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NAIOP program engages young talent in commercial real estate industry

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When the commercial real estate development association NAIOP San Diego launched its Developing Leaders (DL) program, it was heady times for real estate. Many were attracted to the profession, and the NAIOP board saw a chance to help younger members just getting started in their commercial real estate careers by giving them access to resources and the wisdom of more seasoned members of the association.

NAIOP’s leaders had also noted that in the commercial real estate industry, those 35 and under were well represented, as well as those 45 and above, but the 35 to 45 sector was under-represented, posing the threat of a leadership gap for the profession. NAIOP created the Developing Leader program four years ago to keep the younger members engaged and educated, and to provide resources so that they would be encouraged to remain in the profession.

Immediately, NAIOP started a Lunch & Learn series and a mentorship program for its developing leaders. Additional programs, services and series were added along the way.

The DL Lunch & Learn sessions are educational brown bag lunches where senior real estate legends talk about various topics that have included: How I Did My First Deal, The Four Corners of Distressed Real Estate and Building your Toolkit for Success, to name a few. These sponsored luncheons are free for DL members to attend.

NAIOP’s mentorship program for DLs begins each year in February with a kickoff mixer where the members meet their mentor team. The mentor team is selected based on the mentees’ wishes to be paired with an industry-specific segment (brokerage, development, finance). The DL mentorship co-chairs reach out to senior real estate executives to be the mentors and form five-person teams. Teams meet every month at their own pace and time, and the program ends with a DL mixer in September.

The DL Council, a group of particularly motivated DLs who volunteered to spearhead the DL program, sought to add to the educational programs by helping DL members better themselves with a proven program. Toastmasters International is a well-recognized program to develop speaking skills and self-esteem. The DL Council committee chair connected with a member of Toastmasters International and began the process to set up a new chapter. The group now meets twice a month.

DL Council also started the “Job Shadow Program” for undergraduate students from San Diego State University. Through this program, college students get insight into their desired career by getting an opportunity to see the ins and outs of a specific career path. NAIOP members are asked to host a college student for eight hours over the course of one to four business days. This program is a great way for DLs to give back to their community, expand their networking circles and to attract future members to the DL program.

The DL Council also launched a “Give Back” campaign. As part of this campaign, one of the DL mixer events, Casino Night, benefitted 2nd Chance, a nonprofit organization that provides job training/placement to get the homeless off the street and into the work force. NAIOP DLs arranged a professional clothing drive where attendees of the Casino Night dropped off suits, dresses and shoes to help the members of 2nd Chance. The DL members also hosted a feed the homeless event at a soup kitchen in downtown San Diego. All NAIOP members were invited to participate.

The 2011 DL co-chairs are Adam Seery of Plaza Bank and Chris Ross of Colliers International. The DL liaisons are Jeff Burges of Burges Property Co. and Bret Gossett of Alexandria Real Estate Equities.

Over time, what began as a program to engage young talent and strengthen the ranks of NAIOP’s membership became a project that bettered San Diego’s commercial real estate industry as a whole.

“I think many of the older members of NAIOP have enjoyed the Developing Leaders program just as much as the Developing Leaders themselves,” said Paul Twardowski, NAIOP San Diego president. “We’re energized by the enthusiasm and new ideas they bring, and it makes us remember how lucky we are to work in an industry that has the potential to effect such positive change in San Diego.”

Those interested in becoming a NAIOP Developing Leader can visit naiopsd.org for more information.

Whitelaw is a senior consultant for TW2 Marketing Inc.

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