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We answer your property work experience FAQs

Your property work experience FAQs answered

What every student should know about property work experience, summer internships and sandwich year placements.

Getting property-related work experience is all but essential for getting a graduate surveying job. Your work experience is taken into account when recruiters assess your graduate application: it proves to recruiters that you know what the job involves and that you’re really interested in the career. In fact, you can’t even apply for a graduate vacancy with Grosvenor unless you complete an internship with them first.

What types of real estate work experience and internships are available?

The formal, paid types of work experience offered by traditional property employers fall into two categories:

  • a holiday internship (usually held in the summer), which lasts anything from two weeks to ten weeks
  • a sandwich-year placement (also known as a year in industry), taken as part of a degree course after the second year.

On the less formal side, you may be able to arrange to work-shadow (observe) a surveyor at work. This is more likely to be done as a favour to you and, as such, will not be paid.

What type of students can apply for surveying work experience programmes?

Most internships are open to second-year students on RICS accredited degrees and those on or about to start a masters. However, some (such as BNP Paribas) accept students from all disciplines. Year-in-industry placements are typically open to students on RICS accredited degrees in their penultimate year.

However, if you are in your first or final year, you can still apply for work experience. David Mumby, a partner at Knight Frank, says ‘it’s those candidates who got work experience at every opportunity, not just during the second year, that stand out.’ A few firms, such as Savills, now offer ‘insight days’ for first years. But you can also apply speculatively for more informal work experience opportunities with smaller firms at any point in your university career.

What are the deadlines for property internships?

Application deadlines for summer programmes and internships usually fall between February and April. One or two placement deadlines close before Christmas.

How do I apply for property internships and placements?

You apply for work experience in the same way as you apply for graduate jobs, so follow the advice in our property graduate applications and interviews articles, such as ‘How to write a covering letter for a property graduate job’.

Recruiters at larger firms, who advertise formal schemes, typically don’t appreciate a ‘speculative application’ for work experience – they’ll prefer you to go through the official recruitment channels. Smaller firms might respond better to a speculative approach.

If your application is successful, the selection process is likely to involve one or two interviews, and you may need to attend an assessment day.

Where can I find a property internship or placement?

Revisit this page soon for a link to property firms advertising internships and placements in 2016.

What should I write in an application form or covering letter for surveying work experience?

Cheryl Fryer, HR business partner at Grosvenor, recommends clearly explaining why you want to gain work experience with that employer in particular. Avoid generic platitudes such as wanting to gain experience at a ‘prestigious employer’; that could be said about any number of firms. Instead, find out something specific or different about the firm and write about why that appeals to you – it could be the structure of the internship (the departments you’ll sit in, the work you’ll do), the type of business the firm does or its recent transactions/projects.

You also need to highlight your ‘soft’ skills; you need to show you have the transferable skills that make not only a trustworthy intern but also a competent future surveyor. Cheryl says that ‘early examples of effective teamwork and leadership are very important’. When writing about your work experience and part-time jobs, Cheryl suggests ‘focusing on the skills and knowledge you have gained. For example, even if you have not been able to lead a team or project, you may be able to demonstrate how the experience developed your ability to work effectively in a team.’

  • See our graduate articles on writing property CVs and covering letters as much of the same advice applies to internships.

What will I do on a property surveying internship or placement?

You will usually help experienced colleagues with their day-to-day tasks. This might involve going on site visits and helping to value commercial property, collecting data, assisting with planning and development work, or carrying out research and market analysis. ‘Our interns have projects set by the team within which they are based,’ says Cheryl. ‘We make sure that the projects are really adding value to the team and providing our interns with real hands-on experience. They also work on another project with their fellow interns, which they deliver to some of our directors at the end of the intern programme.’ Most firms will give you a graduate buddy, and some will rotate you around different departments.

Will my internship or placement at a property firm lead to a job with them?

Not automatically. At almost all the property firms TARGETjobs Property have spoken to, interns are expected to apply for graduate positions in the usual way. However, at some firms, such as BNP Paribas Real Estate, you’ll be able to skip the initial application form. Recruiters have told us that interns don’t always make it through the graduate recruitment process.

But having done an internship with the property firm you’re applying to work for as a graduate does help as:

  • a good reference from your line manager – a member of the firm – can go a long way
  • it’ll give you the edge in your employer research
  • you'll be able to draw on your experiences when answering interview questions such as ‘why do you want to work for us?’

Should I mention all my non-property work experience in my graduate job application?

Having property-related work experience is an advantage – but it’s not the be all and end all. Any experience that develops non-technical skills needed by property professionals – client-facing skills, teamwork, commercial awareness etc – is seen as a good thing so include all of your part-time jobs.

‘Working part time in bars, restaurants or shops through university can certainly help you develop practical and relevant customer skills,’ says Gary Howes, recruiter and partner at Montagu Evans LLP. In fact, one recruiter told us that she was always impressed by part-time jobs at John Lewis or McDonald’s because these businesses are known for their good customer service training.

Another thing that’s easy to forget to put on your CV is office experience. ‘It’s always good to see on a candidate’s CV because it shows that they’re already used to the pressures of an office environment; can turn up and look smart; and are confident in juggling numerous reports, meetings and phone calls,’ says Gary.

Can I get a graduate surveying job with no property work experience?

We purposely said that getting property-related work experience was ‘all but essential’ because, for a few firms, it isn’t. Highlight any experience that shows that you have the soft skills to be a surveyor (see the question immediately above), and look for other ways to demonstrate your commitment to being a surveyor. BNP Paribas Real Estate’s graduate development manager Ann Ord told us, ‘I met one young lady recently who was studying a statistics degree, but wanted to break into property. I put her together with our research team to see if there was anything she could do for her dissertation that would be property-led. You could do a similar sort of thing with other degrees that would highlight your interest in property.’

However, in most cases candidates with property work experience will be preferred over those without, so do all you can to get industry-related experience, even if it’s just getting a part-time job in an estate agency. After all, a good amount of property work experience can really impress recruiters. David says, ‘work experience shows me that the candidate really does have the genuine desire for a career in property. Those who have work experience behind them also tend to be more articulate and give more confident answers at interview.’

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