As a recruiter in the property space, I often receive calls from people to ask about general career advice. The last 18 months has been pretty tough in the property industry, so remaining employed has been the priority for a lot of people. Now that we are starting to see some green shoots, what are some of the things that you can do to position yourself for career growth with your current employer?
Many job descriptions don’t include a list of soft skills that employers would like their employees to possess. But if they did, there would be three at the top of the list. These are:
- Exceed expectations
- Show initiative
- Be proactive
What does this mean? Exceeding expectations means doing more than is expected of you or “wowing” your boss. Understand what your role deliverables are and do more than what is asked of you. Subscribe to the belief that the company must be put first. If you take to heart that it is your responsibility to improve the business (whether part of your duty or not) you will differentiate yourself as a valuable employee.
Initiative is defined by Webster “the ability to get things started or done without being told what to do”. This can be applied to your own role, but also to your own personal development. Many times we hear in interviews candidates complain that they didn’t receive any training, or that they are becoming stagnant in their roles. I believe that the responsibility for development lies with the individual, not the company. I call this the “golden key” to learning. Many times we see candidates who show initiative in these areas get promoted well before their peers. Some advice on how to do this includes:
- Identify the next step you would like to take in your career, and then identify someone in that role. What skills or abilities does that individual have that you don’t have? Map your skills and assess the gaps and then go about trying to find the information you need. Most people like to help others, so if you are missing a key skill (e.g. financial, project management, planning, leadership etc) ask someone in your organisation that possesses the skill to mentor or teach you.
- Identify standout employees within the organisation who are “experts” in certain areas and ask them questions about how they perform their roles and for advice on how to improve.
- Most importantly, be able to ask for and receive constructive criticism from your manager and others. One of the most powerful questions to ask is “how could I have done better?” Be truly prepared to accept the answer and implement suggestions into your work life.
Finally: being proactive. Being proactive means to anticipate needs, assess the situation and be prepared with a Plan B or C in the event things should change. In Steven Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People “Be Proactive” is Habit number one. This means taking control over your life and your career, setting goals and working to achieve them. Start to use proactive language as well. Instead of asking “Where is the property industry going?” Ask “What do I want to do next, and how will I get there? How can I help my company?” Instead of saying “I’ve never been very good at finance” think “how can I improve my finance skills and enjoy the process?” In the last edition of Urban Developer, I talked about getting involved in your industry, which is another example of how to be proactive. Being a member of your industry groups and attending events will not only increase your industry knowledge, it will give you access to a wealth of professionals.
By Ineke Read
This is an artcile I wrote for the UDIA in 2008 when the redundancies were happening. I think it is still relevant….
Most people will experience a redundancy once in their working lives. It is something that often you can’t control, and that feeling of lack of control is often the scary part.
Facing redundancy can be worrying for a number of reasons – you may not be sure what to do next, and financial concerns are also often an issue. The UDIA has estimated that approximately 40% of the industry has already lost their jobs, so finding another role can be difficult, particularly if you have only had experience in one sector. Don’t take it personally; remember that it was the job that was made redundant, not you. Be sure not to burn your bridges, although you may be upset, it is your line manager that may be giving the reference check for your next job.
Step One: Analyse your skill set.
Undertake an analysis of your skill set. What skills do you have that could potentially be transferred into a different role or industry? What parts of your role did you excel at? If you are a development professional you should map the skills you use through the process. For example – during the acquisition process what skills did I acquire? Analysis, research, business development, negotiation, contract exposure etc. Through the DA process, what skills did I use? And so on. This will help you to form a map of where your skills may be able to be transferred to another sector.
Take a look at your previous experience prior to property. Is there anything that you can leverage off to seek a new opportunity?
Step Two: Take a business approach.
It is natural to feel upset at being made redundant, but rather than letting emotions guide your actions, imagine that you are a business. As a business, what would be the best strategy to generate income? Identify your key stakeholders and consult them. Assess the market strategically. Rather than idly looking through job boards, look for areas that are growing. Where is money being invested? How can you use your skill set to generate opportunities in this sector?
Step Three: Don’t be an Island.
Utilise your friends and contacts. Unfortunately, it’s not often what you know; it’s who you know that can get you your next role. Make time to take important contacts out for coffee and pick their brains for ideas and suggestions. The more people that you know are looking, the more your chance of hearing of an off the market role increases. Remember to thank those that help you. Find a recruiter you can trust who will give you advice rather than just flicking your cv around town.
