Where's the best place to start your property career: London or the regions?
London receives by far the most applications from property graduates, even though many property firms have offices across the UK. Gino D’Anna, a director at Cushman & Wakefield who is based in Manchester, explains London’s popularity compared to smaller cities: ‘The pace in London is a bit quicker; you work with bigger buildings, bigger portfolios and bigger deals. It’s where a lot of the money is and graduates often think they’ll earn more there in the long term.’
Catherine Kilpatrick, graduate recruitment specialist at Cushman & Wakefield, adds: ‘Previously, we have struggled to recruit in Cheltenham and have received fewer applications for this region. We suspected it was down to the fact that Cheltenham is a smaller city with less of an exciting offering than Manchester or Birmingham, for example.’ Cushman & Wakefield received most of its applications to its 2016 graduate scheme for London.
TARGETjobs would like to outline the merits of both London and the regions, plus other factors to consider when choosing where to apply. You will follow the same rigorous assessment process wherever, so the important thing is to choose a location that’s right for you.
Getting a graduate trainee surveyor job in London means facing the toughest levels of competition you’ll come across. The capital offers more graduate property jobs than anywhere else, but the huge volume of applicants is disproportionately high for the number of positions available.
All graduates start low down in the ranks of a firm, but if you’re based in a London office there’ll be more employees, such as associate level surveyors, between you and the top. Fewer if you work in the regions.
Regional graduates are more likely to work closely with partners of the firm from early on, which can give you more chance of getting noticed for good work and recommended for greater responsibilities. Gino says: ‘There is more opportunity to stand out in the regions as you can do more than you might be able to in a London office. You can get a sense of other departments and get to know all the people in your office.’
On the other hand, London has the most networking opportunities of all UK cities, because most property firms, as well as the RICS and RTPI, are headquartered there. Although, Gino gave us examples of high-performing graduates who had qualified in the regions and raised a high profile across the industry as a whole.
It’s impossible to say where career progression is faster, but the methods graduates use to advance themselves are often different in London (where the biggest networking hub is) and the regions (where there are smaller hierarchies within firms). Consider whether one way would suit your personal qualities more than another.
There’s no avoiding the fact that London’s living costs are among the highest in the UK – something that you'll notice, even on a London-weighted salary. Gino says: ‘Cushman & Wakefield pays a slightly higher salary for graduates based in London, but overall it’s still less affordable to live there.’
Compare this to the regions, where rental prices and general living costs are generally lower than in London. You can have a bigger disposable income, and perhaps a higher quality of life as a result.
Do your research and be sure you want to work and live in the region in which you apply. Don't be swayed by what your coursemates are doing. Ask yourself:
- What do you think your career goals are and do you feel you could achieve them in that office location?
- Would you thrive on the big deals and ruthless competition of London?
- How much would you value the relationships you can build in a smaller, regional office?
- Have you thought about qualifying as a chartered surveyor in the regions and moving to London a few years down the line?
- What do you like to do outside work? Where would you need to be in order to have the social life you want?
Once you’ve decided where to apply, you need to be prepared to explain your choice and demonstrate that you’ve done research on the region. Gino suggests gathering facts and figures for your chosen region on the following before completing your applications:
- Property costs and rental prices (you will need to know this for your work, and you also need to know if you could afford to live there on the salary offered)
- Whether the property market is on the up or struggling
- Any big developments in property or infrastructure
- Any topical news, eg national government policy that is having an effect on the local economy
You may be able to include some of these points in your initial application if asked to give reasons for your choice of location. Regardless, have them at the forefront of your mind at interview because recruiters will want to see from meeting you that your decision is well thought out and that you are willing to relocate.
Gino says: ‘At a recent assessment day in Manchester I interviewed a candidate who admitted he’d never been to the city and knew nothing about the area. Sometimes it’s very hard for the recruiter to understand a graduate’s motivation for moving to a particular region. You need to sound genuinely interested in order to give that reassurance to recruiters.’ After all, recruiters want to fill a vacancy in a particular location with someone who will be happy and prosper there.