Never Miss an Opportunity to Network

Jin Han spent his childhood years between Seoul and Vancouver, and then moved to the east coast to complete a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Toronto Mississauga. There, he specialized in finance with a major in economics and a minor in psychology due to his passion for human behavior. Today, Han is developing his career in one of North America’s largest metropolitan cities as a property officer with the Leasing & Site Management team within the City of Toronto Real Estate Division. He thrives in the constant exposure to dense business networks and exciting opportunities. His quest for learning doesn’t stop outside the office – Han studies several languages, enjoys travelling and likes exploring Toronto’s food scene.

NAIOP: Why did you pursue a NAIOP certificate, and how has it helped you personally?
Last March, I was fortunate enough to grab a coffee with Charlie Musgrave, senior director in Office Leasing at Ivanhoe Cambridge. Charlie suggested that I check out the certificate program, which was the culmination of a series of commercial real estate courses being offered through NAIOP by the Greater Toronto chapter. For me, the highlight of this program was the lecturers. All the courses were led by industry veterans who were willing to share important lessons learned during their accomplished careers – you can never replace wisdom gained from years of experience with textbook knowledge. Their lessons and anecdotes provided tremendous value to young people trying to find their way to a solid career path.

NAIOP: Why did you choose a career in commercial real estate?
Initially, tangibility is what attracted me to the industry. We can all see, experience and discuss real estate – especially in the booming Toronto and Vancouver markets. Through networking, I developed an appreciation for various asset classes and potential career paths in the industry, as well as a better understanding of the business, work culture and reputation of different companies. It didn’t take long for me to sense rewarding opportunities in the industry.

The leasing business at City of Toronto, as a commercial landlord, is not simply about real estate nor its assets. Our team is in the business of constantly understanding different businesses and industries. As leasing professionals representing the municipality and ultimately the taxpayers, our team spends time understanding and analyzing prospective tenants’ businesses as well as circumstances that would allow them to remain as good tenants, while considering protective measures to mitigate any potential risks to taxpayers. The opportunities to deal with diverse businesses and people are what make what I do interesting and fun.

NAIOP: What makes working in this industry exciting and challenging?
As part of the Leasing & Site Management team, I represent the municipality as both the landlord and the tenant. I get to manage and lead transactions involving diverse real assets, such as offices, shopping malls, parking lots, signboards, pipelines, parklands and marinas to list a few. Each asset type is unique and they all have different impacts on the organization of urban and public spaces; ultimately this all matters for how we live together. Due diligence excites me the most – understanding both the subject asset and counterparty, and arriving at the numbers and terms behind each deal. Working in and through any large organization with multiple stakeholders with competing interests is always a challenge and this is no different when working for a municipality (but is anyone surprised?).

Our team strives to maximize the returns and cost savings for the municipality, which in turn benefits the taxpayers. Coming to work with a problem-solving attitude and collaborating with awesome teammates to achieve goals that then translate into direct impacts on the public system is an exciting feeling and gives me a great sense of responsibility.

NAIOP: What advice would you offer to rising professionals in CRE?
Never miss an opportunity to network. I reached out to more than 450 commercial real estate professionals, largely in appraisals, investments, property & asset management, development, leasing and lending. I met with at least a fifth of them in person and, in addition, I attended networking events offered by various groups. If you’re from a business school, it’s often engrained in our head that job-hunting equals networking. Although this is a very valid reason to motivate you to be a strong networker, I think networking provides another value that may be even more important in the long run. In my experience, you also learn a great deal by just talking to people: the careers paths and opportunities that they took or didn’t take, insights on various company cultures, as well as life and career tips that you may never find in published materials. Also, I would advise people to subscribe to industry news channels like Real Estate News Exchange (RENX), and a few Google alerts. It helps to be aware of what’s going on in the industry that you want to work in.

NAIOP: Who is your professional inspiration?
The lock-screen on my phone has a picture of Chung Ju Young, founder and honorary chairman of the Hyundai Group. I respect him so much that I bought a Hyundai Tucson as my first car and even have a cup with his picture on it. Take a read of some of his stories when you can. One of Chung’s famous quotes is “Hae-bo-ghee-na hae-suh?” which translates to “Have you even tried?” I think it’s a simple but powerful question to have in your mind for how you approach your career and your life in general.

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