A 2.1 or a first makes it easier to kick start your career in property, whether you have an RICS accredited degree or not. But don't despair if you’ve got a 2.2 – while big property firms, such as JLL and BNP Paribas Real Estate, often require a 2.1 from graduate applicants, you're not short of options if you don't attain this.
First, interpret the job advert
If it says they want a 2.1, don’t apply to the firm with a 2.2 or lower. They have been clear and you don't want to look as though you haven’t read the job ad properly.
Some firms with graduate schemes don’t specify a 2.1 and a rare few say they accept 2.2s. Often, no grade is specified and instead firms ask for candidates with a ‘sound academic record’ or ‘good qualifications’. Such firms have recently included Savills and Gerald Eve. TARGETjobs interprets this to mean that, above all, these firms are looking for 2.1 candidates (as this is proof of strong academics), so if you have a 2.2 you could still apply and have a slim chance of success – as long as you show you are an exceptional candidate apart from your university work.
If the job advert doesn’t specify a 2.1 or a strong academic record, candidates with a 2.2 can of course apply. But remember, recruiters are still likely to favour candidates with the top grades, so consider how to highlight your strengths. (See Option 1, below.)
Option 1: make a strong graduate application to compete with the 2.1s
When applying to a big property firm, applicants with 2.1s are likely to be favoured, so it’s all the more important to stand out for the right reasons if you have a 2.2:
- Research firms thoroughly; carefully tailor your application specifically to each employer to make a good first impression.
- Even first-class graduates won’t succeed in property if they lack the required motivation, communication and interpersonal skills, one property recruiter told us. Show recruiters how you’ve developed these skills – whether through work experience, extracurricular activities or volunteering – to grab their attention even without a 2.1.
- Work experience outside the property sector is valuable, as long as you can show how the roles you had and the skills you developed, such as commercial awareness, are transferable to a property job. See more advice on making the most of your work experience in your property applications here.
- You can develop your skills and gain experiences to build your CV by taking part in social action. This could be through volunteering, campaigning, fundraising or mentoring. If you are able to find social action opportunities related to property market, you may be able to use these experiences to demonstrate your interest and knowledge in the industry and how it affects the local community. You can find opportunities and learn more about social action on the #iwill campaign website.
- Don’t let your application down with spelling and grammar mistakes – this suggests a lack of attention to detail, an essential skill for a property job. Get someone else to check through it.
Option 2: apply to smaller firms and alternative property employers
Larger employers that stipulate a 2.1 partly do this to provide a cut-off point that keeps applications to a manageable level; property giants such as Knight Frank and Cushman & Wakefield regularly receive over 1,000 applications for 20–50 places. Smaller and less well known employers may be more flexible as they don’t have the same volume of applications. Start researching local and regional property firms to find out if they’re willing to take on graduates who have missed out on a 2.1.
You could also think more broadly and consider alternative employers who offer property-related jobs. For example, organisations in the retail sector often need people to manage their property assets, while the graduate in the case study below managed to find property-related work in the transport sector. Some construction companies offer graduate roles in areas such as facilities management, where you can use your background directly to deal with property acquisition, planning, renovation and management; there are some specialist facilities management firms you could look into too. Project management is also a possibility. Certain employers in these sectors demand a 2.1, but others may be more flexible.
TARGETjobs Property knows of one 2.2 graduate who first found surveying work with a regional airport. Two years later, having narrowly missed out on passing his assessment of professional competence (APC) due to a lack of experience in a key competency, he moved to a Big 4 professional services firm where he managed property assets in insolvency cases and passed his APC. He subsequently began working for a leading property firm. His career path was not as simple as getting a place on a firm’s graduate scheme, but has given him greater exposure to different types of working environments and clients.
Option 3: start at the bottom and work your way up
Another option is to try and work your way up in a property firm and get into your chosen graduate role later on, once you’ve proven that you’re capable of the job. This is by no means a guaranteed path, but many employers like to recruit and promote internally; you could secure an admin role and hope to transfer to a surveying role after some time at the company. Be sure to make a good impression from the outset and prepare an excellent application for the job, whatever it is.
Option 4: investigate postgraduate study in property
WARNING: It’s vital to contact individual employers to find out their views on the merits of a postgraduate degree if you’ve got a 2.2 at undergraduate level, as attitudes differ between firms.
One recruiter told us that a postgraduate qualification will not cancel out a 2.2 when it comes to applications, even if the undergraduate degree is RICS accredited. However, another employer said that impressive grades in your postgraduate property course can make up for getting a 2.2, as long as you have the right combination of skills. They warned that you could still be at a disadvantage compared to the 2.1 candidates, so you would need to put together an impressive application.
What if I have mitigating circumstances that prevented me achieving a 2.1?
If you have mitigating circumstances that held you back in your university exams, it’s essential to explain this to recruiters. Many employers who stipulate a 2.1 will still consider applications from candidates with a 2.2 as long as they can prove a valid reason for failing to meet the expected standard. Common examples include bereavement, illness and family problems.
A former recruiter at Cushman & Wakefield emphasises that the property firm takes into account events that have prevented a candidate achieving a 2.1 and adds that they can be used to make an application stronger if the applicant shows how they dealt with a difficult situation.
Most major property firms don’t indicate on their websites how applicants should disclose their mitigating circumstances, so contact employers directly if there’s no clear section for flagging this up on the application form.