Maintaining Your Career During the Pandemic

Posted By: Michelle Cook Articles ,

No matter your role in the global community, COVID-19 forced us all to take stock in Spring 2020. How do we feed our families, what plans will be forced to be
put on hold, which of our loved ones are higher risk?

Tightening the lens as members of the multifamily industry, taking stock meant asking questions such as, "will my residents be able to pay rent", "how can I lease if I cannot take tours" or "how do we keep our facilities team members safe?"

Despite these challenges, we continue to overcome as an industry and as we enter 2021, we find ourselves taking stock again. While we aren’t back to normal, we are emerging from survival mode and we once again find ourselves resetting goals, prioritizing ambition, and pursuing growth in our careers.

As a portfolio manager, I have had the opportunity to observe our onsite teams, my operating peers, and our company leadership find ways to set themselves apart and position themselves as more marketable and
affluent members in the industry not simply during the pandemic, but in response to it. Reflecting, they have been able to accomplish this in three key moves:

1. IDENTIFYING BLIND SPOTS AND WEAKNESSES

Top down, the burdens of COVID-19 were different at every level, but they were still very real. For our HQ operating teams, the hurdle was providing COVID-19 resources and guidance in a timely manner while also evolving our operating processes to meet new demands. Additionally, on site teams faced an onset of requests for lease terminations, payment plans, questions regarding amenities and proof of COVID-19 appropriate safety measures.

While the instinct is to panic or retreat, instead I saw team members see these issues as opportunities to rise to the occasion, share ideas, and create positive impacts across the organization. Pre-pandemic, the ability to turn around a difficult community or operate in a saturated market was the gold standard of a marketable employee. Nearly one year later, this has not changed - except that we are now operating in an environment that allows more opportunities to bring solutions to the table.

2. INNOVATING AND OVERCOMING CHALLENGES

At my company, the best idea wins and thankfully our core values allow the space for this to be true. COVID-19 turned the industry on its head and the need for innovation and creative thinking at every level became very apparent. We all had questions but those who stood out were the team members providing answers.

We were prepared to adjust our expectations for occupancy and revenue but we still had a responsibility to do everything in our power to be successful. This required a newfound level of initiative at all levels and the on site team members who stood out were mastering live zoom and prerecorded tours, ordering cameras for Matterport footage, implementing QR codes where we never thought to before, and finding ways to connect with residents virtually. They were well versed in changing market dynamics such as Universities closing and evolving state restrictions and prepared to pivot accordingly. Instead of just accepting that delinquency was going to rise and continuing to stick to the status quo they sought out rent relief organizations in their markets and educated their residents.

The examples are endless but ultimately what the pandemic has shown us is that adversity does not have to only be a devastating circumstance. Instead, it can be an opportunity for growth and exposure as members of an industry seeking to advance our careers as long as we are willing to seek solutions.


3. CREATING LONG TERM VALUE

Ten months into the pandemic and the Multifamily industry has survived the initial triage imposed by COVID-19. We’ve determined new performance baselines as relates to revenue and occupancy and understand the expenses needed to continue operating safely. As an industry we are now poised to commit to recovery.

For operators this is an occasion to change our way of traditionally thinking and use what we’ve learned in the last ten months to start incrementally improving our community performance. We do this by setting our goals and developing and creating buy-in with our team members. Recovering from the pandemic is not a one man job and will require those around you to set and achieve their own set of goals on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

At Cardinal, we are dedicated to growth as part of our core values and believe in the importance of an “I grow you grow” mentality. Investing in the development of those around you is a beneficial use of time so that as you pursue that next step in your career your successor is prepared to take your place.

We may not be able to completely recover from the stressors of COVID-19 overnight, but measurable, quantifiable progress in performance and developing future industry leaders is a step in the right direction.

Michelle Cook is a Portfolio Manager at Cardinal Group Management. She oversees 2,463 units in 13 communities.