Mentorship Key to Development for Young CRE Professionals, says Robert Thornburgh, CEO of SIOR

by Johnny Clayton on Tuesday, 11 May 2021

As the business landscape continues to evolve, the need to mentor young professionals becomes more critical. The world is beginning to emerge from the pandemic, and the ways that we work and interact are changing rapidly. The fundamentals of how to achieve success in the real estate industry, however, remain the same. We must ensure that emerging brokers and property professionals have the knowledge to adapt and succeed.

I was fortunate to have several mentors who generously guided my path into commercial real estate, teaching me the importance of hard work and cultivating long-term relationships. And while their skill in both brokering and investing made them wildly successful financially, it was the integrity they modelled in all aspects of their lives that was vital to my growth. Knowing the value I received from their direction, I have always felt the responsibility to give back to those entering the industry.

What I later learned was that my mentors both held prestigious CRE designations like the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (SIOR), which provided them with the tools to succeed – continuing education, ethics, keeping pace with new trends, and a global network. I also found that prominent organisations like SIOR also serve as the perfect vehicle for providing mentorship opportunities for young professionals.

To be a leader is to embody integrity, passion, and vision, all while inspiring the best in those around you. A good leader will emerge based on character and performance, but that first needs to be fostered – making it essential to harness the next generation’s enthusiasm for continual development. Associations have a key role to play here.

I have enjoyed a varied career and now hold the position of SIOR’s CEO. This leading global real estate association has more than 3,460 members in 42 countries as well as a dedicated platform for Europe. Our mission is to represent the most knowledgeable, experienced, and successful brokerage specialists globally.

At SIOR, we have a highly successful Member Associate programme, created specifically to provide mentorship to young professionals in the early stages of their careers. Member Associates need only a minimum of one year (and no more than eight years) of current industrial and/or office real estate experience. The programme has paid dividends in the USA, helping to attract a younger demographic while increasing diversity within our ranks. We are actively pursuing a similar strategy in Europe and we feel very privileged to be able to talk to the young entrepreneurs in property. Check it out here

Taking further steps to address the lack of diversity in the industry, SIOR has begun partnering with programmes like REEX, the Real Estate Exchange Summer Programme run by nearly a dozen universities in the US, which introduces teenagers from diverse backgrounds to the multiple facets of the commercial real estate profession over the course of ten days. Professors come together with industry leaders and  to guide students through experiential learning activities using hands-on instruction, case studies, and virtual site visits to show them the world of possibilities that exist in CRE. We are actively exploring how we can also deliver this kind of opportunity to young people across Europe.

Mentorship is at the heart of SIOR’s culture and ethos. We recognise the importance of helping the next group of CRE professionals to get on and climb the ladder. We know that guidance needs to extend far beyond summer programmes to include scholarships, helping students to find jobs when they graduate, and providing ongoing support to help them succeed. To facilitate this, we have established our University Partner Programme, including a new student category of SIOR membership. You can find out more about this and its benefits here.  

Only by bringing a younger, more diverse group of professionals into the fold, who bring new ideas and will challenge assumptions, can we pave the way for a brighter future for the entire industry. We look forward to guiding the next generation of CRE leaders as we adapt and evolve together.


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