Step Four: Stay positive.
This could be an opportunity to learn new skills, do some work experience in a field you’ve always been interested in or undertake some study. A new employer will favour those candidates that were proactive during this period. As a recruiter that specialises in property and development, I spend a lot of time talking to executives in the industry about the crisis and try to gain an idea about their predictions of when the market will change. Unfortunately there is no easy answer: no one really knows. But your character is often defined how you responded to a crisis – it’s easy to be successful in good conditions.
Remember – it’s not all doom and gloom, and this could be an opportunity to diversify your skill set.
Practice Leader Property, Construction and Civil
All signs are pointing towards a recovery – the media is certainly talking a lot about it. Green-shoots are sprouting in various industries and confidence is slowly returning, but what does this mean for your business and staff?
The last 18months have certainly been very difficult in the Property and Construction space. From a recruitment perspective, we started noticing a change in February 2008, when a number of roles were withdrawn due to the market’s uncertainty. Some developers starting making people redundant a few months later, and several went into receivership. Suddenly we were inundated with people looking for jobs, yet most companies were downsizing, not hiring.
Redundancy strategy seemed to vary from company to company. Some were strategic business decisions (i.e. to abolish a whole division, centralise to one state etc) and others were project specific. Other companies took the opportunity to selectively downsize and retain their A grade employees. Any way you look at it, it wasn’t an easy time. What did this mean for the employees that were left? They were grateful to have kept their jobs, and were very reluctant to entertain any other opportunities for fear of being “last on, first off.”
During good times, candidates are open to looking at different jobs, but in the last 12 months movement has really slowed down. People have had their heads down and stability has been paramount. We have even had calls from people asking for advice as to whether they should take holidays or not!
In the last month or so, conversations with our clients and also with candidates have started to change. Many of our clients are indicating that they might be able to put on extra resources early next year. However, a key focus should also be on retention.
Due to the redundancies and restructures, many teams are smaller… but many clients tell us that workload has not significantly decreased. This means the staff that are left over the last 12 months have probably worked harder, longer hours and have also dealt with the stress and cultural changes that downsizing brings. When these “green-shoots” start to appear, these candidates are tired and frustrated and may feel that a change is in order. These are the employees that you want to keep. The cost of rehiring and training as well as the loss of intellectual property is hard to put a value on.
With Christmas looming, now is the time for employers to metaphorically put their arms around their existing employees, and thank them for the hard work that they have put in over the last 12 months. Acknowledge that it has been a difficult year, and that you value their contribution and the extra work that they have done. This may very well be the difference between losing a valued employee in the first half of next year and retaining them.
Our advice to clients at this time is to identify employees that they would hate to lose, and spend time with them to make sure that they understand the employee’s motivation levels, and drivers. Career path planning is also important at this time. There are a number of key factors that a person will consider when deciding to stay or make a move, and as a manager understanding each team member’s key drivers will be key to retaining them as the market slowly recovers.
The Key Factors:
- Job matching and satisfaction. “Am I doing the work I like to do, and that I am good at?”
- Job Stretch. “Am I learning new learning skills, handling bigger projects, dealing with more complex issues?
- Job Growth. “Are there significant opportunities for career advancement, and where is there evidence of this?”
- Hiring Manager. “What am I learning from the person I report to? Am I getting along with them? Are they challenging me? Am I being managed the way I like to be managed?” This one tends to be important. We’ve all heard the saying “People leave managers, not companies”
- Work team. “Do I really like the people on the team, and are they helping me grow and develop?”
- Senior management and leadership team. “Does the executive team know clearly what they’re doing and, as a result, are they leading the company in the right direction?”
- Company. “Do I really like the company, the culture, its products and what it stands for?”
- Tools and Support. “Do I have the right materials and resources to be as effective as possible in the job?”
- Compensation and benefits. “Is the total comp package and upside potential fair and equitable based on what I am doing?”
- Quality of life issues. “How would you rank the work/life balance?”
- Risk. “Will the business be on sold, is the business open to take-over, is the possibility for external senior management to be brought in, is a change of focus or market presence available”
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?” 2009 was certainly a difficult year in this space, and with the large numbers of redundancies, it is important in 2010 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 2010… 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!