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Commercial Real Estate Firms Are Helping Veterans Find Jobs In The Industry

Transitioning from service in the U.S. military to civilian life can be a challenge, especially when it comes to finding a rewarding career. Several commercial real estate firms have established programs to help connect veterans with employers. 

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CBRE, the world’s largest commercial brokerage based on 2016 revenue, launched CBRE Military in 2006. The program works in tandem with a handful of organizations to locate current and veteran service members, identify their strengths and interests and connect them with potential employers. The brokerage has 1,800 veterans on staff out of 75,000 employees globally.

“We want to make a personal connection and to help [service members] understand we know where they came from,” CBRE Chief Operating Officer of Asset Services Grayson Gill said. Gill, a former medical platoon leader and Army Reserves captain, serves as one of the leaders of CBRE Military. “We can talk their vernacular … and we make them feel comfortable. We do that by having people in their branches make that personal connection. And we want them to find a job and career and that may not be with us. … Our goal is not just to help CBRE, the goal is to help the individual military person.”

The company has a host of volunteers, roughly 200 to 300 people across the country, who are active in the recruitment process and partner with organizations like Hiring Our Heroes and The United Service Organizations to increase exposure to CBRE Military and market its services to veterans. 

“[CBRE] has had a long-standing commitment to the military and has been recognized as being military-friendly by GI Jobs,” said CBRE Managing Director of Global Workplace Solutions Scott Reppert, a former First Lieutenant in the Army for four years. “While [CBRE Military] is predominantly military, it is open to anyone.”

Commercial brokerage JLL launched a veterans program in 2014 to increase veteran hires and encourage more collaboration between current employees and veterans within the community. Last year the firm joined “Veterans on Wall Street,” an organization that aims to help veterans transition into civilian life. Members include more than 80 financial services companies that promote veteran retention and career development.

"JLL has a long-standing commitment to hiring and retaining veterans," JLL Chief Human Resources Officer Americas Mary Bilbrey said in a statement. "Our membership within VOWS is another example of that, and we're excited to share best practices with other member organizations as we continually strengthen our offerings for veterans.”

A Tough Transition

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In addition to helping veterans with the job search, Gill said CBRE Military aims to prepare veterans for the cultural shift they will experience in the civilian workforce. 

“There is a lot of expectation-setting that we have to do for nonmilitary supervisors and for people coming to work for nonmilitary people. Sometimes those cultures don't align,” Gill said. 

Nonmilitary employers and co-workers may appear less mission-oriented or disciplined than what veterans were accustomed to in the military, Gill said. Veterans' leadership abilities and tendency to take charge can at times be taken out of context by their employers.

“Generally, what’s going to happen is people are going to come from the military with a fair amount of responsibility, but won’t have technical skills in our industry. They have to learn those skills and [are often] eagerly seeking to prove themselves and be a member of the team,” Ruppert said. “[We help] line up good expectation management for both the new hire and the new employer.” 

Free Real Estate Education

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The industry’s commitment to veterans stretches beyond helping former servicemen and women land solid jobs. CCIM Institute is partnering with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs to pay for veterans’ real estate education

“CCIM offers training for commercial real estate. We have a series of core courses that are the equivalent of a master's degree in CRE,” CCIM 2018 President-Elect Barbara Crane said. “Last year, the Veterans Administration recognized us as a program that they would support for vets in service any time after 9/11. In response to the tragedies after 9/11, a lot of people went into service and continue to serve in the military. This is a VA Bill for post-9/11 service members.”

Through the CCIM Vets In Real Estate program, veterans can take a selection of courses, which Crane said totals about $15K overall, to receive their real estate designations for free. More than 125 veterans have signed up for the program since it launched last year.

“Veterans have been trained for combat. The commercial real estate industry is very competitive, so sometimes it's good to have the training to deal with conflict,” Crane said. “On a more serious note, people who served in the military are very self-starting and entrepreneurial. [They are] self-motivated and very disciplined. They learn to work within the military to build teams and be able to manage interpersonal relationships — that absolutely grooms them for a career in commercial real estate.”