From property intern to graduate surveyor: top tips for standing out and selling your work experience
Work experience will make a big difference to your graduate property job hunt. Find out how to sell your experience to employers in applications. Plus, if you want to work for the employer with which you undertook an internship, you could be fast-tracked through the application process.
Work experience is one of the first things that recruiters look for on a CV.
Work experience will be incredibly beneficial to your job-hunt: not only will it give you a chance to develop valuable skills, it’ll shows employers you have a genuine interest in property and know what a career in the sector involves. However, the best candidates will be actively working to make sure they make a positive impact during their work experience, and thinking about how they can sell this in graduate job applications.
Making a positive impact during work experience can directly benefit your job hunt; it’ll mean that you’re more likely receive a positive reference, and could even result in you getting a graduate job faster. Immediate job offers to impressive interns do happen, but more often interns are fast-tracked through the application process, often going straight in for an interview or assessment day, by-passing the application form and assessment tests.
Here are our top tips for making the most of your work experience and what you can do to turn it into a graduate surveyor job.
Top tips for impressing during your internship
Interns will normally assist their allocated team with their work, sit in on meetings, visit sites with senior team members and carry out more mundane tasks, such as collecting and inputting data and writing reports. If you are work shadowing during less formal work experience, you will likely be observing a team member and may have opportunities to discuss people’s work with them.
Whatever tasks you are given, approach them assiduously and positively. A recruitment professional at Knight Frank LLP has previously told us: ‘We look for enthusiasm in our interns. It always impresses if you ask for more work once you’ve completed the tasks you are given.’ If there is no work for you, you could also check with other teams – this demonstrates a proactive nature as well as enthusiasm.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about what you are doing and, when appropriate, you can ask about other topics that interest you. You could ask about: what other professionals are working on and why, about their careers to date and about challenges and opportunities in the property market. If you are taken along to site meetings, you can ask questions to do with how you thought it went.
Recruiters will be impressed by students who are ambitious and have an idea about their own career goals – asking questions is one way of doing this. It’ll show that you are genuinely interested and open to learning more, about the profession and about the specific employer. Your questions may also act as a gateway into more experiences – for instance, showing an interest in a particular specialism could lead to being involved in different, more specialised, projects which will only enhance your knowledge and your experience’s relevance to your career ambitions. Show that you are keen and enthusiastic about getting involved in all aspects of their internship
Contribute ideas, too – especially if your opinion is sought. ‘I would make suggestions to add value to processes and projects where appropriate,’ says Shyam Visavadia, who works in the built environment industry and founded Graduate Surveyors. 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.
Network, network, network
There are lots of chances to network during 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. ‘While you are on an internship, focus on building great relationships within the business,’ says Nuz Merali, future talent adviser at Avison Young (formerly GVA). ‘At its heart, property is about people. Networking will allow you to gain a deeper understanding of the company and determine where you might like to specialise in the future.’
Some firms will provide formal or organised networking sessions and/or meet-and-greets. You can make the most of these by asking interested questions to those you meet. 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.
- To find out how to start networking, including online networking and conversation starters, read our advice here.
Keep in touch with the surveyors you worked most closely with. 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. In turn, they can give you useful advice and may even let you know of any opportunities at the firm.
Keep a record of what you’ve done during your placement
Note down tasks you completed, the people you worked with, the training you received and the knowledge and skills you picked up. Doing this during your internship or soon after will mean you won’t forget anything. Think about what you found the most enjoyable and challenging, as well as how you could have improved, and how this could relate to a career in property.
Your notes will be useful in many ways. You’ll likely come away from your work experience with lots of advice and suggestions from your colleagues, and referring to your notes will help you to ensure that you follow up on these. When putting together applications for graduate surveyor roles, refer back to any notes on the skills you developed for a ready supply of examples to bolster your application answers. Work experience and internships are valuable, and making notes will mean that you won’t forget how you benefitted from them.
How to show off your work experience in applications
Highlight your work experience on your CV
Work experience is one of the first things that recruiters look for on a CV. Putting your property experience at the top of your CV will ensure recruiters do not miss the most important information that could secure you an interview.
Use bullet points and spacing carefully on your CV or application form to draw attention to your work experience. Many people put their work experience in chronological order, but if you have notable property-related experience, you could highlight it be splitting your work experience into ‘industry work experience’ and ‘other work experience’.
Know the skills you’ve gained through work experience
Both property-related work experience (such as internships and insight days) and unrelated work experience are excellent opportunities to develop transferable skills that will show employers that you have what it takes to be a property surveyor. You will need to emphasise to employers that you are punctual, organised and skilled at communicating with colleagues and clients.
Refer to any notes that you made during your work experience, and think about times during your experiences where you demonstrated or showed off these skills. You can use these as examples when answering competency-bases application and interview questions.
Practice talking about work experience before interviews
In interviews it’s not enough to state the skills you have without backing them up with a solid example and saying how they relate to a property career. Make sure that you’re able to talk about how your responsibilities and competencies you developed relate to the role you are applying for. Look at the skills that particular employer wants and find examples of when you used or developed that skill during your work experience.