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What you can do if you don’t have a property internship

Internships aren’t the only way for you to get a graduate surveying job. There are many other ways to develop the skills and knowledge that employers want, even during a pandemic.

We are not in normal times, but there are still ways to develop your skills.

In normal times, we would tell you that you are likely to find it more difficult to secure a graduate job in the property profession without a real estate internship under your belt. Employers usually prefer candidates with property work experience, as it demonstrates an interest in property and shows that they have tried out the industry and developed industry-specific skills.

However, we are not in normal times and the key word in the above paragraph is ‘usually’. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a number of employers did not offer internships or other forms of work experience in 2020 and some have cancelled their 2021 internships as well. Some employers are currently planning to run their summer internships for 2021, but this could still change depending on changes to coronavirus restrictions. Because of this, employers won’t necessarily expect applicants for their graduate schemes to have done an internship, but it’s still important for candidates to demonstrate their interest in property and their required skills and attributes.

Here are some ideas for things that you can do to help you get a property graduate job, including many things that you can do from home.

1. Build your CV with evidence of an interest in property

There are many things outside of work experience that you can do to demonstrate that you have an active interest in property.

  • Join or renew membership of a professional body: Membership of a relevant professional body, such as the RICS or RTPI, is typically free for students and is the first step to gaining chartered status. Not only do they run a number of events that will be beneficial to your job hunt, but membership is tangible evidence of your commitment to a career in the property industry.
  • Attend networking events and talks on industry topics: Your university, course or local RICS Matrics/Young Planners group may organise events where current property students will be able to network with young professionals currently working in the property industry. These networking events are likely to still be running online, and will still allow you to talk to professionals working in the profession. They may be willing to talk about how they approached their job search, or be able to put you in touch with graduate recruiters or let you know about work experience opportunities at their firm. Find out more about how you should network with property professionals face-to-face and online here.
  • Seek out property-related competitions: A professional body may run competitions, which it will advertise on its website. These competitions are typically based around case studies, presentations or essays and can be used as evidence of your knowledge of property. Previously, winners of these competitions have won cash prizes and even work placements.

Then, include them on your CV and in applications.

2. Develop your property-related skills through extras

Skills that property employers are looking for, and which are needed for a career as a property surveyor, can be gained outside of the property industry, through part-time work or extracurricular activities. These may be harder to pursue right now, but if you do get the opportunity – and it is safe for you to do so – then seriously consider them.

  • Work in a customer-facing role: ‘The property business is about building and maintaining relationships with clients,’ says CBRE’s former graduate recruitment and development manager. ‘We’re looking for people we can put in front of clients,’ he adds. So, if you have been able to work part time in a supermarket, for example, you will have great evidence of your customer service skills and ability to understand customers’ needs.
  • Join or set up a university entrepreneurial society: ‘We’re looking for real entrepreneurial flair in our graduates,’ says Carolyn Malet de Carteret, HR development director at Goldcrest Land, as professionals need to realise the value of real estate for a client. Students can become involved with or set up an entrepreneurial society to demonstrate an interest and aptitude in this area (you can run or attend sessions virtually). More details on how you can develop and display entrepreneurial flair can be found here.
  • Set yourself a target and achieve it: Property employers like candidates who are driven (sometimes known as being target- or goal-oriented). If you are able to get part-time work as a delivery driver or cyclist, this will provide great examples of your ability to work towards goals. But if this isn’t possible, set yourself an achievable goal or target, work towards it and include it somewhere on your CV. This might be a personal fitness goal or you might decide to fundraise for a cause you care about.
  • Take an online course in business skills: Free and paid-for online courses have really taken off since the pandemic and they can be good for developing the workplace and commercial skills that you would have got from an internship. But you need to check that it is right for you: read our feature on the pros and cons of doing an online course.

Then, include them on your CV and in applications.

Discover more of the skills property employers seek.

3. Make the most of your careers service

Don’t forget that you can use the resources provided by your careers service at any point during university and even afterwards as a graduate. Your careers service will be able to help you through providing services virtually such as mock interviews or sessions to improve your CV writing skills, in order to make sure that your applications are as strong as possible. Your careers advice service and lecturers may be able to put you in touch with former students who work in the property industry., or you could get in contact with alumni by joining groups and networking online (such as through LinkedIn). They may be able to mentor you through your job search, providing advice on and insight into the industry.

4. Don’t entirely give up on finding property work experience

The property market is considered essential, so many employers are likely to have continued operating under coronavirus restrictions. While they aren’t likely to be offering opportunities for informal work experience during this time, it is still worth keeping an eye out for any opportunities they do advertise or applying speculatively ‘on the off chance’ – if it is safe for you to undertake work experience, that is.

To apply speculatively:

  • Research the employers: Use Google, LinkedIn, local business listings and your network to find property employers who do not advertise formal internships and who might be able to offer you some work experience on an informal basis. Look into them to gain an understanding of what markets the firm operates in and what services it offers.
  • Send a tailored CV and covering letter, stating your request and providing details of when you are available at least a couple of weeks in advance of those dates. Employers may not reply to your initial email – in this case it is worth phoning them to check whether they have been able review your application. Read our advice for more help with your property CV and covering letter.
  • Learn more about making speculative work experience applications to property firms here.

Alternatively, if you have graduated, you might be able to find a property-related graduate internship through organisations such as step that specialise in organising internships for graduates with smaller employers.

Getting work experience might not seem a likely proposition right now, but you owe it to yourself to explore all of your options.

This article was last updated in July 2021.

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