THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT! How to get a job in a tough market

With the market as tough as it is, I often receive calls from students or young people in property asking how they can get their first job, or transition into a new area where they might not have experience.  I give the same advice over and over again, but not many seem to take it. Applying to jobs on seek is not going to get you a role when you have no experience. In this market, you need to be prepared to do work experience (often for free) and the only way to secure these positions is through who you know. If you don’t have a network, you need to build one. This means stepping outside your comfort zones and introducing yourself to industry people and asking for the opportunity to come in and help them. Graduating from a property degree with no relevant experience will make it almost impossible to get a role.


Last year I met Michael S*. He is a young up-and-coming property professional, and his story is one that needs to be shared.


Michael has an interesting background - he is the oldest of seven children, and he was homeschooled up until grade 9, and then graduated Suncoast Christian College in 2005. He always had an interest in property – his parents bought their first property at a very young age, and continued to buy and renovate properties.  As the oldest, Michael would often help his father with the renovations, and being home schooled game him the flexibility to work with his Dad.  Michael recalls being 8 years old pulling carpet tacks out of the floor before sanding and polishing the floorboards.  It wasn’t all hard work though – he used to draw all over the wallpaper before peeling it off for painting! Michael and his brothers earned their pocket money undertaking work on the family properties such as landscaping, mowing, painting tiling and concreting. 


“When I was 13 years old I helped to renovate 3 out of 4 units in a complex that my family owned with a carpenter friend of the family. For grade 10 and 11 we lived in a house we were renovating which because our beach holiday home – property was always a part of my life” he said.


Initially, Michael studied Communications and Marketing, and at the same time he finished a Cert IV in Real Estate (Property) and obtained his full real estate licence at 19 years old.  This helped him to secure a job as an onsite property manager for a 23 town house complex. This gave him employment, a place to live and the flexibility he needed to study.  When the University of the Sunshine Coast offered a new Property Economics and Development degree, he switched courses. 


When Michael had two years to go on the course, he read “Outliers, the story of success” by Malcolm Gladwell.  Throughout the book, Malcolm claims that the key to success is to commit 10,000 hours to something to become a master.  Michael decided that his University studies needed to be applied to activities to “get his hours up”. He began undertaking feasibilities on sites in that were for sale in the newspaper every week. In addition to this, he attended an industry careers night where the guest speakers spoke about making sure that you graduate from a degree with industry experience.  This event gave him a more systematic approach to finding work, and how to be able to get paid work at the end of it. 


Michael’s next step was to approach a developer/builder that he had been introduced to through his course who had bought one of the sites that he had done feasibilities on. Michael offered to come in and show them what he had done and ask for feedback. He was pleased to discover his feasibility was quite close to what they had decided to do.  Michael offered to do work experience for free on any new sites that they were looking at.  He said that if they sent him an email on any new sites then he would work up a feasibility as soon as he could.


One of the owners of the business soon emailed a site, and what Michael did next was quite extraordinary.


“I received the email really late in the afternoon” he said.  “I really wanted to demonstrate that I was super keen, so I stayed up all night working on different scenarios so that I could send it back in the morning. The site didn’t stack up, and I was able to send them a few different scenarios with lots of detail, along with my recommendation to pass on that particular site”.  Michael also stated that he was only able to be so quick because over the previous few months he had become comfortable with the town plan and knew important issues to look for.


This lead to the director sending more sites Michael’s way, all of which he worked on for free, finally resulting in an offer of a full time role a month before he graduated. The company is Image Projects Group, a fairly new company that had been in operation for less than two years.  Michael was attracted to the company because of the opportunity. “The experience of the two owners is really great. I learn something every time I talk to them” he said.


Michael is now an Assistant Development Manager on the Sunshine Coast. Post

Post Graduation Michael has continued his education by completing the EnviroDevelopment Professional course through the UDIA and he is currently finishing up the Green Star Accredited Professional and NABERS assessor courses as well. In addition he has joined the UDIA Urban Edge committee on the coast, is taking part in the UDIA mentor program, and is he was a student representative for the University of the Sunshine Coast and has stayed on since. He has also joined the API and the NEXTGENERATION property group.


Michael’s goals are to continue to grow his experience into a Development Manager role, or even undertaking his own developments. Watch this space!


Michael’s tips for finding a good role:


  1. Target people your want to work for and approach them.
  2. Be willing to work for free and be specific on the project or area you want to work on.
  3. Gain flexibility to work on the project when you can, when offering your services for free you aren’t getting paid to sit in the office all day – so do as much work as you can from home to prove that they don’t need to babysit you and that you are proactive and can work on your own.
  4. Provide value, under promise and over deliver on their expectations, remember they don’t expect much when you’re working for free.
  5. Put a time limit on your free work, this will make the transition to paid work more clear.
Smart employers will hire you based on the value you can provide them. If they cannot employ you that is not a problem as you now have some experience you needed to begin with when looking

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