How I got my graduate property job and how you can get yours
I spoke to graduates and recruiters at university careers events
I met graduates and recruiters from big firms such as CBRE and Cushman & Wakefield during field trips and when they visited my university. It was helpful to hear about recent graduates’ experiences. I also found it useful speaking to people from HR at these events as they’re the ones who read job applications first. I’m sure that introducing myself to Gerald Eve at two separate careers events led them to remember my name and played a part in me getting my job.
I got as much property work experience as I could
My coursemates who had gained any work experience in property tended to get hired first. I’d given up the job I’d had since college to focus on my degree, but later I took up a part-time position at a small property management company after some work experience there. (See my career timeline at the end of the article.) My lectures were only on two days a week and I realised how valuable it would be to have the experience. I learned loads from my job because I spent a lot of time with a surveyor. It was great for my university work too.
If you or someone you know works for a company with a property portfolio, such as a retail chain, see if you can get in touch with the property department there. This is how I got work experience at BT and in the conveyancing department at a solicitor’s practice.
I was selective about the property firms I applied to
I started off applying to the firms with the closest deadlines but then decided to focus on those I really wanted to be a part of. I used the TARGETjobs website to find deadlines and its employer hubs for finding out about firms. I also looked at the ‘about us’ section on employer websites to find out what different firms look for in their recruits – I looked for firms wanting teamworkers with sociable qualities as these are my strengths. I also checked what firms’ websites said about their APC training, and if you contact graduate recruiters they are happy to tell you the company’s APC pass rate. In the end I applied to 10–15 firms, but now I would be even more selective and apply to fewer so that I could spend more time on them.
I tailored each application to the employer
Once I knew what a firm was looking for in its graduates, I adapted my applications to highlight how I’d demonstrated those characteristics. CVs, if you’re asked to submit one, should never be the same for different firms. If you have a non-chronological, skills-based CV, you can highlight the skills the firm is looking for by re-ordering its contents. For instance, if they’re looking for strong leadership skills, put your leadership experience at the top of the skills section.
- See TARGETjobs’ advice on writing a property graduate CV.
- Read tips on writing a property graduate covering letter.
I balanced my applications with my university work
It took a lot of time to tailor each of my applications and it was frustrating to have to balance this with my dissertation and other hand-ins, but I guess time management prepares you for working life. I had to cut down my working hours at the property management company during my final year, and spent most of my weekends in the library to keep up with uni work.
I was too nervous in my first interview but it helped me prepare for the next one – which led to my job offer.
I broke up my interview preparation to make it manageable…
In my first interview, for another firm, I was far too nervous and didn’t feel I was myself. However, it gave me a better idea of what types of question to expect in my next interview and helped me prepare, and this one led to my job offer at Gerald Eve. In the week before the interview, reading for just ten minutes a day helped. For me, splitting it up like this made it feel less like revising for an exam.
…So that I could relax and be myself
If you know you’re well prepared you can relax more and it’s easier to be yourself. Remember: recruiters are just normal people like your family and friends so there’s no need to be intimidated by them – they just want to know more about you.
I talked about topics I knew well at interview
If I could, I steered interview questions towards a subject I knew well, such as my dissertation subject. You must answer the question and can’t take it off topic, but you can often relate it to what you know.
Questions I was asked included ‘Why do you want to work for this particular firm?’ and ‘What are your strengths and weaknesses?’ I was also asked questions on the property market to test my knowledge and gather my opinion.
My career timeline
2011: Started BSc in real estate management at Kingston University
2013: Began working part time at a small property management company, researching and assisting with valuation reports
2013: 2 weeks’ work experience in the residential property conveyancing department of a solicitor’s practice
2013: 1 week’s work experience in the property department of BT
2014: Graduated and began at Gerald Eve as an assistant surveyor on the firm’s graduate scheme. I started on a six-month rotation in the planning and development team.
With thanks to Lorelle for the interview and to Gerald Eve for the photograph.