Before you even enter the room you already have one thing in common – you work or study in the same industry, sector or profession.
Networking is equally valuable for aspiring property professionals whether you are able to meet in person or are connecting online. Read on for some ideas for each, along with advice on the benefits of networking and how to how to grow your network.
Shyam Visavadia, a geography and urban & regional planning graduate, completed a postgraduate diploma in surveying and went on to secure a project management role within the built environment industry. As a keen networker, he credits networking for his success in securing multiple internships and a graduate role. Below, Shyam shares the benefit of his experience.
What's the point of networking as a job-hunting student/graduate?
It can help you stand out from other candidates: Making a good impression at careers fairs and networking events can lead to employers remembering you and looking out for your application. Shyam told us that ‘communicating interest, presenting himself and sharing his passion’ helped him ‘land multiple internships and eventually a graduate role’.
It can develop skills that graduate property surveyors need: Working well with clients and self-confidence are essential skills for property surveyors, and networking can help to develop these.
Your network is there to help: ‘Networking offers you the chance to build mutually beneficial relationships through common interests, share and explore new ideas and validate your career approach with those who can provide support,’ Shyam explains. A contact at an employer may be able to let you know about any job vacancies. In fact, your network can last for life. Even after his job search, Shyam’s network helped him to towards during his APC by telling him about continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities.
I don't have a network! What can I do?
Relax... you already have one: Your network can be anybody that you know who knows somebody connected to the property industry. Make a list of everybody you may be able to contact; this can include relatives, friends, lecturers or university alumni (your careers advice service may be able to put you in touch). Think creatively about who you can contact. Then start by asking them if you could have a chat about the industry. Doing work experience should also definitely be seen as part of networking.
Attend networking meetings: RICS Matrics and RTPI Young Planners are young professional and student networking groups set up by the RICS and RTPI. ‘Join a local group,’ advises Shyam, ‘it’s an opportunity to understand the profession, industry and values expected from you to become a competent professional.’
Use social media: Networking online can connect you to people who it would not be possible to meet face to face. Note: you need to be aware of what images of yourself you are presenting online, which forms part of your personal brand. Find out more about networking over social media.
What are the other benefits of joining a professional body?
When you graduate and are working in the profession you will need to be signed up with the relevant body in order to gain chartership – an on-the-job qualification that signifies your expertise in your profession. The professional body you join will depend on what you study and in which field you hope to work once you have graduated.
As a general rule:
- property/real estate students will be encouraged to sign up with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
- planning students will normally join the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)
- quantity surveying and building surveying students will usually join RICS or the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB)
- quantity surveying or land surveying students who want to work within a civil engineering field will usually join the Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors (ICES)
It is possible to join more than one professional body. RICS, RTPI, CIOB and ICES all offer free membership to students. Benefits of joining include:
- Formal networking events. ‘Attend as many networking events as possible,’ Shyam advises. ‘It’s a great chance to talk to people similar to yourself and ask about their jobs search and what they’re doing. I attended RICS Matrics events organised by my local region and that gave me the opportunity to meet other aspiring surveyors who wanted to pursue a career in the built environment.’
- More informal networking and socialising opportunities, where you can pick up job hunting tips and advice. Shyam attended a table tennis tournament with Matrics, the student and young professional group of RICS. He says: ‘It’s great fun and you can really build your network. Everyone there has so much in common and you can chat about your job search and how you’re all getting on.’
- Opportunities to learn from your peers. Shyam says: ‘I was able to talk to those graduates who’d recently joined the industry, and with those who had just graduated. It was a great way to test the waters before formally applying for a job. What I learned during this period helped me to make key decisions about my future and beyond, and it is one which I will cherish for life.’
- Being part of a big national group, meaning that you don’t feel so isolated if you move away for work. ‘You have that big network and it can help you settle in so much quicker. I’ve met people who have ended up living with people they’ve met through networking sessions,’ says Shyam.
- Access to industry-specific publications can help you when the time comes to attend interviews. All these professional bodies have industry magazines and as a member you will be given access. Keeping up to date with these magazines will give you an inside view of what’s going on in the industry. Reading them in the run-up to an interview you should help boost your commercial awareness and give you things to talk about at interview; particularly if you’re asked to talk about a current problem or issue the industry is facing.
- Taking part in competitions that your professional body runs may win you some work experience or a cash prize – and even if you don’t win, you can still say that you entered the competition on your CV. It shows that you’re an active member of the industry’s body and committed to a career in the industry.
- Opportunities to volunteer – for example, The Young Planners, the student and young professional group from RTPI, has in the past given its members the chance to volunteer with Planning Aid – a free professional planning advice service for those who can’t afford to pay fees.
What do I have to offer property professionals?
Yourself: Property students will naturally have a different perspective on the industry to those working in it. ‘You are networking with those who have already faced the same hurdles in securing a job,’ explains Shyam, and so property professionals will usually be willing to help you find your feet, as this will benefit the property industry in the long run and they may receive a referral fee or gratitude from their organisation for doing so.
What should I prepare before networking?
