We’ve been discussing for years how to personally improve the practice of being an individual agent as well as how to improve the profession overall so that consumers have a better experience from industry insiders. Everyone has a different idea of how to raise Realtors above used car salesmen in the eyes of consumers and while social media has helped America see the personal side of real estate professionals, it hasn’t quite elevated the profession.
You’ve been to Starbucks this month, right? Everyone can spot the Realtor in the room- the hair is a little too big, the cell phone conversation is too loud and self important and the knock off Louis Vuitton bag is so far from the wrong brown it’s not even funny. As a Realtor, you roll your eyes and think “if only there was SOME way that it was a little harder to get licensed.”
We all know that gal or guy- they make the industry look horribly and in a single second undermine the entire industry. What should be done?
Any time we have this discussion, since the beginning of time, most people simply say that a college degree should be required. Really? That’s the answer? If you’ve been to college, you know that a lot of really, really, really painfully stupid people have graduated. It happens.
So this got me to thinking…
How would requiring a bachelor’s degree help the industry? I began thinking about my own college experience. I studied English at the University of Texas (then Spanish, then back to English, then Spanish and eventually left on year five with both).
College is supposed to prepare you for the “real world” and make you a better citizen, right? I’m not so sure. Regarding my own college experience, here is what college did do for me:
- I learned to hustle for myself. In a college so big, there was no accountability from anywhere but within myself.
- I learned how to research and how to tell junk from gems.
- I learned how to prioritize at my own risk.
- I learned how to work efficiently on very little sleep.
- Believe it or not, I learned the value of the professional network. If you didn’t go to office hours, your professors didn’t know who you were and if you didn’t keep up with them over the years, they couldn’t write letters of recommendation.
- The value of a personal network became apparent very early on as well- not just for getting into the best parties, but finding a roommate, a sofa when I needed one, a ride when my car broke down, a job when I needed cash, etc. If I’d stayed in my apartment alone, none of that would have panned out.
- Ultimately, I learned how to compete for my spot. UT is so big that it’s near impossible to get into if you’re not in the top 10% of your HS class. I also learned how to compete for a professor’s attention that hated teaching and was only there to research. Going to college also taught me how to compete for my spot in popular classes.
That all sounds good and wouldn’t those things all help elevate the real estate profession? Sure, why not? But it also got me to thinking about what I did NOT learn in college:
- Because I was an English major, I did NOT learn how to get to the point. We were required to write ten to twenty page papers several times each week and with that minimum, being concise was never necessary.
- I didn’t learn how to present well because the emphasis was on the information and not how it was presented. The most I had to do was read portions of my works out loud, but I could have read in a monotone voice and it wouldn’t have mattered.
- I did NOT learn how to work on a team. In the business school, this was a priority, but not in the liberal arts program. I learned how to push myself to be better than everyone, not how to function properly on a team… which is what most jobs require, especially real estate.
- I didn’t learn how to write a resume or sell myself. I now work frequently with interns and they are experiencing a similar lesson but now that social media is a part of their life, they think they know how to sell themselves because they can tweet. College does NOT prepare effectively how to sale, barring a few business courses.
- I did not learn money management. Again, the business school teaches this, but I left college having spoken to several financial advisors about my own loans but with conflicting information, my limited money experience was completely insane.
- I did not learn how to dress for success. I wore pajamas to most of my classes and the professor was lucky if I brushed my teeth or slept the night before. It didn’t impact my grade one iota.
- I didn’t learn how to negotiate. I knew how to manipulate and could get extra credit with some instructors, but overall, I learned nothing about negotiation, possibly one of the most critical tools in the real estate industry.
- I didn’t learn how to quit. In college, you keep pushing and pushing and pushing until you’re almost dead. In the real world, you have to know when to fold ’em. You have to know the signs of when a project isn’t working or when a tactic is failing, but college only prepares you to beat your head against a wall.
Most of these lessons I learned in my first jobs, not because the University helped me in any way.
So require or don’t require?
So, overall, when I think about whether or not a college degree is relevant in the real estate industry, I would argue that some of the most critical business survival skills are not taught in a traditional University unless students attend the business school (which is a minority of college students). Most colleges barely address the topic of real estate and graduate programs on the topic are forming, but going to school to be a Realtor is nearly unheard of (which would be the ultimate answer to the “what do we do?” question).
I believe that requiring a college degree would make for a beautiful Utopia and that in a dream world and on paper it looks good. Everyone with a framed BA or two would rule the world and help consumer trust levels, but I don’t believe it would actually make for better Realtors, it would just be more letters to add to the alphabet soup. What do you think?