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Meet The Young Guns Reviving The Art Of Networking For Real Estate Graduates

Kids these days — it’s all social media, smartphones and emails rather than getting out and meeting people, right?

That is the cliché you hear from some older property professionals, and it is wrong. Young people entering property today say they want to network with their peers and senior industry figures more than ever, precisely because of the prevalence of Facebook and Twitter.

CREation's Rosanna Lawn and Harri John

But it is harder than ever. Ask property people in their 40s or older, and they will tell you a decent proportion of their work used to be undertaken at the pub, sourcing information about deals and making new contacts. Today, for reasons of time and money, opportunities to network face to face are increasingly rare.

That is why two graduates decided to take matters into their own hands and set up a networking organisation for young people in property. CREation was the brainchild of Harri John, graduate surveyor at Cushman & Wakefield, and Rosanna Lawn, acquisitions and development manager at yoo Capital.

Its first event at the end of January drew in more than 300 young property professionals to network and hear from speakers including WeWork Director of Broker and Real Estate Partnerships for Europe, Israel and Australia Greg Miley and Women Talk Real Estate founder Andrea Carpenter.

“We were very frustrated that there wasn’t anything out there for graduates, something that brought people from different companies and backgrounds,” Lawn said. “So we turned 'round to each other and said, shall we just do this ourselves?”

“Young people and graduates crave an opportunity to come together and network, but also to hear from senior people in the industry and get information about the hot topics,” John said. “For older people a topic like PropTech might be old news, but not for grads, so we wanted to create an opportunity for people to learn.”

“When I started my career in the 1980s, you did a lot of your networking in the pub, but it’s very different these days,” Knight Frank Senior Partner Alistair Elliott said.

CREation's debut event attracted 300 people.

Graduates do not exactly pine for the days when two or three bottles of claret at Finos constituted an average lunch — as Elliott said, networking today is much more likely to revolve around cycling or running than boozing — but they want to meet face to face to talk shop, and the structure of jobs mitigates against this.

“There isn’t much out there which is free, and there isn’t much money left at the end of the month to pay to go to events,” John said. “Also, firms seem much more likely to allow more senior members of staff to expense attending events. From what the people we talk to say, they seem less keen to invest in you at this stage of your career because they don’t know how long you will be around.”

Firms also are giving graduates a lot of oversight; John said people have told her their firms are less flexible now than in the past, which can make going to an event during the day difficult.

John and Lawn also said they set up the organisation to create a welcoming environment for anyone in a profession that can seem homogenous to newcomers.

“Neither of us come from families that have a background in property or went to traditional property universities,” Lawn said. “When I started in the industry I didn’t really know anyone, and it can be a bit daunting, and we wanted to create something that was welcoming to everyone.”

There is also the idea that younger people in property are more focussed on online communication than face-to-face contact to dispel.

“I think that is definitely a cliché,” John said.

“I think that social media can be a good way of finding people, but people want to meet the person behind the online profile or the phone, and that is how the best connections are made,” Lawn said.