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Strategies for your construction graduate job hunt

Five tips to get a graduate job in construction, civil engineering and surveying in 2019

We’ve reviewed the UK’s biggest survey of student attitudes to job hunting to bring you five key tips on starting your career in construction.
You need to apply your best strategic thinking to your job hunt in the year ahead.

What are other students doing to increase their chances of getting a graduate job in construction? We’ve delved into the results of the Graduate Survey 2018, the largest and most comprehensive investigation of students’ attitudes towards their job hunts in the UK, to find out. We hope that these results will inspire your own job-hunting strategy – and, for easy viewing, have put the pick of the results into a handy infographic.

The Graduate Survey is conducted by trendence UK, a partner of TARGETjobs’ owner Group GTI; 73,517 students took part and, for this feature, we’ve focused on the results from those students who expressed an interest in working for construction, civil engineering and surveying employers.

What students are thinking about careers in construction, civil engineering and surveying

You need to apply your best strategic thinking to your job hunt in the year ahead, particularly because securing graduate employment in the construction industry – whether as an engineer, assistant manager or a surveyor – becomes even more competitive in uncertain economic times. The number of graduates that construction, engineering and cost management companies hire a year depends on the number of projects they have in the pipeline. And that pipeline is always affected by the wider UK economy.

Compare yourself with your peers in construction and civil engineering

What can you learn from other students looking for careers in construction, civil engineering and surveying?

You will need to be savvy in order to beat the competition

1. You should seek work experience

The vast majority of students interested in construction, civil engineering and surveying (81%) have work experience of some sort. Almost two-thirds (65%) have work experience related to their course and, considering that most students interested in construction careers are studying related degrees, it follows that most students have some form of industry-related work experience. Additionally, students interested in this sector are more likely than average to have completed an internship of two months or more: 16% of first-year students had versus 9% on average; 33% of penultimate years had versus 21% on average; and 38% of finalists had versus 33% on average.

So…

Get as much work experience as you can – any work experience is good work experience but industry work experience would be better. If you can, broaden your experience by taking on different roles at different types of employer, including contractors, consultants, housebuilders and utilities companies.

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2. Make social media work for you

A higher than average number of students interested in construction careers are using social media for careers purposes – 82% versus an average of 75% across all sectors. However, relatively few students interested in the sector are using Twitter (15% versus a 19% on average), Facebook (16% versus 22% on average) and YouTube (15% versus 17%). This means that students are missing out on easy ways to find out about companies, their opportunities and the industry news that will boost their commercial awareness and help them answer interview questions.

So…

Check your privacy settings and your social media settings; consider setting up new professionally focused accounts if required and add them to your CV. Get your LinkedIn profile reviewed by a careers service. Then be active on social media. Use it to read up on industry and company news and to connect with others. Retweet and reply on Twitter, connect with industry professionals and join relevant groups on LinkedIn, and comment on companies’ YouTube videos.

Get inspiration from…

3. Network with employers on and off campus

Students interested in the sector prefer to engage with recruiters on campus and face-to-face: meeting recruiters and industry professionals via careers fairs, academic lectures and on-campus careers workshops trump off-campus events. However, it’s true that only 58% of students interested in construction want to engage with recruiters at careers fairs and the percentage decreases from there.

So…

Make sure you attend careers fairs and make a good impression by asking intelligent questions and taking names: recruiters will remember you when you apply (some may connect with you via LinkedIn) and you can mention meeting them in your applications. Get the names of any guest lecturers and contact them afterwards to say how much you enjoyed their talk and start to build a relationship. Attend any on-campus networking and employability events as possible – and do accept any invitation to industry off-campus events that you get (eg employer open days or professional body networking sessions). After all, there will be less competition because there will be fewer students there!

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4. Choose your construction employer carefully

While 28% of students want to work for a large international company, 34% of students will work for any size of employer. As only 4% of students said they didn’t know what size of organisation they wanted to work for, it is clear that most undergraduates in this group of students have thought about this question.

So…

Do think about the size of company you’d be happiest working at. There are lots of benefits to working for a large employer, such as high-profile projects, structured training schemes and a greater chance of working abroad. But the flipside is that you may only be involved in a small part of the employer’s high-profile work. Smaller employers may offer more responsibility at an early stage, an insight into the whole organisation, less of a requirement to relocate, and more opportunities to specialise. It’s also worth noting that the job you do will be different according to whether you work for:

  • a consultant (broadly dealing with the design phase)
  • a contractor (broadly dealing with the construction phase)
  • an infrastructure/utilities company or other company that owns and maintains a lot of land, eg retailers (these may tackle both phases and/or take a project management role)
  • a company that provides management and maintenance services, which may be known as an asset management company, a facilities management company or even a property firm
  • a local authority.

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5. Think about what is most important to you – and apply accordingly

When asked, only 21% of students interested in this sector rated a high starting salary as a very important factor when choosing an employer. Having said that, students did expect to earn an average salary of over £26,500 – to get that sort of starting salary, they will need to focus on the largest employers and those who have well-established graduate programmes. The respondents who valued a high starting salary were much less numerous than the 59% who rated a good work/life balance as a very important factor. But both these considerations were beaten by the 67% who rated good career prospects highly.

So...

Think about what you value and prioritise most highly. What would make you feel most fulfilled in the workplace? Then look for an employer who would best deliver on those values. Start by looking at the organisations on targetjobs.co.uk and then move to employers’ websites before employing your networking strategies to talk to professionals at those companies.

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