Assessment of Professional Competence (RICS)- My experience of not passing in 2018.
It was March 2016, and I had just started with Brent council. On my first day, my manager at the time, Sarah, sat me down and said, “Adewole, I think you should consider doing your Assessment of Professional Competence (“APC”) with the RICS to become a qualified surveyor “. Her view was that we needed more minorities in the UK, becoming professionally qualified in their respective professions.
In my mind, I had graduated from my undergrad degree seven years earlier and postgrad three years previously and becoming RICS qualified was something I thought was not possible for me. Sarah said it was possible and that if I were interested, I would need to pay for the membership and training fees myself. I walked out of that meeting with a mission, and one day later, I enrolled on the APC, which I think cost me £900 to register via the Planning and Development pathway.
I think it is essential not to spend too much time pondering on excellent advice when it will help you become better. Most of the time, excellent advice requires immediate action, and in this case, I took my action without skipping a heartbeat.
Since 2010, whilst interning for a small building surveying firm, I had dreamed of becoming a qualified surveyor, but I did not have any opportunity to do so. My determination towards qualification was calibrated and charged through a meeting with Sarah that changed everything.
As I had 2 years of relevant experience and RICS accredited degrees, I was required to go through a 24-month process, meaning I could go forward for my final interview in 2018. The APC process requires you to find a counsellor who is a qualified surveyor and will guide you through the process. I asked a colleague, but he respectfully declined. Sarah would have been perfect, but she wasn’t qualified at the time.
I remember that I met a Chartered surveyor called Kwajo M at a Housing conference, and I speculatively messaged him on linked in to see if he could be my Counsellor. We had only met once, and at the time, I didn’t appreciate that being a counsellor is a demanding commitment for anyone to agree. After a few days, I received a response from Kwajo, and he agreed to be my Counsellor. I was now set and ready to work towards my long-standing dream of becoming a qualified surveyor.
The grind/ come up/ process
With two years’ worth of work ahead of me, I carefully planned how I would fill out my summary of experience and case study. During the process, It was apparent that I had gaps in experiences, but I was committed to doing all I could to fill those gaps.
The APC process is an introspective process that takes you on a broad journey of learning. In the process, you constantly ask yourself, have I reached the level of experience required to meet the mark. As I worked in Wembley but lived in Essex, on my way home from work, I would attend Continuing Professional Development (“CPD”) seminars as I was required to log 48 hours a year, resulting in a total of 96 hours before I could submit my application for my RICS full membership.
The beginning part of the process was relatively straight forward, but the pressure started mounting closer to the submission. I was so worried about not achieving the valuation competency that I did a two-week unpaid work experience at BNP Paribas, where I carried out a valuation in accordance with the Red Book. I even went further and secured two other work experiences with smaller valuation practices to get my head into the valuation. Where I thought that valuation was my biggest obstacle, little did I know that the challenges were far from over.
The submission has to be just short of perfect as this was the first thing your assessors will see before your interview. I used to think my written English was okay, but I questioned whether I had paid any attention in my English classes during the process of refining my submission documents.
My submission included 10 mandatory, 6 core and 3 optional competences called your summary of experience. I also had to submit a CPD log showing what I learned from the 96 hours that I had to submit, and finally, I had to submit a 3000-word case study.
To be ready for my submission, this required 2 years’ worth of structured training, hundreds of hours of writing/ studying, 67 pages of my final submission, many doubts over whether I was ready to go through with the process but a strong desire to become a qualified surveyor.
My Counsellor raised questions on whether I should wait before going forward to the final assessment, but I was confident that I was ready and worked hard to get my submission in shape.
I attended countless mock interviews with colleagues, friends and whoever will sit down to get me ready for the final interview. I carried out an extensive study on all the topics and attempted to explore all angles that may come up at the interview.
As determined as I was to go through the process, I realised that becoming a qualified surveyor was the hardest thing that I had ever done. I thought how someone working as a Client Side project manager comes across as competent when most people going through the process come from a consultancy background. It must have been the nerves, but I questioned myself a lot more than I ever did previously.
I received an email, and the interview date was set for 16 May 2018. I quickly arranged a hotel stay at the interview location with my Pregnant wife, and the real countdown had begun.
A few days before the interview, I was so nervous and couldn’t sleep conformably. This was my ticket into a world of professionalism that is respected in my industry and line of work. The nervousness and fear were so thick that you could cut it with a knife.
My wife laughed at my nervousness as she saw me speaking to my self-trying to perfect my final presentation and get the answers right in my mind. There were times that she saw me staring into blank walls, pacing up and down or holding my head due to the anguish of such a challenging process.
The night before the interview, we went to the famous Park Inn hotel in Heathrow, which was the interview location, and the fear bit me like a shark attacking its unsuspecting prey. I am brave enough to say that the fear was immobilising. That night I could not sleep, but my wife, on the other hand, had the time of her life and slept like a baby.
I remember waking up that morning, taking a shower, getting breakfast, putting on my suit, praying with my wife and walking to the waiting area. My name was called, just like that, two years had flashed before my eyes, and now I was sitting in front of a panel.
Overall, the interview went well, but there were areas that I had not anticipated. On walking out of the interview, I thought there was a 50/50 chance of me passing.
I went back to the hotel room, and my wife gave me a massive hug, and I felt like I wanted to cry but didn’t. We checked out of the hotel room rapidly as I wanted to get out of there.
All surveyors must wait seven days to get their verdict, and that waiting period was my worst experience of anxiety ever. The day came, 23 May 2018, and whilst waiting frantically, the email came at 11:57, and it read, “Further to your recent interview, I regret to have to inform you that you were unsuccessful in the Assessment of Professional Competence. You will have the opportunity to re-apply for final assessment 2018 (Session two)”
I was devastated, broken and lost, but I was far from defeated.
One thing about the RICS qualification process is that it creates an unhealthy obsession with getting MRICS behind your name. It was so unhealthy that nothing else mattered to me more at that point in my life. I guess winners are obsessed with winning; the question is at what cost?
Feedback is the breakfast for giants
As upset as I was, not to passing my APC, I was glad that I had gone through the process. My biggest disappointment was that I wanted to be Chartered in advance of my child’s birth, but this was not the case.
A few weeks after receiving the devastating news of not passing, I received the written feedback, which you can read by clicking on the below PDF.
It was objective, but I knew I would keep trying until I passed. I took the feedback on board, but the pain and self-disappointment still lingered.
I had to pay for my training fees, and I was willing to bet on myself. My question to you is that are you willing to do the same?
You are only a failure if you fall and decide not to get up. I see life as a contact sport; you will constantly get hit from all angles. The winners in society fall hundreds of times but never stay down. My message to anyone who received unfortunate news, whether it is from being referred doing their APC, failing an exam, not getting the job you wanted, cry, roll on the ground if you want but make sure you get up and go again.
As much as the APC process can take over your thoughts, try not to completely neglect family and friends. Have a good time in the process, as this will make the process less strenuous.
The story continues…