company, at a professional event or anywhere else, brokers should be focused on expanding their networks anywhere and any way that they can.

“Young professionals should constantly be meeting people in and around the community,” adds Brasell. “As a broker, I often tell clients that a large part of my value is my network and my ability to solve issues through those connections. I purposefully meet people who have no direct impact on my brokerage business, but who touch real estate in some way, such as vendors, internet providers, furniture companies, architects, engineers, contractors, lenders, city officials, financial advisors, landscapers and electricity brokers. I spent years attending networking events, industry events, happy hours, coffees, breakfasts and lunches to build my network.”

In fact, a robust network is so important that Brown actually recommends young brokers not focus on deals or income in the beginning. Instead, concentrate on building a network. “I would also be less concerned about how much money you make in your first few years in the industry and be more concerned about what you can learn and the relationships you can gain,” he says.

In that respect, time management is also essential to chasing deals. “To excel, you have to work harder and be more purposeful with your time than any of your peers,” says Brasell. “That requires being acutely aware of how much time to allocate to individual responsibilities. You are required to balance your commitments to family, friends, faith and community with your work. Within the ‘work bucket’ you must prioritize clients, team members, company initiatives and your own daily responsibilities.” Adams agrees that time management is important. He recalls his early days when he tried to work the longest hours and outwork everyone—but it was not sustainable or necessary for success. Now, he says abides by the old adage to work smarter, not harder.



Companies are in search of people to fill new roles as they continue to expand, and they are looking for candidates that are passionate and willing to take the necessary steps toward success. “The candidates who are most likely to get hired are those who show a passion and commitment to the job and industry,” adds Turner. “A candidate that can quickly and easily connect with others and who presents themselves as driven, motivated and willing to follow through, no matter what it takes, are the ones getting hired. Perseverance goes a long way in this field and is a quality that recruiters and hiring managers pick up on very early on in the recruitment process.”

In short, for those willing to work for it, there is a pathway to great success in this industry. And luckily, there are plenty of veteran brokers who are willing to help get you there.


For more information on Globe St. or Real Estate Forum and visit & for more information on RETS Associates visit, or Jana Turner, RETS’ Principal visit