BUILT ENVIRONMENT JOURNAL

From school to surveying

A building surveyor explains how a work experience placement prompted her to pursue the traditional route into the profession

Author:

  • Eilidh Littlejohn Stojsavljević

07 January 2021

I first took an interest in the built environment after work experience during my fifth year of high school, when I spent a week at a real-estate company in Glasgow and realised that I wanted to work in the built environment after I had completed full-time education.

I subsequently researched different university courses I could apply for with the higher and advanced higher grades I achieved, and gained a place at Glasgow Caledonian University on the BSc (Hons) in building surveying.

I spent 4 years studying countless hours for my degree, as well as working as a part-time customer assistant in Marks & Spencer to fund my social life. I also had the opportunity to take a 9-month placement in my third year: I applied for an assistant building surveying position at Renfrewshire Council, which I was offered after interview.

Exciting experience

My placement gave me first-hand experience of building surveying and what the work entailed, and I started to put all the knowledge I had gained in my first 2 years of university into practice. This experience is what ultimately helped me to achieve my degree in my final year: it made me excited to become a building surveyor, and have a working life that would not be the generic 9 to 5.

I went back to university after a successful 9 months of juggling my paid placement and part-time retail job. Maintaining the balance between these and my social life was tricky, but it made me develop time management skills – skills that I still apply every day of my life, otherwise deadlines would not be met and “me time” would be compromised.

“My placement gave me first-hand experience of building surveying and what the work entailed, and I started to put all the knowledge I had gained in my first 2 years of university into practice”

The graduate scheme

On returning to university for my final year, it was time to look for jobs. I spent numerous evenings applying to every available building surveying graduate scheme to stand the best possible chance of employment. After passing an online test, I was invited to an interview at Cushman & Wakefield’s Manchester office, and subsequently got the position.

In August 2015, I left my family home in Glasgow and moved to Manchester, taking on my biggest challenge yet. There was no particular reason why I chose the scheme apart from wanting to try a new city, but I believe it was the best decision to get my career started.

Manchester marked 2 exciting years of my life: first, because I had entered the adult world at the deep end, running a flat, paying bills, and having to do the food shop; second, I was starting a brand-new job, working with new people and having new experiences, as well as beginning a new social life.

After adapting to life in the city, I spent time gaining knowledge and experience for my APC, which was fully supported by my employer through the graduate scheme and the team I worked with in Manchester.

The 6–8 months leading up to the final assessment were challenging and demanded a level of self-management I had not anticipated. I planned early morning and late night study sessions to ensure I could manage my APC and also continue my day-to-day work of inspections and writing reports.

Although this meant my social life had to take a back seat, the hard work and self-discipline paid off, and I became a chartered surveyor in November 2017.

In March 2018, I made the decision to transfer to Cushman & Wakefield’s London office, working in the building consultancy team. Since moving to the capital, I have grown both as a person and as a professional, and was promoted to senior building surveyor in April 2019.

I don’t know where I will be in 2 years’ time, but I have learnt to work in and live for the moment, taking on new challenges, seeking further career development and gaining experiences.

Always going outside my comfort zone is key. I am 27 and have a long career ahead of me. I look forward to what the future holds at Cushman & Wakefield.

eilidh.littlejohn@eur.cushwake.com

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