If you’re on a property, real estate or surveying-related degree, you are probably aware of the professional body associated with your future career. You may even have joined it and then forgotten about it. Getting actively involved with your professional body can have some great benefits, but it's down to you to make the most of these – namely, attending formal and informal networking opportunities.
When you graduate and are working in the profession you will need to be signed up with the relevant body in order to gain chartership – an on-the-job qualification that signifies your expertise in your profession. The professional body you join will depend on what you study and in which field you hope to work once you have graduated.
As a general rule:
- property/real estate students will be encouraged to sign up with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
- planning students will normally join the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)
- quantity surveying and building surveying students will usually join RICS or the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB)
- quantity surveying or land surveying students who want to work within a civil engineering field will usually join the Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors (ICES)
It is possible to join more than one professional body. RICS, RTPI, CIOB and ICES all offer free membership to students.
Attending formal networking events is a brilliant way of making contacts and finding out more about the industry. Networking events take place up and down the country so there will be an opportunity to take part wherever you are. Going along and making a positive impression on the right people could be a great way to gain some informal work experience.
Student case study
Shyam Visavadia is assistant project manager at EC Harris and a non-executive member on the UK RICS Matrics Board. He joined RICS while he was doing his PgDip in surveying at the College of Estate Management (CEM). He thinks that networking is one of the most important tools for graduates looking to land their first job and that joining a professional body gives you plenty of opportunities to do that. He says: ‘Attend as many networking events as possible. It’s a great chance to talk to people similar to yourself and ask about their jobs search and what they’re doing. I attended RICS Matrics events organised by my local region and that gave me the opportunity to meet other aspiring surveyors who wanted to pursue a career in the built environment. Face-to-face networking can be particularly productive.’
Meeting people and learning about their careers can also be a great learning opportunity. Shyam says: ‘I was able to talk to those graduates who’d recently joined the industry, and with those who had just graduated. It was a great way to test the waters before formally applying for a job. What I learned during this period helped me to make key decisions about my future and beyond, and it is one which I will cherish for life.’
Knowing what to talk about
Networking is some students' idea of a nightmare, but it needn't be. Open with a short introduction and then ask something like: ‘So, what are you working on currently?’ Show a genuine interest in what they have to say and ask thoughtful, intelligent questions.
Keeping up to date with industry news prior to an event should give you plenty to talk about: for example, you could ask ‘What do you think about X project?’ If you show that you’re knowledgeable and have a genuine interest in the industry you’re bound to impress.
Make sure you get business cards from everyone you talk to and then you can connect with them later on via LinkedIn. Afterwards you can keep in touch via email, but don’t be a pest; remember you’re trying to impress.
The more informal networking and socialising opportunities are a good way to meet people in a similar situation to yourself. You can pick up job hunting tips and advice. Shyam attended a table tennis tournament with Matrics, the student and young professional group of RICS. He says: ‘It’s great fun and you can really build your network. Everyone there has so much in common and you can chat about your job search and how you’re all getting on.
‘The great thing about being part of a big national group is that, if you have to move away for work, you don’t feel so isolated. You have that big network and it can help you settle in so much quicker. I’ve met people who have ended up living with people they’ve met through networking sessions.’
Reading industry-specific publications
Access to industry-specific publications can help you when the time comes to attend interviews. All these professional bodies have industry magazines and as a member you will be given access to these. Keeping up to date with these magazines will give you an inside view of what’s going on in the industry. Reading these in the run-up to an interview you should help boost your commercial awareness and give you things to talk about at interview; particularly if you’re asked to talk about a current problem or issue the industry is facing.
If you read an article that you find particularly interesting, it’s a good idea to connect with the contributor via social media. Most contributors would be happy to talk to you about the piece and maybe even give you some more advice and information.
Taking part in competitions
Taking part in competitions that your professional body runs will boost your CV and may even win you some work experience or a cash prize.
For example, CIOB, and its student and young professional group Novus, has ‘Bright Futures Novus Challenge’. The challenge is based on a real-life project and groups of students will be given two weeks to prepare a short presentation of recommendations and findings about the project. The winners are given work placements with industry employers. Taking part will look great on your CV – even if you don’t win, you can still say that you entered the competition on your CV. It shows that you’re an active member of the industry’s body and committed to a career in the industry.
Essay competitions are also quite common and, again, taking part will look great on your CV as it shows that you have an interest in the industry. Keep an eye on your professional body’s website and social media platforms for details of competitions.
The Young Planners, which is the student and young profession group from RTPI, has in the past given its members the chance to volunteer with Planning Aid – a free professional planning advice service for those who can’t afford to pay fees. Not only will this give your CV a boost, but it will also give you some great practical skills.
Using social media to connect with a professional body
Aside from formal networking, Shyam believes that social media platforms like LinkedIn are important. He says: ‘LinkedIn is important – many recruiters use it now. It’s good to have a strong, professional social media presence. Getting involved with LinkedIn events, like Q&As and advice groups, will help to promote who you are and what you’re doing to potential employers.
By creating a network via social media, Shyam was able to connect with employers and through that he gained advice and work placements. He also created his own advice focused group on LinkedIn: the ‘Graduate Surveyors’. He says: ‘People who I have met on social media platforms have given me advice. Professionals have also given me a helping hand and offered me work experience which is important in industry.’