As a specialist in property recruitment, I spend a lot of time talking to senior people within the property industry about what they look for in their staff. There are a few qualities and traits that get spoken about time and time again, yet often when interviewing younger candidates within the property industry, some of these traits are missing. How can you position yourself to ensure that you are an “employee of choice?” 2010 was certainly a difficult year in this space, and with the large numbers of redundancies, it is important in 2011 to focus on your career and differentiating yourself from the pack. We consider the appropriate qualifications for a role the “hygiene issues” (i.e. for an engineering role, you must be an engineer) but the traits that will help you secure a role or advance your career through promotion often have nothing to do with your degree. Here are some suggestions to help you:

• Initiative: You have your role description, you know your responsibilities, but what do you do over and above? Do you actively look for other areas within the business where you can get involved? Do you look for better ways to do the job that you are already doing?

• Participation: Get involved in your industry. Knowing what your competitors are doing, what product is selling on the market, how property is valued, and general market information increases your knowledge and “expertise” in your field. Read industry publications, get involved in industry functions and talk to as many people as possible about your sector to get their perspectives. Some industry functions, such as the Urban Edge skill series even has events that are aimed at increasing your professional knowledge.

• Taking responsibility for your own learning: I have heard a million times in interviews the following statement “I didn’t receive any/enough training.” To this I always ask – what did you do to try to increase your abilities? Within your organisation, identify those individuals who are “experts” at certain tasks, and ask them to help you. People like to help people, and approaching people within your own organisation to ask for help on things often yields fantastic results. I often say that there is a “golden key” for learning, and some people have it, and others don’t. The key is your own ability to proactively seek information.

• Finding a mentor: Finding someone either outside your organisation or even within your own organisation is a fantastic way to build your knowledge and skills. Pick someone who you really admire, and ask them if they would mind meeting with you once a month. Bring questions about your work or things you would like to learn more about with you to the meeting. It is also nice if you email those questions to your mentor in advance, that way they have time to prepare and you get the most out of the meeting. The UDIA Urban Edge will also be launching a mentoring program in 2011… it could be a good way to get started.

• Analyse your skills set: You probably have a goal of where you want to be in the next few years. Identify someone who is already in that role and perform a Gap analysis on their skill set versus your own. What do you need to learn that will give you the skill set to perform the role? Is it technical, or people management skills? Writing down these gaps will help you to understand what you need to achieve or learn to put yourself in a position to be ready for the next promotion. Then, as above, proactively go about trying to learn this information. Sitting down with your manager with this GAP analysis doesn’t hurt either – they may have some suggestions for you, and will probably be impressed that you are taking responsibility for your own development. Remember, sometimes success also comes from who you know, not what you know! For this reason, I always recommend getting really involved in your industry. As a young person in property, those relationships developed at industry functions could just set you apart from your peers one day!