If you are in the final year of a property degree or if you have already graduated, there is no denying that you are likely to find it more difficult to secure a graduate job without a formal 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.
Don't worry – you can still find a property graduate job if you have not got any work experience yet. Michael Collins, the CEO of property development firm Goldcrest Land, has told us that, for him, having industry work experience is not essential as long as candidates can demonstrate the required attributes in other ways. And rest assured that there are other ways to demonstrate your attributes and prove your interest in property. Here are some of them.
Don’t give up on finding property work experience
Graduates and final-year property students are usually not eligible to join large property firms’ formal internship schemes, but there are other ways to gain property experience. If you have graduated, you might be able to find a property-related graduate internship through organisations such as step or ScotGrad, which specialise in organising internships for graduates with smaller employers. However, whether you have graduated or are still at university, you can still apply speculatively for informal work experience with local property employers. Informal work usually involves observing property professionals at work (work shadowing) or helping out around the office. 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.
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 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. Find out more about the benefits of joining a professional body here.
- 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. 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.
- Enter 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.
You’ll be able to write about how you’ve joined and made use of your professional body, attended events and entered competitions to demonstrate your interest in property.
Develop your skills through part-time work and extracurricular activities
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.
- Work in a customer-facing role: ‘The property business is about building and maintaining relationships with clients,’ says Mark Dubes, graduate recruitment and development manager at CBRE. ‘We’re looking for people we can put in front of clients,’ he adds. Any client serving role, such as waiting tables or working in retail, can be used in applications as 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. If you’re a graduate, making suggestions during part-time work to improve customer service can also demonstrate entrepreneurial skills. More details on how you can develop and display entrepreneurial flair can be found here.
- Read more about what skills property employers are looking for here.
On your CV and in your applications highlight any evidence of your skills. Don’t omit any part-time jobs, voluntary work or fundraising activities you’ve done because you think there are irrelevant – they could provide vital evidence of your ability to excel in a property role.
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 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. In addition, whether you have an internship or not, make sure that you:
- Attend careers fairs: Careers fairs are an excellent opportunity for students to meet property professionals and ask questions about the industry and their employer. If you make a good impression, the employers may keep an eye out for graduate job applications from you.
- Get in touch with your alumni network: Your careers advice service and lecturers may be able to put you in touch with former students who work in the property industry. They may be able to mentor you through your job search, providing advice on and insight into the industry.