The top skills senior surveyors need
To get that promotion to senior surveyor – whether in a small or large organisation – requires planning. We spoke to senior surveyors and recruitment consultants and discovered that the right time to apply for that senior role could be sooner than you think.
“You must be driven and have the attitude that you are going to change and affect outcomes.” to make the leap to becoming a senior surveyor.” That’s the advice of Peter Munns FRICS, who at 34 is testimony that great things don’t always come to those who wait too long.
The former consultancy worker set up his Kent-based firm seven years ago after becoming chartered two years previously. Already, he lists a former chairmanship of the county’s RICS Matrics on his CV.
When to go for a promotion or go out on your own
“I didn’t want to be a number when I started. That means it’s hard to influence people and I wanted to be making a difference,” he recalls. “It was like a three to five-year itch when I started thinking ‘I can sit here for another five years and be comfortable or I can get on with my career and change things’.”
Peter chose the latter and admits it wasn’t easy to leave the relative comfort of being a small cog in a big wheel. “It’s all about attitude. You have to be driven and yes, have a little bit of bravery as well,” he insists.
Surveyors need to be entrepreneurs
Peter knew he needed to do something “radically different” and believed he could rely on his proven technical ability as a building surveyor and friendly demeanour with clients. “To become a senior surveyor, you need an element of entrepreneurialism, but you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to keep clients happy. Do your job, do it well and maintain a strong rapport – that’s a large part of it,” he insists.
Timescales don’t apply to Peter, who progressed quickly through the system. But he believes two years training followed by five years is the right time to start thinking about climbing the ladder.
Be better than average and accept support
He says: “Chartered surveyors looking to become senior must understand the business they are in and how it works, and not just be happy doing the day job. “They must ask commercial questions and always look for scope for improvement.”
Support from family and friends is critical and something Peter had in abundance. He admits: “It’s such a slog that you really need back-up. I put my heart and soul into it, so dedication is a high priority if you want rewards.”
Since moving to new, larger premises, his Consult Construct business has kept a hold on its grassroots domestic clients while significantly growing the commercial side of the business.
Skills needed for a private practice
“You can’t run a contracting business unless you’re chartered. I reached that point at 25 and set up my own business two years later. Looking back, I didn’t really have enough experience at that time," he says. "That’s where you need that tiny bit of arrogance paired with humility."
Hard work and thinking differently aside, building rapports and developing them into trusted partnerships is key to reaching the next level. Peter explains: “If you’re good at what you do, work hard and are honest and reliable, clients can see that and will want to work with you.
“You need ability but the one thing that burns in my head is attitude. We've got a graduate in our business who has come from a university with no experience, but his approach is excellent. He’s curious and asks the right questions.”
Attitude wins out every time
Tellingly, this FRICS surveyor is more than happy to roll his sleeves up and get involved in “the nitty gritty” of running a business. He believes any employer looking for a highly paid and skilled surveyor will also want to see that kind of desire.
"When you become a senior you almost have to demote yourself, doing inspections and writing reports while also managing a team. There’s a fair bit of plate spinning involved,” he says.
Attitude is key
It's a view shared by Neale Smith, Head of Recruitment at Connells Group, one of the nation’s largest employers of chartered and quantity surveyors. “That drive and motivation to learn about a new business from the bottom up and then strive to improve it is very much what we look for in a senior applicant," he says.
“We want to see an attitude and willingness to learn, attention to detail and a real drive, right at the top of the CV. If it’s there, we’ll find it.
“Longevity is important. Anyone with a good few years’ experience with a residentially strong background in mortgage valuation, home buyers, building surveying and HMI work is also a major advantage.”
Behaviours and attitudes are a recurring theme when looking for senior surveying candidates, Neale explains. But, he says, if sound management experience can be thoroughly tested in competency interviews, it’s a real chance to stand out.
The right roles for newly qualified surveyors
If you want to achieve a senior or managerial role there must be compelling evidence of a mindset that you will go above and beyond in the role.
"Potential employers will be asking if the applicant is a highly motivated self-starter who gets involved in interviews, could they mentor newly qualified surveyors or work in rolling out new technology systems?” asks Neale.
“Candidates need a clarity of thought in terms of surveying and having an overview of driving business growth and profitability. That and a tight grasp of the challenges their teams face in the field and the ability to think logically and flexibly to develop key relationships with clients are also crucial.”
Ability to bring in new business
With a high salary comes a necessity to raise revenue and Neale and his recruitment team pay particular attention to people with the ability to grow business. “Identifying and progressing opportunities for cross-selling by collaborating with clients over additional service offerings are crucial to becoming a senior surveyor," he says.
He says: “A lot of the things we look for such as multi-tasking across diverse, high profile properties within a portfolio while also carrying out site visits and property inspections – rolling your sleeves up – seem obvious when they’re written down.
"The trick really is to match your skills to the job.” And if your skills don’t match – use CPD and other training opportunities to make sure you can take advantage of new opportunities.