Spare a moment for the class of 2020

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OPINION: LAST year, I was on the selection committee of my former employers’ graduate recruitment program. I interviewed many real estate students who had done everything right and had grand plans to land a graduate role at their firm of choice.

I was struck by how much more mature and prepared they were for the process than I could remember being when I jumped through similar hoops nearly 20 years ago. Indeed, the hoops the class of 2019 had to jump through were far more difficult to manoeuvre than what I could remember.

I have returned to university to undertake some further learning this week, which got me thinking about this year’s undergraduate class, and the uncertainty they face. Can you imagine graduating from university into the current economy?

Many economic forecasters predict the biggest and deepest recession since the Great Depression. Some firms have cancelled their 2020 graduate intakes due to Coronavirus; most companies are more focused on managing their way through a crisis and saving existing jobs than they are on nurturing new talent. And there is lots of talk about the future of work changing forever, and how this will impact our industry (much of it, not good news).

The result is that the best-laid plans of many graduates have been majorly disrupted. Worse still, travel restrictions mean that graduates can’t just take a year off traveling and have another go in 2021. This is both frustrating and daunting for the graduating class of 2020.

So, what can you do about it?

There is always a role for established commercial real estate professionals to play in helping the leaders of tomorrow. In my opinion, that role is even more important at times like this.

If a soon-to-be-graduating student, or recent graduate, contacts you looking for advice or asking to speak with you, now is the moment to be a little more generous than you usually would. While you may not have a job opportunity to offer, there are other ways you can help them.

Perhaps you know of areas in the industry where opportunities might be more plentiful at the moment. Maybe you can introduce them to another contact who can help them. You may even see the potential in them which results in you recruiting a rising star in the future.

Your inside knowledge of how your company or our industry operates may seem inconsequential to you, but they could be nuggets of gold to those who are looking to break in.

Perhaps you could unofficially mentor someone who you form a connection with. Mentoring helps the mentor, as well as the mentee; mentors develop leadership skills in a new context, and form relationships within networks where they wouldn’t typically. You may even learn something from the mentee!

Those who started their careers in the early 1990s, when Australia was last in the grips of a recession, have knowledge and lived-experience to pass on. How did you deal with the uncertainty? I am sure that hearing about your past struggles, but seeing where you have ended up, could be an important source of inspiration for those who seemingly face a bleak outlook.

Of course, companies have a role to play too. Is there an opportunity to run two intakes of graduates in 2021? If the return to normality happens more quickly, could abandoned graduate recruitment programs resume? Or, could Talent Acquisition teams create portals for recent graduates to access which include relevant resources on the industry and also job advertisements for roles where limited experience is required?

There are many steps that prospective employers can take to provide hope and opportunity to those who are graduating into this unprecedented crisis. Whether small gestures or wider initiatives, sparing a thought for this cohort would be great branding opportunities for forward-looking firms – and the goodwill created should help attract the best and brightest in the future.

I am sure you have heard of many metaphors about the virtues of giving. Whichever one resonates with you, remember that now is a great opportunity to give something small – a few moments of your time – which could have a huge, positive impact on someone else’s future.

Darren Krakowiak is the Founder of which provides coaching and consulting to the commercial real estate industry. He has held various leadership positions at CBRE and JLL in Asia Pacific. His new eBook, The 5 Ps of Commercial Real Estate Success, is available to download for free here:

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