Self-awareness, alignment, perspective, relationships and competency—these are the factors that lead to a successful career, according to Peter Roberts of Jones Lang LaSalle.
On January 13, 2010, Mr. Roberts discussed his career and offered advice to Kellogg students during a luncheon at the James L. Allen Center, presented by the Kellogg Real Estate Executive Speaker Series.
As CEO of the Americas at Jones Lang LaSalle, Peter Roberts is responsible for strategic planning, tactical oversight and senior-level management for North and Latin American operations. Jones Lang LaSalle provides integrated real estate and investment management services to owner, occupier, and investor clients worldwide.
The discussion began with a synopsis of the real estate markets. Mr. Roberts said he expects leasing markets to deteriorate further before bottoming in the second half of 2010, although real estate investment activity will likely pick up earlier in the year. Notwithstanding these difficult times, he advised students that “there is no better time to learn than in a down market,” explaining that the conditions impart a deeper understanding of the underlying real estate.
Mr. Roberts then described his career path, which began in finance at Morgan Guaranty Trust Company of New York. Unhappy with the firm’s conservative culture at the time, he went back to business school to explore other options. During recruiting, he became interested in real estate by virtue of its outgoing culture and transactional nature, and later joined LaSalle Partners (now Jones Lang LaSalle), where he has worked for the last 24 years in a multitude of increasingly senior roles.
After sharing his story, Mr. Roberts defined his overall career philosophy. His first piece of advice is to develop self-awareness. “Know yourself. Look in the mirror and figure out what turns you on—and as importantly, what turns you off,” he encouraged. The second step is finding a path that aligns with your values and objectives. As Mr. Roberts described, “I am a big believer in alignment. The more aligned something is, the more successful it will be; that goes for business models and for people.”
The next theme was the importance of perspective, particularly during a down market or any challenging time in one’s career. “Life is not a bowl of cherries – it doesn’t go in one direction,” quipped Mr. Roberts. After describing some challenging periods earlier in his career, he stressed that young professionals usually lack perspective and therefore should seek out career guidance from more experienced colleagues who have lived through difficult times.
Mr. Roberts also emphasized the role of relationships in real estate, which can lead to career opportunities and new perspectives. Furthermore, he advised that students should not only focus on expanding the number of contacts, but also consider how they develop relationships within their firms. He suggested that “volunteering” for new projects can be a great way to broaden relationships throughout the firm and gain the attention of the senior-level sponsors.
When it comes to the true secret to success, Mr. Roberts revealed, “It’s all about developing confidence with the people with whom you work – both inside and outside – colleagues and clients.” As he explained, delivering high-quality work instills confidence from those around you, and this confidence in turn leads to greater levels of responsibility and career progression.