What Color Is Your Commercial Real Estate Parachute?

More than 30 women took the express elevator to the 33rd floor boardroom of Jones Lang LaSalle in the Citicorp Center on Tuesday morning to eat pastries, sip coffee and take part in a disquieting seminar titled “Transitioning Careers in a Changing Marketplace.”

The breakfast, planned well before the credit crisis changed the face of real estate and Wall Street as we know it, was timely.

“How many people are either looking for a job right now or have changed jobs within the last six months,” asked the fast-talking Jane Lyons, a partner at Rhodes Associates and a board member of the Association of Real Estate Women, which organized the crack-of-dawn breakfast.

At least a third of the women raised their hands. Among them were a laid-off member of Merrill Lynch’s commercial-mortgage-backed-securities unit and a residential appraiser, who said business has been stagnating since July.

They came seeking wisdom from the three eminently accomplished speakers, all well coiffed and wearing artsy bead necklaces: Susan Swanezy, a managing director for the Real Estate Products Group at Credit Suisse; Margaret Blakey, a managing director and co-head of opportunistic lending for Capmark Investments; and Sonia Axter, a director at RREEF Infrastructure. 

In addition to the HR buzz-phrases they sent sawing through the room—“skill sets,” “core strengths,” and “fundamentals” made repeat appearances—they suggested that the commercial real estate job opportunities likely to arise would be different from those of the boom years. Job-searchers should market themselves accordingly.

“Today it’s all about asset management,” said Ms. Swanezy, who just this September left Stockbridge Real Estate Funds for Credit Suisse.

“And there will be new pools of capital raised to buy at deep discounts,” Ms. Blakey added. “Change happens. It’s almost always good.”

drubinstein@observer.com What Color Is Your Commercial Real Estate Parachute?