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How to deliver the perfect work experience

Written by: Samantha McClary
Published on: 7 Jul 2020

Offering work experience can be a great way of finding new talent from a whole host of backgrounds, but delivering the right kind of work experience is vital if you want to really see the best from a potential future employee and create the right impression about the career opportunities the real estate sector can deliver.

Luckily, the team at Pathways to Property has pulled together a handy guide to offering the very best work experience.

Work experience placements should be well-thought-out and have clear tasks.

Setting the scene

On the first morning, make sure to take your work experiencer through exactly what is expected of them over the course of their time in the business, what to do it they are late or unwell and how you expect them to behave professionally. Make sure they get to know the layout of the office and have a clear understanding of any health and safety requirements.

If there is someone in the business who may be more relatable for the placement student, such as a recent graduate or apprentice, give them a chance to grab a coffee with them to chat about their experience and give them any advice for the placement and beyond.

Providing a productive experience

It is important to make sure you have tasks for your placement student. Pathways to Property suggests providing them with a project to work on, giving them the chance to work independently when the rest of the team is busy. The best projects, says Pathways, work when placement students have to present their findings on the last day. Not only does this give them focus during their work experience, but enables them to work on their presentation skills and time management.

Make sure to schedule in a session to provide your placement student with some career support. Get them to work on their CV and review it with them. Introduce them to LinkedIn and how to use it to create and grow their networks within the industry.

Showcase your business

If the industry really wants to attract a more diverse workforce, it needs to be much better at showcasing the variety of roles available within the built environment – and within individual businesses. Make sure to give your student the opportunity to rotate through different teams within your business so they can appreciate the broad range of careers available.

Work experience should not just be an opportunity for placement students to gain vital new skills and a fresh understanding of the industry, for businesses it should be an opportunity to identify and connect with the next generation of real estate innovators.

‘You get to fill their brains with the virtues of your business’

“It is our little secret,” says British Land’s joint head of Canada Water Development, Emma Cariaga, talking about why the REIT offers work experience placements. She’s joking, but only half-joking. She says the access that work experience placements give BL to the next generation is invaluable and is what she believes gives the business the upper hand.

Like many businesses in real estate, BL was struggling to work out what it could do to develop its talent pipeline to make it more reflective of the places it develops and owns. Engaging with the Pathways to Property Summer School work experience provided a solution.

Having young people around the table telling you what they want in a new development in the brutally honest way that only a 17-year-old can is invaluable, says Cariaga, adding that no matter how good a business may be at public consultation, getting young people to actively engage in a masterplan exhibition is nigh on impossible.

Building links with the next generation is also a benefit of offering a good work experience placement. Done well, relationships can be built for the future and ambassadors for the business and its projects.

“Work experience placements offer an opportunity to get closer to your local environments,” says Cariaga. And, of course, an opportunity to really sell the benefits of working in the real estate sector.

“You get the opportunity to influence their thinking about where they want to work,” says Cariaga, perhaps giving away BL’s little secret. “You get to fill their brains with all the virtues of your business.”

And it is those virtues that industry needs to get much better at selling, of course.

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