The multifamily housing industry is tiny! Sure, there are tens of thousands of people working in this industry to serve around 35 million renters, but there’s a ‘small town’ vibe you get when multifamily becomes your career focus. If multifamily housing is a business you enjoy and plan to remain a part of, then understanding how close-knit this industry can be will work to your benefit in the long run.
Regardless of where you move around in the country, there is bound to be some kind of apartment association and nearby competing properties you will work with. Quite often these groups will be part of something bigger, and herein lays the potential and necessity for you to make yourself known. Networking is a fundamental tool for many businesses, but multifamily housing is especially a people-first industry. For extroverted professionals this can be a natural part of the job, but for so many introverted people it can be a daunting notion on where to even begin. Fortunately for you this article was written to offer fundamental advice on how to get yourself known across the industry in the best ways possible!
Start at Home
This is the easiest thing so it’s where I’ll start off. If you work in multifamily, you are bound to be surrounded daily with people who do as well. More importantly than just getting along with your coworkers, make sure you build positive relationships. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “don’t burn bridges”, it applies here. Being in stressful atmospheres and locked in close quarters for long periods of time can get frustrating, and you won’t always get to work with people you love. That doesn’t mean those same people aren’t planning to grow within the same industry as you. Odds are you will likely run into them again. Be as pleasant to your colleagues as you are to your residents, and hopefully when you see them in the future they will have only fond memories of how you both got started.
Be Open About What You Want
It’s easy to talk to close friends and family, or look on your Facebook network when you are trying to find an opportunity. It is much harder to connect when you are forced to move beyond your strong ties. In Lisa Green Chau’s Ted Talk she discusses ways to network when it isn’t your natural mode of operation. In her video, Miss Chau references the co-founder and CEO of The Muse, Kathryn Minshew who offered great advice for creating opportunities instead of waiting for them.
- Say ‘Yes’! As you hear about events or get invited places, force yourself to attend. This is the first step to getting out there and meeting people within your industry who will have varied experience.
- Voice Your Goals. Discussing your ambitions can not only be an interesting topic, but can open doors you never knew existed. This isn’t an invitation to show your narcissistic side, but don’t shy away from letting people you meet know what you are passionate about.
- Attend. It is one thing to say ‘yes’, but another to go places when you don’t find a strategic value. Sometimes networking opportunities can be vague, but present enormous possibilities.
Forget the Pitch
Being open about what you want is a great personal tool, but going into an event with a prepared sales pitch is a great way to be seen as fake. Everyone has their own agendas to support their business, especially at work and association networking functions. It’s better to go into these situations with the mindset of making friends; plan to build a rapport with people you meet. This happens over time through brief interactions with most people, and you will see how friendships naturally begin to form. Whenever you meet someone be sure to ask for their business card, and be prepared to give them one of your own. Add them on LinkedIn (if available) so you can learn a bit about who they are and what they do for the next time you interact.
As you progress throughout the industry never lose focus on what makes this business great – the people. With the super bowl of events coming up in San Francisco at the National Apartment Association Education Conference, think of how you would approach such a major opportunity. If you are already planning to attend, keep these tips in mind as you have the opportunity to meet with several thousand colleagues and vendors over a few short days. You will be amazed at the wealth of knowledge, experience and friendships you can find when you open yourself up.
What other tips can you share that you have discovered to help you make lasting connections within the multifamily housing industry? Have you come across any approaches you thought would be great, but turned out to be a disappointment? Share your experiences below, and be sure to come network with me during the upcoming NAA Education Conference in San Francisco!