The current range of fabulous opportunities in PropertyJobs is a boost to self-confidence. Skilled people across all disciplines are in great demand -- at time of writing the market is clamouring for valuation surveyors and asset managers - and even starting salaries are high. Meanwhile, according to the most recent Estates Gazette Cobalt Recruitment Salary Survey, those in post have seen their bonuses rise by nearly seven per cent.
So, the financial gains are apparent. But while celebrating the current health of the jobs market, and the expertise which is revitalising parts of London and beyond, recruitment and career experts advise job seekers and established property professionals not to lose sight of their long-term aims - if they know what they are.
“Those who plan, achieve”, says Peter Moore, managing director of Macdonald & Company, adding that: “the property industry is historically bad at planning careers”.
With this advice in mind, we look at how to have a career plan and what to do with it.
Research the profession
Moore says it is never too early to know as much as possible about the profession, its structures and practices. This also means understanding the preferences of employers -- he points out that commercial property, for example, expects to see that candidates have passed the Assessment of Professional Competence without referral.
Consider whether your career plans are recession proof, particularly if you are drawn to the investment market. Commenting on the salary survey Christopher Mackenzie, managing director, recruitment at Cobalt reminds that: “Larger organisations with reliable income and more predictable results are going to provide more consistent earnings than private equity players and niche investors.”
Understanding the career landscape will help you to find a way through it. Take a broad overview, says Andrew Pearson, managing director of Edgar Cowen. He recommends that trainee chartered surveyors, in particular, try to get plenty of experience under their belts, working in as many different areas as they can.
“The earlier you are in your career, the broader your experience should be. Try not to get pigeon-holed early on,” he says.
Write your road map
Workplace psychologists all agree on the benefits of writing and recording your plan on old- fashioned pen and paper. You may need to modify your ideas over time, but, the act of writing them down (keeping the results safely locked away, or at home) liberates your thinking and will allow you to review in the future.
“Try free-flow writing; sit down and write for five minutes about yourself”, says change and creativity expert Steve Chapman. “Just keep writing, while questioning what you want for yourself and your career,” says Chapman, whose C5 Consultancy works with organisations to boost innovative thinking.
Check at interview
Carry your career plan in your mind at interview and use it to benchmark the opportunity on offer. This will enable you to ask interesting questions about the role (which you researched beforehand including whether the company has plans to expand or specialise), and evaluate whether its potential matches your expectations. What will be the likelihood of moving into other roles where appropriate?
“Don’t just look at day one, but two years in”, says Dan Moloney head of commercial at Deverell Smith. “Ask yourself ‘what is the opportunity I am walking into?’ ”
Interviewers will expect you to outline your ambitions. Offering a coherent answer to that standard interview question: “where do you see yourself in five years’ time” will make you a memorable candidate. Speaking up at interview to engage the employer in your ambitions means they could include you in their future strategy.
Most employers will respect your career plan, and could help to formulate it. You will be respected for showing initiative.
At CBRE, for example, head of recruitment Andrew Shepheard encourages people “to take ownership of their own development.” by having open conversations with their line manager.
Wherever you work make sure to match the employers’ interest with your own efforts, by attending CPD events, or taking on more responsibility. If your aim is to be on the board in eight years’ time, then gain exposure in roles which allow you to engage at board level. Back up your efforts by asking the HR department if they run one-to-one confidential career guidance in the form of coaching or mentoring schemes.
Keep your career plan “live” by reviewing it regularly, and checking that your skills match your goals and those of your employer. Use annual appraisals to request opportunities to put your skills to the test.
And always weigh up the financial benefits of a role with the long term benefits to your career. The Estates Gazette Cobalt Recruitment Salary Survey found that when asked the reason for moving jobs, respondents ranked better prospects, a fresh challenge and joining a company with a good reputation ahead of a higher salary.
Finally, don’t be deterred if you are occasionally thrown off-course. “Remember that any book by someone successful has one common theme-- learn from your mistakes”, says Moore.