Quantity Surveyors: spoilt for choice?

Intro

The buoyant property sector in London has created a fresh batch of start-ups. The trade press and QS forums are buzzing with the stories of these shooting stars, namely, Alinea, Tower 8 and Core Five. Dominating these stories is the migration of talent from the older established consultancies to these new players.

Naturally, these stories and have piqued the interests of ambitious QS folk in London. For the first time in a decade, chartered QS talent has a choice: to move to an established consultancy or to one of the new, smaller players.

To help you make the right choice we’ve put together an objective analysis of the upsides and challenges of both routes.

Of course, these are our opinions and we’d love to hear your feedback. What do you think the advantages and challenges are of the two profiles of QS firms?

Established Consultancies

These large established consultancies dominate the QS landscape, and for many years were the only choice for those working in QS. But as employers how do they stack up now?

Upside

  • Undoubtedly, working at the larger established firms, such as EC Harris, carries prestige, it gives your CV credibility. These firms are recognised and respected globally.
  • Their formal training programmes are excellent, and their methods develop the most established and well-rounded Quantity Surveyors in the industry. In addition, the training is supported with effective mentoring schemes.
  • The buoyant market is driving considerable growth across these larger organisations. This growth has led to opportunities, either, through the movement of consultants and directors or because of the volume of projects now underway globally.

“I have been here for 5 years now, became chartered in 2014. The APC training was fantastic, engaging and hands on, I couldn’t have asked for more.” Candidate at a big consultancy.

Considerations

To succeed in the larger firms takes a certain approach; I’ve listed what should be your top three considerations.

  • The large global consultancies are now big corporations. For your career to succeed in a corporation, you will need to be assertive and ambitious. It can be too easy to restrict yourself to your comfort zone; diligently working on the same projects.

    Be clear on the opportunities you want and make this clear to your line manager. It’s mutually beneficial to you and your line manager that you have direction.

  • Corporations have sophisticated hierarchies. It’s in your interest to know the layers of leadership above your line manager because you’ll find they have a view and a say on your promotion and career opportunities.
  • Only a select group of consultants have access to clients on a project, especially in the larger firms. You need to position yourself on projects that will give you client exposure. And if you get the chance to impress, take it with both hands and deliver work that really adds value to the client. They will remember you.

New Consultancies

The new players are generating the news and the buzz, but does the hype match reality.

Upside

The young players have a great story, so let’s look at their highlights.

  • The number one advantage for ambitious QSs is the client exposure and relationships you’ll build at the new players. The smaller setup, almost, guarantees greater interaction with clients. Your client account management skills will grow and so will your network. And nowadays your QS network is almost as important as your experience.
  • It takes a certain breed of leader to leave the comfortable and secure partner position at one of the big players to set up a new practice. Often, these leaders are the most experienced, passionate and inspirational characters in QS. Working closely with them in the smaller practice is invaluable both for motivation and growing your skills.
  • Let’s face it; everyone wants to be earmarked for Associate Director, and the further career path this leads to, because it’s the Holy Grail of every QS. The perception is, you get a fair chance and an equal opportunity to win the Associate Director prize at the new smaller consultancies.

“I have never had so much exposure to clients as I have had here, I have worked solidly at some of the big boys, but here when I work I feel like I am doing it for a reason. I know my boss, we go for drinks on a Friday, if I have any worries I can go to him direct. It was the best decision I made to move away from the big hierarchy in to an environment where I feel valued.”
Candidate at a new smaller agency

Considerations

The unique challenges you’ll face at the smaller consultancies.

  • The smaller team set up, and thirst for winning clients, in the younger companies will place extra demand on your time. To succeed, you’ll need to deliver on some pretty demanding deadlines. Be prepared for some late nights fueled by caffeine and pizza!
  • The new agencies have a lot to prove, and every member of the team is expected to perform at the top of their game. If you’re an average performer, you may find the pressure uncomfortable.
  • Today, in the buoyant market, the younger players are enjoying the private sector growth. There’s an opportunity for those willing to work hard, but you may find less opportunity within them in a downturn.

Conclusion

You need to be honest with yourself and clear about the career you want. You need to know what opportunities your current employer is offering because today’s growth should be opening doors for everyone. Are you getting your share?

Next Steps

If you’d like reliable QS career advice, then contact Jake on 020 7766 9004. I understand that informal chats are highly confidential, and don’t necessarily signify a desire to change jobs.