Wednesday 16 October 2019

Paul McNeive: 'Property is a great place to build a successful career'

The right moves

Paul McNeive
Paul McNeive

Paul McNeive

NEXT Monday - July 1 - is the last day on which school-leavers can change their minds on what career to follow and amend their CAO applications.

The resurgent property industry presents an array of opportunities, and to some extent, the huge variety of options, from the various professions, through to more "on-site" construction- related jobs, can be confusing.

However, once the student has an understanding of what the different roles entail, property and construction present a very rewarding career path, with roles for those most comfortable dealing with people and those who prefer a more technical and analytical challenge. And with shortages in most disciplines, the prospects of getting a rewarding job are extremely strong.

It's a far cry from when I started in 1979, and studied for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors exams via a correspondence course with the College of Estate Management in London.

Of 11 of us took that route, I think only two later qualified. That option was quite rightly dropped and qualification now is usually via the range of courses provided by the School of Surveying and Construction Management at Technical University Dublin (formerly DIT). Student numbers are back to approximately 1,000, on a par with the numbers before the economic crash. Another 600 students attend Institute of Technology surveying related courses, regionally.

The Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers (IPAV) also provides a wide range of courses.

An issue in students' (and employers') minds must be the cyclical nature of the business. It's interesting to note some of the large firms of, for example, estate agents and architects have returned to their "pre-crash" staffing levels, whereas others have decided to restrict their growth at, arguably, more sustainable levels.

I suggest fears on that front are over stated, with publicity tending to attach to the more directly construction-related job losses. Less is known about the professional sectors engaged in transactions, valuations and managing property.

The best advice is to make yourself as valuable as possible, thus maximising your potential (which also protects you in any downturn). To that end, the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) held a timely seminar yesterday on how to build a successful career.

Claire Crowley, EU projects control manager for Facebook, told how she made a personal investment in further education to differentiate herself from others. She analysed her clients and positioned herself where she saw gaps in the market.

Claire Solon, who is head of property at Aviva Ireland, manages more than €600m worth of properties. Her role is varied and challenging, ranging from development to acquisitions and sales. She spoke of the importance of having belief in yourself and never giving up.

Mark FitzGerald, chairman of Sherry FitzGerald, encouraged people to think about the organisation they are joining and the business they are in.

"Don't forget the humanity involved in estate agency," he said. "You will need to enjoy and like people, you will need your compassion, your ethics, and your curiosity - and the steel to negotiate the best possible deal."

This is exactly the type of career success story and advice which the public needs to hear. I don't believe school-leavers realise the huge range of jobs available, working for IT companies, retailers, banks, funds and developers, that offer a combination of personal responsibility, working within teams, and both office-based work and visits to buildings and sites.

Some roles, such as valuation or quantity surveying, will require a more academic approach, and others in design or marketing will draw on your creative talents.

If you're looking for a career where every day brings a new challenge, and a qualification that can take you from a boardroom in Dublin to a shopping centre in Dubai, property and construction offer great opportunity.

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