Plan who to speak to: Shyam tries to see if there’s a guest list for events he attends. ‘This way I can better understand what I want to get out of the event and who I want to meet.’ Have an idea of what you would like to find out from these people, and focus on the quality of the networking, rather than the quantity. At a virtual event it is easier to see at a glance which employers are attending, but it’s still best to make a plan of action in advance.
Bring business cards: Handing out business cards gives professionals something to remember you, and your contact details, by. ‘Your business card design and content will differentiate you from being remembered and/or being forgotten – be innovative and think outside of the box,’ Shyam adds. The equivalent at a virtual fair would be completing your profile on the event platform so that information about you is visible to employers during the event.
Act the part: Dress professionally, and remember the small things such as smiling and making eye contact. Making a good first impression is very important. ‘If you look good, it evokes confidence and this is what you want when you arrive at a networking event,’ affirms Shyam.
Keep up to date with industry news prior to an event: This should give you plenty to talk about. For example, you could ask ‘What do you think about X project?’ If you show that you’re knowledgeable and have a genuine interest in the industry you’re bound to impress.
How do I introduce myself to people?
Arrive early: ‘Try to get there early before small circles start forming around the room. This will avoid that awkwardness of joining a circle halfway through,’ advises Shyam.
Keep it simple: ‘During my search for employment, I used to introduce my name followed by a brief outline of who I am,’ recalls Shyam, ‘Don’t go for the hard sell, or ask whether they can offer you a job. Once you have engaged the person’s attention, it is appropriate to give further detail to your profession career and or request for advice.’ The same applies at virtual events, except that you can type your introduction instead; draft something short and snappy into a word document ready to copy and paste.
What should I talk about?
Property! Shyam reminds us of the comforting fact that ‘before you even enter the room you already have one thing in common – you work or study in the same industry, sector or profession.’ Be yourself and remember to have a good time, and let the conversation flow. Shyam suggests the following questions you can use to start conversations:
- Where have you travelled from today?
- What made you join the property industry?
- What university or college did you attend and what did you study?
- What does your role entail?
- What does your company do?
- Does you company have work experience opportunities available?
- How much variety is there in your work?
- Does your role allow you to travel much? If so, where have you travelled?
- How was/is your search for employment? Do you have any tips?
- How are you preparing for your APC?
- How long have you been part of the RICS/RICS Matrics/RTPI/RTPI Young Planners?
What shouldn't I talk about?
Don't be too negative: Although you should be yourself when talking to people, you should still remain professional. Shyam believes you should steer clear of the following topics:
- Politics and current events (unless discussing the effect on the property industry)
- Going into too much detail about your personal life
- Work complaints and issues
- Complaining about things you may find stupid
- Talking about inappropriate topics, such as how drunk you are
- Any religious or cultural views that people may find controversial
What should I do after networking?
Follow up with an email: Networking should be an ongoing relationship rather than a one-off chat, so, after you’ve spoken to a property professional at a networking event, it’s entirely appropriate to move the relationship online. ‘Ideally, you should follow up within 48 hours,’ recommends Shyam, ‘Email is more personable. However, if you don’t have their email address, a message via LinkedIn is also suitable.’
End with an action: Shyam always ends follow-up messages with an action, such as suggesting meeting up to continue discussions or reminding the contact of an agreement, such as putting you in touch with a colleague. Shyam provides the example of writing, ‘“As per our discussion, I would be grateful if you could put me in touch with Laura Davis from Graduate Recruitment”.’ Remember to keep relationships cordial and always say ‘thank you’ after receiving help. You can do this through email or, if appropriate, you could even send them a card or a gift.
How do you network online?
Share what you know and like: Networking using social media isn’t too different from using social media for personal purposes. Displaying your interests and enthusiasm can get you noticed online by property professionals.
Know the difference between networks: You can network using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram or any other social networking site. ‘You need to understand the type of media that your network wants to read before you start sharing,’ Shyam states. For example Twitter is a good place to share property news, but would not be suited to hosting an online CV as you would on LinkedIn.
- Find out more about how to perfect your LinkedIn profile here.
Join in: Once you have perfected your profile, you’re ready to use LinkedIn to its fullest and join a relevant group, such as that of your local RICS Matrics body, and take part in discussions. You can even ask questions of your own, such as asking how to make the most of your existing experience. Afterwards, you can send LinkedIn requests to professionals you have interacted with and ask for further details.
Keep track of your achievements: Make sure that somebody searching you for the first time can get a clear idea of who you are and what you’ve done. This can be as simple as updating your biographies on social media or keeping a blog.
Check your privacy settings: Shyam advises that posting online ‘counts as a first impression, so make sure this doesn’t become a barrier to your career.’ Make certain everything is appropriate and that your privacy settings are set up so that anything that you don’t want to be found remains unfound.
How do I build relationships with people online?
Keep in touch: Knowing how often to keep in contact with somebody is tricky online as well as in person. ‘Find mutual ground and areas where both or all parties can share something that has value to one another,’ suggests Shyam. Have faith that you are of value to property professionals, and, if your discussions do not naturally suggest a follow-up, feel free to ask if you could check back with them in a couple of weeks’ or months’ time.
Take it offline: Shyam says, ‘Most of what I have learned and developed online forms discussion when networking in person. I don’t only sit behind my phone and laptop posting.’ You can expand on online networking by inviting contacts for coffee or a phone call.