The Path to a Successful Apartment Career

I’ve always been fascinated by the ways in which people start out in the apartment industry.

It seems that everyone has a different story. Some start as students, helping pay their way through college while others come to our industry later in life when they have decided to switch careers. Others even join our industry after serving in the military.

Greystar Director of Education and Training, Stephanie Puryear Helling, actually took two of those three paths. She was looking for a place to live while in college, walked into an apartment community and walked out with an apartment and a job offer.

“It was a great opportunity while in college to live and work at a great place in downtown Austin, and it provided a wonderful opportunity to meet people and learn a business while in school,” she said. “I had so much fun I decided to make it a career.”

That wasn’t her first job though. As a high school student, she bagged groceries and worked her way up to the position as a checker. These first jobs taught Stephanie the importance of good customer service and to work hard at whatever job she was given. During her senior year in high school, while still working part-time at the grocery store, Stephanie joined the Army National Guard to help pay for college.

“The disciplined military training was an unforgettable experience and further cemented my belief in the value of hard work,” Stephanie said. “My philosophy has always been to grow where you’re planted. If you work hard and focus on being the best in your current role, other opportunities will naturally present themselves.”

This is a philosophy she still encourages her employees and even in her own children to live by as well. She believes that no one is “too good” for any job.

Some of the apartment industry’s brightest stars started as part-time leasing professionals, housekeepers or porters and are now officers of companies or owners of their own consulting firms.

That attitude has helped Stephanie work her way up our industry’s career ladder from working onsite at apartment communities to corporate roles at regional and now national levels.

Stephanie said that in her 22 years working in the industry, the basics of property management and multi-family real estate haven’t changed. What has changed is the caliber of the people renting apartment homes, as well as the caliber of Greystar employees who operate its multi-million dollar apartment communities.

“Today’s multifamily real estate professional needs to be more educated, nimble, professional and technologically savvy than ever before to keep up with the demands of today’s savvy customer.”

Stephanie advises DECA students who might be interested in an apartment career to work hard, apply themselves to their studies and focus on perfecting their math, sociology, written and verbal communication and computer skills. She also suggests shopping a few apartment communities and studying the physical aspects of each community, as well as the customer service and sales skills displayed by each leasing professional.

Also, consider taking advantage of internships and job shadow opportunities at apartment communities. Visit Apartmentcareers.com or Greystarjobs.com to see what jobs are typically available in the industry.

February is Apartment Careers Month, so I encourage you to use this month to learn about the types of careers our industry offers. You can learn more about the apartment industry at WeAreApartments.org or ApartmentCareerHQ.org.

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