The construction industry by its very nature is a transient market with a global churn of projects at various stages of completion, and this in turn provides a great opportunity for people working within the industry who are looking to gain overseas work.
Working as a Quantity Surveyor overseas provides a great opportunity to develop your skills and grow your career. It also gives you an opportunity to explore new countries and experience other cultures. There are already 1000s of Quantity Surveyors working internationally in the Middle East (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar) and Asia regions (Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore) that have successfully made the transition overseas and are now seeing the benefits both financially and in their career progression. However, before considering an overseas job opportunity there are certain things you need to think about before making the move.
What Skills And Qualifications Are In Demand?
To get started as a Quantity Surveyor overseas the first step is to obtain an internationally recognised degree in a relevant subject, this would likely be a BSc (Hons) in Quantity Surveying. However, there are various other relevant qualifications/subjects such as: Commercial Management, Construction Economics, Civil Engineering, Building Studies and Building Management. Diplomas and MSc conversion courses are also recognised. Along with an academic qualification, professional Charterships/memberships are also highly beneficial when making overseas job applications. MRICS is internationally endorsed and is often a requirement for certain positions with our clients. Others accreditations that are relevant include: HKIS, MCIOB, CIOB, FRICS and FCIArb. By obtaining relevant academic qualifications and professional accreditations this is your first step in securing an overseas job.
Where Are My Skills In Demand?
Over the past 10 years we have seen a steady demand for Quantity Surveyors in both the Middle East and Far East, this period has seen peaks in demand that have coincided with construction of large scale construction projects. An example of this has been the construction (still ongoing) of the 5 major MTR rail extension projects in Hong Kong, which included the Express Rail Link (XRL) from Hong Kong to China. Construction of this massive scale project led to a significant increase for the demand of Quantity Surveyors to work in Hong Kong, both for main contractors, consultancies and the client/operator MTRC. The Middle East has also seen similar peaks, with the Qatar World Cup 2022 likely to drive the next big demand for construction professional in the Middle East.
Keeping an eye on world economic growth and developing markets is a good way to understand where your skills might be in demand. For example it is expected that the Chinese construction market will overtake the US as the world leader by 2018, and that India is also set to see a significant increase its construction activity. If you’re looking to maximize your earning potential whilst working overseas, understanding the construction market will allow you to do this by targeting countries with the highest demand for your specific skills.
What Previous Work Experience Do I Need?
Most companies looking to employ someone from overseas will require at least some relevant experience within the industry. Within Quantity Surveying this means trying to tailor your experience to suit the market. For example Hong Kong has seen a large amount of civil engineering and transport related projects in the last decade, therefore gaining experience on rail, road, bridge or other civil engineering works means that companies working on those projects are more likely to look at your experience as being the most relevant to suit their needs. Equally the Middle East has seen a high demand for large scale hotel/building project experience due to the development of numerous skyscrapers within the region. Although it’s not always necessary to have the exact same experience it is always useful to think about where your experience will be most valued.
What About Practicalities Like Immigration and Housing?
Working in a foreign country will require that you obtain a valid work visa before starting work there. This will be valid for a certain number of years after which it will need to be reassessed or renewed, it may also have to be reassessed if you change employer within the same country. Certain countries will allow you to obtain permanent residency after having lived in the country for a certain number of years, this entitles you to work without any restrictions or the need for a valid work visa. Once you have accepted a job offer it is common practice for your employer to apply for the work visa on your behalf, this will often entail you providing certain documents including educational certificates that will then be submitted to the immigration department for processing. Processing times can vary from country to country, but you can expect to have to wait at least a few weeks.
Once you have arrived in the country and are ready to start work, one of your first priorities will be to secure accommodation. Depending on the role/employer/country you may be granted a serviced apartment to stay in for the first month, otherwise you’ll be staying in a hotel whilst you secure your own rented accommodation. In Hong Kong it is common for companies to assist in the search for your new apartment by providing a relocation specialist (normally from the HR department) who can help search and arrange viewings for you. For people moving with children this service may also cover assistance in making applications for a place in the local school. Once you have secured your accommodation, if rented it is important to note the length of the tenancy agreement you sign so you aware of your financial liabilities if you break the tenancy early. This may also dictate if and when you decide to leave the country.
How Long Should I Plan to Stay Overseas?
This will be different for everyone, but it is worth bearing in mind that an employer may only require your services for the length of a specific project, after which you may have to seek another opportunity in a different country. However it common that once people do find a new job overseas that they stay in the country for at least the medium term before deciding whether to move on. Once working in a country and having gained knowledge of local working culture it can then be much easier to secure another job within that country. Our clients often look at candidates who already have overseas experience as being less risk than someone undertaking their first overseas assignment. They feel that someone who has experience of working in that environment and embracing new cultures is less likely to leave a job early due to home sickness or not enjoying their new environment. In short, we have opportunities that would suit both people looking a long term move and equally those looking for a short term assignment with financial incentives.
Making the Move
Although prior planning is important when thinking about a move overseas, the best way getting the ball rolling is to give us a call. We’re happy to give impartial advice about the opportunities available and where your skills would be most suited, as well as informed salary advice and livings costs in your preferred location. We look forward to hearing from you!
Hong Kong Office – Covering Asia Region