Careers advice: How to become a more rounded and grounded professional

Written by: Jez Abbott
Published on: 3 Jun 2015

Bernadette McQuillan

This is an exciting part of your life, so make sure you are choosing a career you enjoy – it makes getting out of bed in the morning much easier.

If you are wanting to work in the private sector then spending some time in the public sector is a really good grounding for starting out your career. This will give you an invaluable insight in to the mechanics of a local authority planning department – this is something I wish I had done.

Build a broad understanding of the development sector, this is extremely useful in understanding how a planning role fits into the wider development process and gives you an understanding and appreciation of the other roles involved.

While academic results are important and provide a good basis to compare candidates, remember extra-curricular activities are just as important. Planning is increasingly about being able to promote an argument, liaise with the public, speak to politicians and generate positive PR around your proposals. These skills are often developed outside the lecture theatre through team activities, sports, interest groups and hobbies. They are just as important to an employer when deciding whether to employ you.

Networking is extremely important to build your profile and develop contacts – remember that your contemporaries will be the future planning leaders.

Finally, make sure you have some time off or have a holiday between finishing university and starting full-time employment or switching between planning jobs – enjoy the summer before reality hits.

Top five interview tips:

1 Prepare, prepare, prepare - research the company you will be applying to, understand some of their recent projects and the team structure and make reference to it.

2 Think about what it is like on the receiving end of you – how do you portray yourself and what is the lasting image or memory you want to leave behind? Make sure it’s something positive.

3 Go armed with some questions – it shows you are engaged and have seriously thought about the role on offer, the company and how you will fit into the team.

4 Read your CV beforehand – you will be questioned on this so make sure you know it inside out so that you are ready to answer questions.

5 If you are involved in graduate assessment days remember to be on the ball at all times. Every bit of it is an assessment (even when you don’t think it is) so don’t let your guard down….but remember to enjoy it and be yourself.

Bernadette McQuillan is director of planning at CBRE Manchester