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Abigail Heyworth, a partner at Knight Frank, shares her advice from 10 years in the profession.

Five expert tips for becoming a property surveyor

Play your cards right and the property sector offers many opportunities for career progression. We spoke to Abigail Heyworth, a partner at Knight Frank, to find out her five top tips for graduate career success.

One of the major mistakes that graduate surveyors can make is not staying on top of their APC preparation and letting the stress of catching up be their downfall.

We asked a partner at Knight Frank, Abigail Heyworth, to look back over her decade in the property profession and share with us her secrets for success. Here are her five top tips on how you can give yourself the best shot of at securing a graduate job at a leading property firm and how you can impress employers in your roles as a graduate surveyor.

1. Show recruiters your passion for property

Having a genuine passion for the area of the profession you want to work in is incredibly important. I’m certain that conveying this interest in residential property helped me to get my graduate job at Savills.

I’m involved in recruitment at Knight Frank LLP and it’s obvious when candidates aren’t really interested in property. I want the people who join our firm to be as passionate about it as we all are.

How I learned this lesson

Property was a way for me to combine my interest in the built environment and design with my interest in business. I initially dabbled with the idea of going into architecture but I realised that I wanted more of a business focus, so applied to study real estate management at Oxford Brookes University.

My property course was quite heavily focused around commercial property but I knew early on that I wanted to work in residential property. I was really interested in how people interact with the built environment and especially the emotion that is associated with buying a home. In contrast, commercial property decisions are more often driven by numbers. I wanted to be involved in designing homes which responds to purchasers’ needs and requirements in order to ultimately add value for my clients.

2. Make sure you have work experience

Property recruiters are looking for well-rounded candidates. Securing work experience off your own back can help to differentiate you from other candidates. You’ll also develop your skills and knowledge by working with and assisting a real team of professionals.

Show that you have a genuine interest in property and that you’re not just applying on a whim. That said, don’t neglect to emphasise your interests outside of property. Whether they’re completing Duke of Edinburgh awards, gap year travelling or being involved with university debating competitions, it gives an idea of your personality and what interests you.

How I learned this lesson

I grew up on Guernsey in the Channel Islands and during the school summer holidays I would write to the States of Guernsey’s property development departments to ask about work experience opportunities. This was my first experience of working in the property industry. I saw how property professionals worked with local politics and housing policies, which is something that I still encounter in my current role today; for example, I work with Westminster City Council on regeneration projects.

3. Make use of mentorship opportunities on your grad job

One of the major mistakes that graduate surveyors can make is not staying on top of their APC (assessment of professional competence) preparation and letting the stress of catching-up their downfall. I benefited hugely from having access to senior staff who acted as my counsellors and supervisors while I was completed the APC.

Being able to go to them for guidance throughout the process and having their perspective on whether I was getting the right experience and how to document it correctly was extremely valuable. Make sure you’re proactive in your preparation and make use of mentors.

How I learned this lesson

One of the biggest milestones in my career so far has been completing the APC and qualifying as a chartered surveyor with RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors). After university and the APC, it was a massive relief to final reach the end of my exams and be properly established in the industry and in my team.

4. Go the extra step so that you stand out

It really stands our when new graduate surveyors make an effort to be proactive and take every opportunity to understand as much as possible about their day-to-day job and the wider business they have joined.

This can be as simple as asking to attend meeting, talking to colleagues over coffee or requesting to go out on site visits.

How I learned this lesson

Getting involved in graduate recruitment, which I first did five years ago, was one way in which I started to raise my own profile within the business. It showed that I cared about the success of the firm in the longer term and I was able to work with senior colleagues whom I’d never usually have contact with. I had exposure to parts of the business with which I was unfamiliar and helped to guide the next generation of surveyors in the industry.

5. Progress at your own pace

Property is a hugely varied business. It’s important to make sure you find a position in a part of the industry which really interests you. Then it’s up to each person to decide how they want to progress and to keep an eye out for opportunities to make this happen.

How I learned this lesson

I joined Knight Frank LLP in my current role in 2016. I’d worked closely with the residential team at Knight Frank LLP while at Savills because the two firms quite often did joint-agency work. I felt that it was the right time for me to have a change and already knew that I would fit into their culture.

My current work is focused on residential development within zones 1–3 in London. We sit alongside our developer clients and advise them on the decisions that will create the maximum value for their projects. I’m involved from the design stage right through to when units are sold.

One of my favourite projects has been Barts Square in the City of London – I’d worked on it for years, from design through to marketing and I was recently able to attend the launches with the client in London and in Hong Kong.

My proudest achievement so far has been being shortlisted for a Women of the Future Aware last year in the Real Estate, Infrastructure and Construction Category. My current ambition is to progress to a proprietary partner role at Knight Frank LLP.

How has Abigail’s career progressed?

Abigail’s career timeline

2005–2008: Studied for, and graduated with, a BSc degree in real estate management from Oxford Brookes University.

2008: Joined Savills’ London residential development consultancy as a graduate.

2008–2016: Rotated through a number of different departments. Qualified as a chartered surveyor and was offered a permanent position in the residential development team. Progressed to associate and associate director positions.

2016: Moved to Knight Frank LLP as a partner.

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