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Mainly for Students: How to prepare for the world of work

Written by: Jen Lemen
Published on: 25 Jun 2020

This week’s article focuses on work experience and the RICS assessment of professional competence (APC). All surveying students on courses accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), irrespective of whether you are full-time, part-time or an apprentice, should enrol as a student member of RICS. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. However, please note that in joining, it does not mean that you have enrolled on to the APC process – that is a separate step.

Being a student member of RICS is free and provides support and networking opportunities throughout your time at university. This includes access to the RICS library, publications, guidance and latest research. It also automatically registers you as a member of RICS Matrics, providing free and low-cost networking opportunities with other students, APC candidates and newly qualified professionals. Universities often partner with regional Matrics bodies to put on events, so it is worth being involved as a welcome boost to your CV, as well as potentially providing access to job opportunities and additional work experience.

The next step towards starting your APC is at the point where you have a work placement confirmed. There are many benefits to undertaking a work placement, such as gaining industry experience, gaining valuable soft skills and making early industry connections.

When you start your placement, you must e-mail RICS to let them know that you are starting a work placement and will be starting to record relevant work experience. This will also require you to select one of 22 sector pathways, which is the broad specialism that you will focus on during your APC. It is possible to change your pathway at a later date, although getting it right initially will save you time and ensure that the work experience you record is as relevant as possible. 

Pathways include building surveying, commercial real estate, facilities management, planning and development, project management, residential and valuation, among others. There is significant overlap between various pathways, although the core competencies for each are different based on the specific requirements of each sector. We recommend reading RICS guidance on the different pathways before your first day in your work placement, as well as discussing your options with your university lecturers and work placement line manager.

During your work placement, you should make sure that you are allocated a counsellor, who needs to be a qualified RICS chartered member (MRICS) or fellow (FRICS). They are most likely to be your line manager, although this is not always the case, for example, if you are in-house and an outsourced counsellor is provided from another organisation.

Your counsellor will help you to select technical competencies that are relevant to your placement, which must be signed off to enable you to use them as relevant work experience for your APC. The minimum requirement for most students (following a RICS-accredited degree) will be 400 days or two years’ structured training, although many candidates will accrue more experience so they are confident and sufficiently experienced to sit their final assessment interview.

At the end of your work placement, make sure you ask your counsellor for a letter confirming when your placement started and finished and that you were working towards your APC training requirements. It is worth obtaining a similar letter for any other work experience you undertake, as you may also be able to use this towards your structured training requirements.

After your return to university, you are able to enrol on to your APC or, following graduation, when you are employed in practice. At this stage, you will need to pay the full APC application fee and the current year’s subscription. It is worth noting that this may be paid for by some employers, although it is your responsibility to ensure that it is paid.

You will also need to e-mail RICS with the letter from your work placement counsellor, which will allow you to count your experience towards your overall minimum training requirements. Your next task is to then complete the rest of your structured training, following graduation from your degree – the specific amount will depend on the overall length of your work placement.

That’s it for this week. Hopefully you have learnt a lot about what is expected of you as a student in respect of preparing for a placement, getting a placement and learning on placement. It will also help you to be best prepared to enrol on your APC as early as possible and to make the most out of any work placement or experience you benefit from. Being prepared early on and recording your work experience will make your APC journey a much more productive, positive and enjoyable experience.

How can I find out more about land, property, and construction as a student?

  1. Head to the RICS website to read current guidance, research and news 
  2. Listen to the EG Bricks & Mortar podcast series
  3. Sign up to updates from leading law firms, providing insight into the latest legal precedents
  4. Listen to the radio and read a newspaper regularly to find out about current market issues and the economic climate
  5. Sign up to daily newspaper e-mail updates to find out even more about wider market issues
  6. Sign up to updates from companies you are interested in or would like to work for in future
  7. Read about the work of other organisations, such as the Royal Town Planning Institute, Royal Institute of British Architects and the Chartered Institute of Building
  8. Read the RICS APC guidance
  9. Go to networking events and speak to a wide range of professionals
  10. Speak to your lecturers to find out more about their background and experience in the industry

How can I make the most of networking events?

  1. Read up on who might be there beforehand
  2. Talk to as many people as you can – remember, it’s not who you know that counts, but who knows you
  3. Attend with a friend
  4. Read the news beforehand – it’s always a good conversation starter
  5. Have some easy ice-breaker introductions in mind
  6. It’s OK to talk about yourself and what you are looking to achieve from the event
  7. Be open-minded
  8. Enjoy meeting new people and learning about the industry
  9. Don’t be shy – everyone is in the same position as you
  10. Go to the same event more than once – you’ll meet people you have already met before and can start to build relationships and a professional support network

How can I prepare for my work placement?

  1. Read up on the company you’ll be working for
  2. Read up on your direct team and line manager
  3. Read up on the area of work you’re likely to be involved with
  4. Make yourself aware of industry-wide issues
  5. Make yourself aware of economic and political issues
  6. Make yourself aware of hot topics specific to your placement role
  7. Buy a new outfit – it will make you feel more confident on your first day
  8. Arrive early, just in case you are delayed or the building is hard to find – even better, visit at the weekend to check you know where you are going
  9. Attend regional networking events beforehand – you might meet some of your new colleagues
  10. Ask questions before you attend about anything you’re not sure about

How can I make the most of my work placement?

  1. Be open to learning new concepts, skills and knowledge
  2. Keep notes of what you learn somewhere safe
  3. Keep a record of your daily experience to include in your APC submission
  4. Network with your colleagues,  attending work-related events, meetings and social events
  5. Make contact with your APC counsellor as soon as possible
  6. Ask questions if you are not sure
  7. Question what you are doing – the why is often as important as the how when looking at tasks you are completing
  8. Relate the RICS guidance to your work-based tasks, for example RICS Property Measurement (2nd Edition)
  9. Ask to be involved with a diverse array of tasks, even if you feel that these might not be where your future career is headed – knowing what you don’t want to do is as important as knowing what you want to do
  10. Do the simple tasks as well as you do the complex tasks – collecting comparable evidence, for example, is crucial to valuation and an extremely important task for any placement student to be tasked with

Jen Lemen BSc (Hons) MRICS is a property consultant, academic and owner of Property Elite. Mainly for Students is edited by Paul Collins of Nottingham Trent University. He is also an external examiner at other universities and an RICS APC assessor. Paul welcomes suggestions for the column and can be contacted at