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Property internships can turn into the fast-track to a graduate traineeship.

Property interns: how to get fast-tracked from intern to trainee surveyor

If you impress during a property internship or work experience, you may get moved to the top of the ‘to interview’ list when the firm recruits its graduates. Here are five ways to stand out as an intern.
It always impresses if you ask for more work once you’ve completed the tasks you are given.

You only have a small amount of time to make a positive impact during work experience, but if you do it can land you a job. Immediate job offers to impressive interns do happen, but more often interns are fast-tracked through the application process, often by-passing the application form and aptitude tests, and going straight in for an interview or assessment day. So, to increase your chances of getting hired or fast-tracked...

1. Be enthusiastic and proactive about your work

Whatever tasks you are given, approach them assiduously and positively. On a property internship you normally assist your allocated team with their work. While you should be able to sit in on meetings and visit sites with senior team members, you are also likely to be asked to carry out research and complete some more mundane tasks, such as collecting and inputting data. ‘We look for enthusiasm in our interns,’ says Lauren Strangleman, graduate manager at Knight Frank LLP. ‘It always impresses if you ask for more work once you’ve completed the tasks you are given.’ If the surveyors you are working with don’t have any work for you at that moment, it’s a good idea to check with other teams. This not only demonstrates your enthusiasm but also your proactive nature.

2. Ask questions and contribute

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about what you are doing. ‘While on work experience I would ask questions to gain a better understanding of the task I was doing,’ says Shyam Visavadia, now a graduate project manager with Arcadis. But don’t feel you have to restrict them to clarifying the tasks you are working on. When appropriate, you can ask about other topics that interest you, such as what the other professionals are working on and why, about their careers to date and about the challenges and opportunities in the market. If you are taken along to site meetings, you can ask questions to do with how you thought it went.

Contribute ideas, too – especially if your opinion is sought. ‘I would make suggestions to add value to processes and projects where appropriate,’ says Shyam. Don’t make out that you know better than the professionals working there, but remember that you can bring a new perspective to the team – something employers value. ‘Companies want to see that you can not only do the work of a graduate trainee, but can also add value to the company in the long run,’ adds Shyam.

3. Show that you have what it takes to be a property professional

Here we’re not talking about your knowledge of real estate, but about your soft skills. You need to show that you are punctual, organised and can communicate politely and appropriately with colleagues and clients.

An easy way to show your organisational skills is to write a ‘to do’ list and use a diary/calendar to prioritise the tasks you are given. This will create an immediate impression that you can be trusted to get on with things. Find more examples of skills employers look for.

Feel free to talk about yourself, your interest in property and your interests in general, but don’t over-share. It's important to project a professional image to prove to your employer that you could put you in front of clients if you become a trainee. Another part of professionalism is to ensure you follow the organisations’ IT, health and safety and dress code policies, so no checking your personal social media accounts during work hours, for example, no matter how tempting.

4. Actively create a network

There are lots of chances to network on work experience. Networking not only boosts your chances of making a career in property but also signals to recruiters and managers that you have the interpersonal skills to make a great surveyor. The property industry is, after all, famously sociable and relationship-building, both with colleagues and clients, is a key skill for success.

Some firms provide formal networking sessions and meet and greets. ‘We run networking events, such as lunches with our commercial and residential partners,’ says Lauren. You can make the most of these by asking interested questions to those you meet. See ‘how to network at careers events’ for tips on starting up conversations.

However, even if your internship does not offer formal sessions, you have a golden opportunity to forge relationships with more senior surveyors – and, if you are working alongside other interns, with them too.

Keep in touch with the surveyors you worked most closely with – whether that is your manager, an allocated buddy or another member of the team. Send an email after your internship to thank the team you worked on and connect with them on LinkedIn. Then contact those professionals you worked closely with periodically to update them on your progress and to ask about them. In turn, they may let you know of any opportunities that they’ve heard of on the grapevine and give you useful advice.

5. Keep a record of what you’ve done during your placement

Note down the tasks you’ve completed and the knowledge and skills you’ve picked up. Do this while still on your internship so that you remember as much as you can. It might seem laborious, but it will be invaluable when you’re applying for graduate jobs, whether with that surveying firm or another. Property recruiters often emphasise how important it is to sell your work experience to them. Explaining how the skills you’ve gained could help you in a career in property shows an employer that you know what is required to be successful in surveying and have developed some transferable skills.