I graduated from the University of Reading in July 2011 in Construction Management and Surveying (CM & QS pathway). I was fortunate to secure a full time job with Civil Engineering Contractor, BAM Nuttall who I am currently working for as an Assistant Quantity Surveyor and studying for my charter with the RICS. I am writing this article to offer hints and tips to current students on how to secure a job/placement in the Industry. Let’s face it spending 9k a year on University fees; you want to secure a job at the end of it.

I believe that the transition period from student to full time employee is actually quite substantial. They are two very different worlds. However, I do believe that University gives you a strong grounding in how the Industry operates and gives you the ‘wider picture’. The industry is highly fragmented and from your course at the University of Reading I believe you can specialise in a variety of different fields. I have known people study Building Surveying and go on to work as a Quantity Surveyor and vice versa. So don’t get too caught up in the name of your course. What you should know is that you are at one of the best Universities for Construction in the Country and many Industry Professionals have graduated from here. What you should really be looking at is what profession body accredits the course.

Accreditation to a professional body is extremely important. You want a course which is either accredited by the CIOB (Chartered Institute of Building) and/or the RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveying) to which I believe all the construction courses are aligned with (unless it’s changed). When I graduated the Construction Management and Surveying course was accredited by both professions so this naturally appealed to me. In your first year you should become student members of both professions which is usually free and you get various benefits such as discounts on books etc. In my eyes the RICS is the globally recognised standard for Industry professionals and this is what you should be aiming to achieve in full time employment. Putting these on your CV shows to employees that you are willing to progress further when in full time employment.

The current employment market conditions favor the employers. Graduates cannot pick and choose jobs as they once could. So securing a summer placement in the industry is extremely important. This can be done in either your first or second year summer holiday, or during a year out between your second and final year. Experience is key. Employers are looking for more than just a degree nowadays. It’s very important, as an undergraduate, to be actively looking for a placement straight from year one as this will put you ahead of the game. University is a bit of a competition and you are competing against your fellow students, especially with the present jobs markets situation. Your CV has to reflect something other than bog standard. Many students get sponsored by a company throughout their time at University and this is well worth looking into.

There are many ways to advertise you to the industry. In my opinion you want to be aiming at the larger companies because they will have the resources to train and support you in your future careers. You can set yourself apart from other candidates in a variety of different ways such as captaining the University football team etc. Writing a great CV is a tough skill and you will need support. The University careers advisory service people are really good at this. I would make a booking as soon as possible for them to look at your CV or even better use ConstructionChat CV builder.

Having someone on the inside is always helpful. For example, if your dad’s friend is working for a construction company, you could make contact with him and maybe he can help you out. However, many companies are cracking down on the “It’s not what you know it’s who you know approach” so it’s worthwhile going along to networking events etc. which are run by many of the professional bodies. They may pay off.

I would recommend all students to be on ‘LinkedIn’ which is like a professional Facebook. There are thousands of construction recruiters out there who you should try and get in contact with to see what they can do for you! Since getting myself LinkedIn I have been swamped with people trying to offer me things. So it’s well worth it.

Another tip which worked for me is that most companies now have a policy of accepting applications online. This is extremely frustrating for students and extremely time consuming. Sometimes you don’t hear anything for months and other times you don’t hear anything at all. Also, when you are applying for these jobs it’s usually bang in the middle of your dissertation, which does not help matters. You need to find time for this, so get applying as early as possible. I managed to secure a summer placement by applying directly to an office. I found out the name of the Director for that region (this can be done by LinkedIn, a simple phone call, or it might be on the internet) and I sent him my CV. I could have applied to the website but I can be almost 100% sure that I would have not got it. Be smart about applying. Do things differently to what everyone else does.

Finally, if you find someone who might be willing to employ you then you should stay in contact with them. Maybe drop them an e-mail every couple of months to let them know how you are getting on. Then when it comes around to applying for a job, send them your CV and cover letter.

Good Luck!

What to ask Chris a question? He has been in your shoes!