Friday, March 30, 2012

Party / Jobs, jobs, jobs / Al Capone & Willie Sutton

The highlight of the week was the 50+ people who stopped by Joe G Restaurant on Monday night to help me celebrate the launch of my new consulting firm, Solutions by Steve Felix.  It was very heart-warming and thank you to everyone who was there and to those who wanted to but were unable.  I didn't really know who would be there so it was a nice surprise when three of my former employers, dating back to the early 1980's, were there.  It felt, I bet, a little like those people who appeared on the classic TV show, "This is Your Life."  'Well Mr. Felix, to start with, we have tracked down one of your favorite grammar school teachers.  (Voice only) "Steve, I thought one day you would be mayor of New York."  'That's right Steve, it's Goldie G. Russakoff, your fourth-grade teacher from P.S. 175 in Forest Hills.'  (Applause as Mrs. Russakoff is escorted out to where I am sitting).  'Now, Steve, here's a voice you may recognize.'  "All middie boys and middie girls outta the water."  'Yes, it's one of your favorite people from your years at Camp Walden near Bolton Landing, NY, waterfront director Billy Gallin."  Normally stone-faced Billy walks out and gives me a hug.'  Anyway, you get the picture.  As with any of these type get-togethers where everyone works in some part of the commercial real estate industry, I know virtually everyone and I love seeing people who don't know each other talking away, learning about what each other does, sharing stories and connecting.  I may hold one of these in Chicago and San Francisco this spring.

If there was a theme to my week it was conversations about jobs.  I spoke personally with people who have (1) retired from jobs; (2) gotten new jobs; (3) are looking for jobs; (4) don't like their jobs.  Does that pretty much cover it all?  And, as the week winds down I'm in Philadelphia where in a couple of hours my role as a judge for the Villanova University Real Estate Case Challenge begins.  But last night, at the dinner, I spoke with a number of the students (whose real school affiliation will only be known after the competition ends later today).  This is a group of undergraduates (vs. the UNC Kenan-Flagler Challenge which is for real estate graduate students).  A number of the 'kids' I spoke with are ready to go out into the workforce now and two of them have lined up jobs, both in the banking industry (as in commercial real estate lending).  But others were pumping me for ideas.  So I'll let you in on a suggestion I gave them:  have a business card.  You don't have to be working for a company to have a card.  If your school doesn't provide a template simply go here and order 250 cards and pay only postage.  All you need to have on the card is your name, your phone number and your email address.  My dad taught me the importance of having a business card and I have carried them throughout my life, no matter what I was doing.  I was surprised that so many of the students hadn't been taught this (although I have also observed and provided feedback at other university event situations that the art of networking is also not really being taught or perhaps not being taught as well as it could be (Note:  My new company will be doing something to help cure this deficiency in the near future).

While there is some hiring going on in the industry it's not across the board.  But, I was talking with a friend this week who is one of the more well-known real estate recruiters some advice was offered to job seekers:
-Don't just rely on the Internet or emails.
-If you want to work for a particular firm, be bold.  Call the HR people.  Contact senior executives.  Market yourself. 
-Employers respect those who show respect for themselves by 'going for it.'
-Some of the best jobs people get are not those that are posted or necessarily through recruiters.  Present yourself.  Give a prospective employer the opportunity to think about what value you can bring to their company.

And to finish beating up the topic of jobs, I read about a survey that was conducted on the 2011 B.A. graduating class of a respected East coast college.  17% of their sample is unemployed. 39% have full-time jobs, including six who have both full and part-time jobs. 35% of students who are employed part-time have two or more jobs. 74% of students who are interning are unpaid. 22% of students are in graduate school. 34% of jobs involve food service, retail, customer service, clerical or unskilled work. Here's one quote that I found pretty interesting...until I read the 'hanging out' part:  "A lot of it just came down to networking skills. I knew it was going to be hard, so I did a lot of internships. The best thing to do is to have them like you, to keep in contact during the year and hang out with them. I knew the job was there before I graduated. It comes down to networking well and knowing who you need to maintain relationships with when you’re not there."  Hmmmm.  So there you have it:  "Hang out with them."  I guess it's just that simple!

Feedback from a friend of mine who is a professional career and life coach:  "There are three C's that go into making a hiring decision:  Competence, credibility but, and most important, compatibility."

Final item:  I want to share with you the copy in an ad in the hotel room magazine:  "Eastern State Penitentiary.  Former home of Willie Sutton and Al Capone.  Eastern State Penitentary was known for its grand architecture and strict discipline."  This just struck my funny bone.  Can you see it:  Sutton and Capone are standing in the exercise yard looking up at the tower where the guards are standing with rifles ready to take them out with one shot if they so much as give them a sideways look.  Sutton says, "Al, look at the way that tower makes this place look like a moor castle.  Don't you think."  Capone:  "Listen Willie, I know this place is known for it's architecture but I'm more concerned with the strict discipline part of it although, as you know, I'm pretty much operating the same inside as I was outside thanks to knowing the right people.   But, you're right and look over there and that beautiful gate.  When I was a kid, my mother read me a book called Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnet and...."

On the road...
Apr. 24-25: Los Angeles for the PERE Global Investors Forum where I've been asked to host day two.
May 17-20:  North Palm Beach, Florida to attend the annual meeting of The Hoyt Fellows.
May 23-26:  London and to attend the I&PE Real Estate Awards event (Thanks for inviting me you guys).
June 6-7:  New York to moderate a panel at the ULI Real Estate Capital Markets Conference Real Estate Finance and Investment 2012

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