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The (career) path less taken: a good leasing professional does not always make a great property manager.

All too often, a person enters the property management industry as a leasing consultant and immediately sets their sights on becoming a property manager. The apartment industry wants employees who have goals, and this industry certainly needs strong property managers. The apartment industry has spent a great deal of time and effort trying to attract bright, ambitious individuals. When doing so, it promotes the variety of career options and potential for advancement.


The problem is that many of the skills required to he a successful property manager are very different from those needed to be a successful leasing consultant.

A strong property manager needs to know the ins and outs of each position and understand the full scope of daily, onsite operations, so many leasing consultants successfully navigate this route.

But too many leasing consultants see this career path as the only path and the only measure of success or advancement. In their pursuit of advancement, they fail to consider whether they would even enjoy being a property manager, let alone be good at it.

There are many leasing consultants who love leasing and excel at it but who feel that they must move into a property manager position in order to advance their career. Whether it is personal pressure, expectations of associates, or just industry tradition, too often the apartment industry sets people up for failure by advancing them for "putting in their time" rather than because there is a good fit.

So if every leasing consultant is not destined to become a property manager, how does the apartment industry put them on a career path less taken?

1. Redefine Traditional Positions. A company may consider creating non-traditional positions that allow advancement in the leasing arena. This may be positions such as a Leasing Manager, Leasing Coach, Marketing Manager or Resident Services/Customer Service Manager, either at one site or over multiple sites. Keep in mind, many people measure success by job title, so creating titles that demonstrate advancement or a higher level of authority could be attractive.

2. Keep Them Challenged. Help outstanding leasing consultants fight the pressure to follow the traditional career path by expanding their responsibilities within the leasing role. This may include mentoring new leasing associates, developing leasing training, creating resident programs, conducting a thorough market analysis and designing marketing plans, participating in the design of resident satisfaction surveys or encouraging them to get involved on a committee with their local apartment association.

3. Recognize and Reward. It is important that the incentive and compensation programs truly reward leasing consultants for producing business results. This may mean looking beyond the normal leasing commission structures. Value for leasing associates must also be reflected in other employees' attitudes. They must be given the same level of respect as those in management positions. Proper rewards and recognition will keep them engaged.

In the end, some leasing consultants will still move on to become property managers, but their experience in alternate leasing positions will better prepare them for the new role. They will have had the chance to apply managerial skills in a leasing-related position which will set them up for success.

Having crucial discussions with employees about their goals--especially during performance reviews--and then working with each employee to develop an individual development plan helps to ensure that they find the career path that is right for them.


Susan Sherfield, CPM, is Regional Education Director at. Mercy Housing, Atlanta, and can be reached at 404/538-6787 or

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Author:Sherfield, Susan
Date:Jan 1, 2011
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