How to get through your post-APC lull

After completing her APC, one surveyor felt uncertain about what to do next – but soon realised she was not alone, and with support from colleagues is now channelling her energy into new goals


  • Chloe Hartley MRICS

16 May 2024

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Should I learn a language? Should I join a sports team? Should I try crochet? These are just some of the questions I asked myself in the months after becoming chartered last June.

I spoke to colleagues at Mott MacDonald who had also recently qualified, to find out about their experiences. Out of those I asked, 86% said they had felt a lull after they completed the process.

Most of us had lived and breathed the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) for months before the interview, as we revised daily and undertook mock interviews. So when we stopped, it came as a shock.

After completing my quantity surveying degree I had felt a sense of accomplishment, but I also really appreciated the downtime. It allowed me to catch up on life and start to mobilise for the APC.  

However, in retrospect I think I enjoyed this time more because I knew that, in becoming chartered, an even bigger challenge was yet to come.

Two decades of education left me at a loose end

It took me some time to identify the main reason I felt so uncertain after becoming chartered.

After I completed my APC, my mentor recognised I was having the same feelings of uncertainty as a new graduate would, albeit further into my career. She said a graduate could feel similarly uncertain when they first join the workplace after university. I agreed. 

From the ages of 4 to 24, I had been continually learning and working towards a series of qualifications. The only breaks I had were the summers between different academic years. So, for the first time in 20 years, I was now free to do what I wanted to do.

As Mott MacDonald's first quantity surveyor to complete the degree apprenticeship, I was looking for particular guidance and inspiration on what was to come next.

I had great role models to look up to, but none who had followed the same route as me. So I took on their advice and shaped my own path.

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Personal goal offers new direction

I needed a purpose, but I also wanted a break from education. On the recommendation of a friend, I decided to start something new and creative to distract me from thinking about work alone, just for a little while.

That activity was crochet. But this turned out to be a dead end: let's just say I should leave the creative stuff to someone else and stick to numbers.

Next, I decided to revisit a hobby that I loved as a teen; but baking was not good for the waistline. Although I did enjoy it, it needed to be an occasional pastime.

After these experiences, I decided to share my situation with a group of colleagues I was comfortable with, who I thought may have felt the same after graduation or the APC. They inspired me to keep trying new things and push myself.

They told me to set a goal so I had something to aim for. A variety of interests were proposed, some very quirky ideas too. They proposed interests covering several areas travel, sports, arts and crafts - the list went on!

I decided I was going to get fit in 2024. After struggling to keep physical exercise in my routine for years now, this was the time to really commit.

January arrived, and I re-joined the gym. Nothing major, just walking initially, then after a few sessions I started running. My brother suggested that I take part in a race or charity run. So I did and now I had a goal.

I signed up to the 29 miles in February challenge for Alzheimer's Research UK, a charity close to my heart. I knew this would be quite difficult for me, especially finding the motivation to run in the winter months. But I was up for it.

Fast forward to March and I completed the challenge with 31.8 miles. It was a test but with the support from family, friends and colleagues I succeeded, and raised a large amount for charity. I have continued running and it is now part of my weekly routine.

When preparing for my APC, I tried to ensure exercise was part of my routine. It provided a break from study as well as some fresh air, and had a positive effect on my well-being.

After a busy summer neglecting this, I now had a regular slot for physical activity again. The time away from it made me realise what I'd been missing.

Learning to live in the moment

After months of pondering 'What next?' and thinking that I needed to keep learning to overcome my lull, here I am nine months after becoming chartered, living in the moment and feeling that the rush has stopped.

All I needed was time to settle into this new study-free life and find a new focus. This doesn't mean I'll never go back to learning.

But for now, after a lot of training and work, I am content with building on what I have already achieved (i.e. degree, chartership, training in various software's, bid writing training and much more). This resonates with many of my colleagues too.

After completing the APC, my colleagues and I have paused and reset: enjoying time with our family and friends, taking up hobbies we may have abandoned temporarily and booking holidays or time off.

Some have started to think about what the next few years look like professionally. Many of us have also taken up mentoring other professionals who are in the process of becoming members, to share our learning and insight.

Sharing advice on overcoming the lull

After months of focused work, I have some insights into overcoming post-work uncertainty – tips that could be useful in all situations, both in and outside work.

  • Feeling lost: when you complete the APC, you get an incredible high: you've just achieved a career milestone. But you also experience a low. This is normal. You've worked so hard for so long, it's fine to take the time to bask in your success.
  • Celebrate: after all the learning and certifications, sometimes it's easy to neglect the celebration. So it's important to live in the moment before deciding on what your next milestone might be.
  • Catch up on life: during busy periods, life admin tends to get neglected. It's reasonable to spend time catching up with tasks such as cleaning, decluttering or those other small jobs around the house that you left for a later date. They might not seem important, but completing them will be positive for your well-being. It will also give you a sense of purpose for a while.
  • Rest: after pushing yourself for a prolonged period, it's also important to rest. Burn-out is a huge risk, so looking after yourself is vital. Practise self-care.
  • Find purpose: if you need a new sense of purpose, look at what hobbies you had before study, what friends and colleagues enjoy, or something different. There is no harm in trying something and realising it's not for you.
  • Set goals: If you are like me and love a goal or thrive on a deadline, find something you enjoy and set an objective that is achievable and measurable. Reach high – your achievements to date show that you are more than capable.

Chloe Hartley MRICS is a quantity surveyor at Mott MacDonald and recipient of the 2021 RICS Apprentice of the Year award

Contact Chloe: Email | LinkedIn

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