Real estate may be the lifeblood of the Orange County economy. James St. Louis ’20, president of the Real Estate Association, a student club providing related networking and professional development opportunities, discusses his goals and experience and how to launch your future in real estate.

“My dream job after college is to work for a well-known real estate company learning the ins and outs of development, investing and brokerage,” says James St. Louis, an intern with Lee & Associates and president of the Cal State Fullerton Real Estate Association. “My long-term career goal is to be financially free. I plan to get there by learning from my mentors and not being afraid to make mistakes along the way. I also want to own a business, whether in real estate or another field.”

The finance senior has been working toward a lucrative career for years, and he’s inspired by the successes and failures of acclaimed business leaders of the past, such as Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. For all of them, St. Louis has recognized a commonality: building wealth through real estate.

“All these people invested in real estate in some shape or form,” he says. “I figured if real estate worked for all these men and women throughout history, why try to reinvent the wheel when I could implement their strategies in my life?”

As a freshman, St. Louis was already avidly watching online videos and reading articles and books on real estate, such as Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad. “I wanted to mold my career off of the many successful people who had done so before me,” he says. “For them, it’s about ‘how much work can I put in today, to reap the benefits in the future.’ I like to model my life goals off this mentality, playing the long-term game.”

St. Louis also looks up to present business leaders and athletes, such as Elon Musk, Warren Buffet and Kobe Bryant.

An Applied Look at Real Estate Through a Lee & Associates Internship

Like in many industries, St. Louis has discovered that internships can be the springboard to a future in real estate. He is currently interning with Lee & Associates, the nation’s largest broker-owned commercial real estate services firm.

“What I wanted out of an internship was to learn all the aspects of the industry so I can make a more educated decision on what career path I want to take within real estate,” he says. “Throughout my internship, I’ve experienced the different sides of commercial brokerage, property development, investment properties and the back-end knowledge needed to succeed.”

Prior to interning, St. Louis had heard from others the praises of residential real estate careers and that commercial real estate was unfriendly and strict. He was disabused of this notion when he found an internship at a commercial real estate firm.

“At Lee & Associates, I met the most family-oriented and kindest people I’ve met. From the interview to present, I’ve felt welcomed with open arms by all who work at the office,” he says. “My biggest surprise is that I’m part of a team that specializes in industrial real estate. I’ve always wanted to be involved with the commercial side of the business, but never imagined the industrial market. I’ve enjoyed the experience and can’t wait to continue learning.”

St. Louis encourages other Titans to find internships through their network, whether the opportunity is exactly in their field of choice or in a slightly different direction. “My friends and I have applied to hundreds of internships online and heard nothing back. Once we used a connection to recommend us, we all got positions at desired companies,” he says. “Don’t get discouraged if your ideal company isn’t hiring. Find any company that’s related to your industry and gain experience. I’ve told many people that any internship is better than none at all.”

Getting Started with the Real Estate Association

Cal State Fullerton’s Real Estate Association, which is open to all CSUF students of all majors, is a great way to build your network.

“Members of the Real Estate Association get access to the placement program I went through with Robert Taylor, owner of REMM International and one of the guest speakers for the club,” he says. Taylor ’67, ’73 is also a member of the board of directors for the Center for Real Estate, which supports the student club. “He is very knowledgeable about development and investments, and I met with him multiple times to talk about the industry and to observe how he thinks about real estate opportunities. It was thanks to Taylor that I obtained my internship with Lee & Associates through the center’s internship placement program.”

Meeting with high-level executives, brokers and property developers provides opportunities to get expert answers to questions about the sectors, and connecting with fellow club members is also invaluable, he says.

“Talking with like-minded individuals about how to achieve financial freedom and helping others find internships in real estate is what I find so exciting.”