Restarting my career path through quantity surveying

It can be hard to reconcile passion and profession, but a willingness to reconsider your options – plus supportive colleagues and a little luck – can lead to a satisfying career in construction


  • Liam Davies

22 February 2023

Overhead view at group of multiethnic business people working together in the office

Finding the right career is possibly one of the most difficult tasks of your teenage years and early adulthood. Some people are fortunate enough to have an idea early on in their lives about the profession they'd like to pursue – but others may take a little more time to find their pathway.

As an example, my wife claims that she wanted to be a nurse from a very early age, and she has achieved that goal. I, on the other hand, had the far more realistic ambition of becoming a professional footballer. Am I a footballer now? Absolutely not.

The reality is that we will all follow a different path as we go through life, and our experiences, opportunities and challenges, as well as the people we meet along the way, shape who we become.

Sporting passion shapes study choice

I left college with a diploma in sports, exercise and science and enrolled on a BA (Hons) in sports management at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David at 18. This was very exciting at the time, and being the first in my family to go to university felt like an achievement in itself.

My love for sport had led me down this path, and it was a great learning experience that improved my confidence no end. Unfortunately, while my passion for sport was and remains strong, I struggled to find a role in which I could use my degree after graduation.

I came to the conclusion that there were limited opportunities in Welsh sport, especially the types of role that would allow me the long-term growth and satisfaction I craved. Could I have sought harder for the right role? Possibly. But at the time, it felt as though I had looked high and low.

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Job frustration prompts pause for thought

A few years passed after my graduation, and I found myself working in a general administration role in Cardiff. While I was grateful to have a paying job, it was not the long-term career that I had envisaged. My mental health was also suffering, as I was not where I thought I should have been at that stage of my life. I felt the pressures were becoming too much.

So, in 2017, I found myself at home again at the age of 23 with a degree I hadn't been able to use. Fortunately, I had the support of my family – and they reminded me I had more to offer and achieve. I just needed the right opportunity.

During my time at home, I reluctantly arranged an appointment at the local job centre. I say 'reluctantly' because I still did not think this was where I wanted to be at this stage in my life – although it turns out this was exactly where I needed to be.

The work coach who was assigned to me at the job centre was extremely helpful and understanding of my situation. Following some questions about my background and hobbies, she picked up on my interest in architecture and construction. This had developed early in my life: my dad had been a self-employed roofer, and he had shown me the value of skilled trades and the part he played in construction.

Unknown to me, my work coach's husband was a managing quantity surveyor at Faithful+Gould. Before I knew it, they had arranged an interview for me to gain some work experience at the firm's Swansea office.

From volunteering to a fulfilling career

In July 2017, after two months of volunteering at Faithful+Gould, I was delighted to be offered a full-time opportunity as a trainee quantity surveyor. In September that year, the company helped me enrol in and funded a five-year, part-time RICS-accredited degree in quantity surveying at the University of South Wales.

I was excited for the opportunity, while also apprehensive about having to go back to university to study again. But it's a commitment that I am glad I made.

In 2022, I successfully graduated with a first-class honours degree, and during my time studying I have been promoted from trainee to assistant to quantity surveyor. When looking back I am extremely proud of how far I have come, and I have learned that sometimes in life you have to take a step backward to go forward.

Over the past five years, my life has improved dramatically, and becoming a quantity surveyor has played a large role in this. The experiences and opportunities available to me include working in a wide variety of sectors, such as education, defence, heavy industry and residential. In doing so, I have been able to meet interesting and incredible people.

This has helped me develop not just professionally but also personally, learning from people of all backgrounds and shaping the way I behave. As I look forward to commencing my APC later this year, I see in Faithful+Gould – and the industry as a whole – opportunities to travel globally and expand my horizons further.

At any point when I have felt out of depth, my senior colleagues have been quick to remind me that I have skills and attributes from my previous experience in life that are vital to my success and development as a surveyor.

For instance, my time coaching sport at college, and alongside my university study, has helped me gain confidence. This has enabled me to present to senior leaders in the company, and act as an employer's agent on numerous developments.

I'm looking forward to my sixth year in the industry as residential sector lead for Wales at Faithful+Gould. At times construction can be extremely testing, with many tight deadlines, contract negotiations, and pressure to work accurately and efficiently. But despite this, I have learned that the industry is filled with supportive, understanding and genuinely kind people who look out for one another.

I hope that my story can be an inspiration, and remind people that it is fine if they do not always know what their next move is. Sometimes – with a little bit of good timing and hard work – things fall in the right place.

I'd like to dedicate this article to my work coach, to Faithful+Gould, and the construction industry as a whole to thank them for giving me the opportunity to achieve things I never knew I could.

'Over the past five years, my life has improved dramatically, and becoming a quantity surveyor has played a large role in this'

Liam Davies is a quantity surveyor at Faithful+Gould

Contact Liam: Email | LinkedIn

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