“Bill arrives early in the morning at the CBRE office in downtown Toronto. Though he technically doesn’t need to show his face until 9:30 a.m., many of his colleagues show up earlier than then. The boss does, his friends do, and so Bill does too. It’s important at CBRE to show that you’re working as hard as everyone else. This can encourage behavior like showing up for work 45 minutes early. Bill is thankful that be that the doors are locked at night.
A financial analyst job at CBRE is ideal for Bill--his wonkish interest in solving complex problems, combined with his good social skills make him good at his job. He didn’t know exactly what he wanted to do when he was studying finance in college. But his position here has been a good fit. Though he sits at a desk for a good eight or nine hours per day, he spends a decent amount of that time talking on the phone. He is on friendly terms with people whom he’s never met in person, CBRE employees far away, in Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver, and elsewhere.
There’s no truly typical day at CBRE. From one day to the next, he tackles all kinds of different problems. His work requires him to analyze the real estate market, as well as individual clients’ capital expenditures, profit plans, financial statements, etc. etc.. Today he’s looking into real estate opportunities in Maine. Just as he’s never met Fred in Vancouver or Daphne in Los Angeles, he’s never been to Maine. He’ll probably never go. But he knows an impressive amount about fluctuations in the Maine real estate market. This kind of knowledge comes with the territory of working for a global company like CBRE.
Working at CBRE has its perks. For instance, the gleaming, white state-of-the-art office downtown. Bill’s affection towards his office may seem irrational to others, but he knows that it’s important to feel that the place where you work is clean, comfortable, modern. He remembers this when he walks into the office on a scorching hot day like today and feels the air conditioning wash over him. Another thing Bill likes about his work here is that his supervisors give him space. They trust him to do what he does. In a way, everyone he meets is the same. The CBRE brand is a mark of his ability. He feels that it puts a pleasant pressure on him to perform at a high level.
Yet working for such a prestigious company isn’t all good. Bill knows that the pay is relatively low for the work he puts in. That is to say, he’s aware that a similar job at a competitor could net him a bigger income. The attitude of management is that working here is a privilege, one that employee pays for. Bill sometimes worries that he’ll never move up the ladder at CBRE and never get a major raise. Every year, he and his colleagues get an almost insultingly small raise. So Bill plans to put in a few more years of hard work. If he’s still in the same place by then, he’ll use his experience at CBRE to get a job at a respectable but less prestigious competitor. He won’t hold a grudge against the people here, who have all been great. He expects that they won’t hold a grudge against him either.
“Employees at CBRE are generally satisfied with the benefits they receive. The benefits plan typically includes health insurance, dental care, vision, personal time off, and a 401(k) plan.
“Only real estate agents and brokers require licenses. The scope of CBRE’s operations is huge. Other positions, such as those in accounting, financial analysis, and real estate management, typically don’t require real estate licenses. ”
“Employees at CBRE will likely get very small raises once a year. Substantial raises are relatively uncommon; the one situation in which CBRE employees can count on getting a substantial raise when they get promoted.”
“The work culture at CBRE is pretty intense. People here really love to work, and not casual work either. Day by day there are a ton of different things that need to be accomplished. The part that I do like about cbre though is I find that I'm generally left alone to do my own work and trusted that I can do it well.
Day to day there's a lot of work that needs to be done. Generally you'll own a certain section of work, so you'll be completely in control of every aspect of the project. What this means is if you don't do the work, noone else will do it for you.
What this also means though is that I'm left alone to be able to do my work without too many distractions. I get to fully immerse myself in my problems and drive good results.
This is how I see the general atmosphere of everyone here. People come in to do their work and get it done well, and very little time is spent socializing or playing the political game, there's just too much work to do.”
Initial interviews consist of relaxed but serious meetings with two or three managers. These cover basic questions of work experience. If you pass the initial interview, expect a background test and follow-up interviews with other levels of management. The hiring process takes between three weeks and two months.
CBRE's management is more professional than many of the other top firms that I've worked for, but I've seen some pockets of management that are much more into micro-managing and driving people towards burn-out. There's an interesting balance that some managers find, the work isn't easy and requires a lot of time, but some of the good managers will support and even help you in difficult times.
The number one thing that drives getting promoted at cbre is that you have to be constantly hitting your metrics, and exceeding them. Because the company is so large, it's difficult to stand out to management. Your direct managers also have a quota for the amount of raises and promotions their allowed to give. To boost your chances you should definitely consider staying close to your manager and befriending them.
“I could definitely see myself working for CBRE for a few more years, and I can imagine a scenario where I do end up spending my working career with them, but my goal is to use the company to get myself to a stronger understanding of how these types of companies work, boost up my skills, and then move to a higher paying smaller organization where I can have a larger impact on the company.
The main reasons I want to leave are: I don't think I'm getting paid enough for the amount of work that I do, and I don't feel like I can see the impact my work has on the company as a whole. It really does feel like I come into work to grind out in my own bubble, and I don't really get this sense of community that many smaller companies talk about.
I would maybe consider staying though because with CBRE being such a huge company, there are a lot of opportunities to move around. If an opportunity comes up to try a new role I'll probably take it because promotions don't come often and they usually come with a big salary increase.
You can definitely have a long term career at CBRE, but I guess it depends what you really want out of your career. At the moment I'm not really sure what I want, so I'm just buffing up my skills.”
Founded as CB Commercial Real Estate, the firm grew during the 20th century to become one of the most prominent real estate companies in the United States. CB expanded aggressively in the 1990s. By acquiring other companies, notably REI Limited in 1998, it rose to the status of certified global behemoth.