Choosing an employer

Where you can go, and what you can do, as a graduate at CBRE

21 Jun 2023, 15:41

Graduates Matt, Laura and Baba give insights into their career paths and explain why they’re enjoying their jobs at CBRE.

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Jump to: CBRE's non-cognate scheme | CBRE's NextGen programme | Consulting at CBRE | Where you can work | Sustainability and social responsibility | CBRE application tips

Recruiting from a diverse pool of talent brings different ways of thinking to a company: that’s key to CBRE ’s future success. Whether you have a degree or masters in one of the required subjects specific to each pathway (a cognate) or have studied another other subject (non-cognate), with the right attributes you can forge an exciting career through the firm’s graduate schemes.

CBRE’s non-cognate scheme: combining theory and practice

Graduate surveyor Matt Cowley studied politics and philosophy at the University of York. He was undecided on a future career as he entered his final year at uni, despite attending careers fairs. ‘I was attracted to the City but I didn’t necessarily want to do that in law or banking,’ he says. Then came his lightbulb moment. ‘My cousin, who is a couple of academic years ahead of me, had finished a masters in property at Reading University and pointed out how interesting the commercial property industry is,’ he says. ‘It’s a people industry and that was a real draw for me.’

Now a graduate surveyor on the commercial pathway, Matt has found his studies in philosophy and politics very relevant to his role, bringing a different dimension to the team he works in. He says CBRE’s non-cognate roles offer a perfect starting point for a career in commercial property and offer a way of side-stepping the financial worries associated with securing masters funding and finance. ‘Under CBRE’s two-year scheme you do two rotations of one year and at the same time start university. The great thing about the non-cog scheme is that you’re doing the theory and the practical side of things at the same time, so you get a depth of understanding. Of course, there are challenges. ‘If you’ve ever said you’re good at time management that statement will be tested, because it may mean, for two years – the duration of your masters – trimming some of your social life. It’s a sacrifice worth making, however,’ he says.

Matt Cowley, Graduate Surveyor at CBRE

Graduate surveyor at CBRE with a non-cognate degree

CBRE’s NextGen programme: helping you find your niche

Baba Obilana is a graduate surveyor in CBRE’s residential capital markets, focused on student accommodation.

Despite a long-held interest and ambition to forge a career in property, Baba’s pathway to a real estate career took some twists and turns along the way, largely due to the pandemic. Born in Nigeria, he went to school in the UK and studied for an undergraduate BSc in real estate management at Oxford Brookes University before completing a masters in business management at the University of Manchester. After a short spell with a property firm, Covid and personal complications left him in career limbo, so he opted to study for another masters in real estate at Reading University.

‘It was a long-winded route into this role,’ he says with a wry smile. Now settled and moving forward on CBRE’s NextGen programme, he is studying to become a chartered member of the globally recognised Royal Chartered Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and will be able to use the professional accreditation MRICS after his name, once fully qualified.

‘It seems that a role in property management was in the back of my mind from a young age,’ says Baba, who admits he was the kind of kid that loved property shows. As he gained more knowledge about the sector he was amazed at all the different opportunities on offer – especially at a global firm the size of CBRE.

‘There are all sorts of roles, all varied, and I don’t think you quite realise that when you start looking at this career,’ he says. Now based in London, his responsibilities including conducting due diligence on student properties being bought and sold by investors; for example by checking buildings meet fire regulations, a key and high-profile consideration since the Grenfell Tower disaster.

‘I think I’ve found my niche,’ he says. ‘Healthcare, hotel and student accommodation – operational real estate – that’s where my interest lies.’

Baba Obilana, Graduate Surveyor at CBRE

Graduate surveyor at CBRE, NextGen programme

Consulting at CBRE: working in client-facing roles

Laura Daniels is a graduate building surveyor, working in CBRE’s UK project management and building consultancy.

Like Baba, Laura had to make agile decisions during the pandemic to keep her dreams of a career in property alive. She completed an undergraduate degree in human geography at Manchester Metropolitan University, before studying for a masters in building surveying at Sheffield Hallam. Her role means each day can bring a variety tasks: going out on site visits, seeing clients and using her project management skills as well.

Brought up in Hull, Laura was drawn to CBRE’s Manchester office, rather than London. ‘Manchester was the perfect place - for a start it’s bigger than Hull,’ she laughs. ‘There’s so much opportunity here; it’s a city that’s growing with lots of new and exciting things going on. It has changed so much in the past few years and throughout the time I was studying here.’

While it’s true that Laura often finds herself one of very few females in her role, especially on a construction site, she is seeing a shift in culture as recruitment broadens across the traditional boundaries. She feels there’s nothing in her day-to-day role that is beyond her capabilities or that should put young women off applying. In fact soft skills are as much part of her job as anything else: ‘You have to get to know contractors, it’s quite a client-facing role and that keeps it interesting.’

Laura Daniels, Graduate Building Surveyor at CBRE

Graduate building surveyor in consulting at CBRE

Wherever you want to work, CBRE is there

Though Matt and Baba both work in London and Laura works in Manchester, they all welcome the opportunities a large firm offers when it comes to expanding their horizons. There’s no bias towards London office employees, and graduates who work regionally regularly attend company get-togethers with CBRE picking up their expenses.

‘I grew up in the countryside around Leeds, so I craved what I didn’t have at home and was drawn to the city,’ says Matt. He has noticed a less London-centric outlook, with people attracted to Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester and beyond, not just in commercial property, but in many other fields as well. ‘Singapore appeals, and it is easier to move around when you work for a global company,’ he says. Matt’s own grandfather worked in real estate in Hong Kong, many decades ago, and Matt remembers him praising the value of world-recognised RICS professional accreditation, something that has become key to his own career progression.

Laura’s was keen to return to Manchester but would also welcome a chance to expand her horizons ‘If the opportunity arose to go abroad, I would be open to it. I like to explore different cultures,’ she says.

Baba’s background gives him an altogether different outlook. He likes the buzz associated with London. ‘I can’t see myself going abroad, though I could see myself moving to another city like Bristol or Manchester sometime in the future’ he says.


With so many jobseekers checking future employers’ sustainability credentials and corporate and social responsibility statements against their own values, what does CBRE offer?

‘We obviously have a responsibility and so have strong environmental, social governance (ESG) policies,’ says Matt. In fact there is an ESG consultancy pathway that allows graduates to experience sustainability in real estate and a graduate programme in the energy and sustainability team.

Something else Laura, Baba and Matt have been impressed by is the amount of charity work that the firm allows its employees to get involved in. Besides a named charity (currently Macmillan) the company offers separate opportunities to fundraise, and everyone is credited with two extra days’ leave for charitable events.

Top 5 tips for applying to CBRE, by Laura Matt and Baba

  1. CBRE isn’t looking for the perfect candidate – your graduate scheme will make you into that. Show what you will bring to the company, how you will fit in, and how you stand out.
  2. Practise your interview technique – then practise some more. Get family and friends to help, then friends of family who don’t know you so well, to prepare questions ahead of an interview.
  3. Be yourself and show authenticity. It’s tempting to try to be the person you think interviewers want to see, but diverse backgrounds and different outlooks are what make CBRE a successful business.
  4. Be resilient and persistent. If this really is the career for you, don’t get disheartened if your pathway into it isn’t smooth. Learn from any mistakes you have made, research the firm(s) you are applying to thoroughly and keep trying.
  5. Prepare a question for the end of an interview. It’s the last thing you will say to interviewers before your interview ends, so be interesting and make yourself memorable. It’s not just a tactic; this is a way of getting a real answer to something you really want to know more about.

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