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News & opinion

7 MAY 2020

Thriving through change – advice for early-career professionals

Sean Tompkins RICS

Sean Tompkins

Chief Executive Officer

London, UK


I am very proud of how this profession and all professionals in the built & natural environment have responded to the disruption of recent months. Nevertheless, we all have concerns about the future. Those early in their careers may feel this even more right now, and many are looking for practical tips and reassurance about how they can still have careers full of achievement beyond the current challenges.

Last week I was delighted to be joined by an expert panel and over 700 early-career professionals for a webinar to address these points. We had a staggering 145 questions submitted during the hour-session, coming from all corners of our global profession, as well as a great many from students at our School of the Built Environment in India.

Our panel brought a diverse range of experience – covering valuation, recruitment, education and training – and the audience made the most of this by asking some great questions, on everything from skills and networking to the outlook for specific sectors and specialisms. I was fascinated to hear from the panel about the skills, exposure and confidence they have gained from careers in the built & natural environment and the benefits they have gained through their professional recognition with RICS.

More importantly though, I was encouraged to hear how optimistic they feel about the future for young people and new starters in the built & natural environment, and about how valuable the network and resource of the profession will be in that future.

There were so many great moments in the hour long-conversation, so I have included below a summary of the key insights and some standout quotes from each panellist. You can also watch the full webinar here. Thank you to everyone who contributed, whether as a panellist, from the audience, or in comments posted on social media.

This session reminded me just how resilient and committed the profession is, so I hope everyone finds the content a useful boost in these challenging times. Please remember to follow us on social media for news of more sessions like this coming up, as well as all the development resources that are available to the profession on the RICS COVID-19 hub.

Five tips for a resilient career in the built environment

1. Be confident and resilient

Careers have ups and downs, and so do markets, but what is consistent and controllable is the way you approach the challenges and opportunities that you encounter. All the panellists cited times like today when things were difficult in their careers, both for them and the wider world – I personally started a work assignment in New York on September 9 2001, while others experienced the 1990s recession, or Lehman Brothers and the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. While individual circumstances change, it’s clear that history is cyclical, and real estate always plays a critical role in economic recovery. You can thrive if you remain confident and resilient even in the most dark and toughest of times.

Now is your opportunity – the marketplace is crying out for innovative, motivated, young, inspired individuals to show your worth. You have to adapt, be agile and ready for the challenge.

Rob Cohen, Managing Director
MJ Group International

2. Devote time to standing out through development

LinkedIn and other digital platforms mean you can contact almost anyone, anywhere in the world, at any time. Right now everyone is much more easy to reach, use this time! What matters is your drive and your ability to stand out. Now is the ideal time to focus on developing yourself by gaining professional status and skills – as our recruitment expert on the panel said, MRICS accreditation makes you a preferred candidate, indicating your technical capability, and your commitment to high standards and self-development. You can take advantage of CPD material and guidance on the RICS website, including a period of free access to our isurv platform, with insight and advice on APC preparation.

To stand out, individuals need to keep on networking, keep on delivering, and, more than anything, see through your RICS accreditation. The most important thing is the willingness to adapt.

Katie Hopkins, Associate
MacDonald and Company

3. Find the value in every experience

Early in your career, you might find yourself in roles that are not an exact match to where you ultimately want to be in your career. If you feel this, take a step back and think about what value your present experience can add towards your ambitions. Remember, every time someone asks you to do a job, it means that they trust you to deliver something valuable. You should feel good about that, but also recognise that every job is an opportunity to learn new skills and to win trust by delivering to a higher standard than expected. People who think like this get more opportunities as their reputation grows, and the learning will always help you in the future.

Things will be different – we will need to diversify, but the skills that you develop now will see you through in the future. Nothing is ever wasted.

Marion Ellis FRICS, Managing Director
Blue Box Partners, and RICS Governing Council Member

Nurture your network

Most meaningful achievements in work and life rely on the input of other people – they contribute skills you don’t have, introduce you to others who can help, and provide emotional support in hard times. Collaboration is critical in a complex sector like ours, so a network of meaningful, mutually-supportive contacts is key. Check in with former colleagues or classmates, and get involved with RICS initiatives like our early-career network RICS Matrics and their Young Surveyor of the Year Awards. You can learn as much from helping someone as you can from asking for help – the bond you create will mean you are there for each other when future challenges arise.

The one thing I wanted when preparing for my APC was more time – many of us now have this, and there is so much CPD out there to ensure you are continually learning. We all need to use this opportunity wisely.

Natasha Tyler, Associate Partner
Powell Williams, and RICS Matrics Chair

5. Embrace technology to deliver meaningful change

There are many ways to gain competitive edge, but the built environment gives you a chance to find new and different ways to deliver the security and confidence that property brings. Developments in technology and data management are giving us greater insight into human needs than ever before, and opening up fast, flexible routes to market that allow you to capitalise on trends quickly and cheaply. Stay up to date on how these developments are being applied in the built environment – particularly outside your home market – by following RICS social channels, keep building your skills, and if you see an opportunity, go for it. This will ground your technical skills in a driving social purpose that will sustain your motivation and value to the market in the long-term.

This crisis is an opportunity to set our priorities right: capacity, business transformation, and the environment. By 2025, 75% of our global workforce will be millennials – they are tech-savvy, willing to take challenges, and want to work on solutions to social causes. They will be our frontline in the built environment.

Prof. Amol Shimpi, MRICS, Associate Dean & Director
School of Real Estate and Infrastructure, RICS School of Built Environment, Amity University, Mumbai

Sean Tompkins RICS

Sean Tompkins

Chief Executive Officer

London, UK


Sean has been Chief Executive of RICS since September 2010. Sean has transformed RICS from a traditional, trusted UK mark of professionalism built on high standards and ethics to one of international recognition, influence and thought leadership. From governments to financial institutions, RICS’ standards, qualifications and thought leadership are respected and recognised. As well as advancing RICS’ strategy and goals, Sean is also a passionate champion for greater diversity and inclusion within the profession.

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