Hays Montrose's Robert Smith throws light on permits for working as a property agent in the UK, and suggests striking a balance at the Christmas party
I am from Singapore and recently graduated from a British university with a degree in estate management. I would like to secure a graduate position with a property firm. What should I do about obtaining a work or training permit?

Few western countries grant work visas to individuals. In consequence, most people find themselves needing sponsorship from a local company that wants to employ them and can prove there is no national better qualified for the job. As you're a fresh graduate, this may be difficult.

I would suggest that you contact your old university for a list of UK estate management companies and make speculative approaches to them. With luck, you will be offered a position with one.

Alternatively, some of those firms may have international subsidiaries based in Malaysia. Once you have worked for them for a few years you may be able to transfer to the UK office. Otherwise I would advise you to try and get as much experience as you can working for a Malaysian company and building up useful skills before you apply to UK companies.

I also suggest you look into the training and work experience scheme, a special arrangement within the work permit scheme. The scheme's main purpose is to assist businesses in their international development and to help other countries by increasing the skills and experience of their citizens. An applicant has to meet some simple requirements to be considered, such as a minimum of one year's work experience outside the UK, be aged between 18 and 35, and should be near the start of their career.

A new work permit is being proposed at the moment, which will allow certain "highly talented" individuals to be granted a work permit without the need for a sponsoring employer, provided they meet set criteria. The pilot scheme has not yet been launched but you can get further information by clicking on their website at www.workpermit.co.uk. Two other sites with useful information on work permits are www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk and www.globalvisas.com.

I have just started at a construction company and have been invited to my first-ever Christmas party. What is your advice on how to survive the night?

Free drinks and a light-hearted atmosphere can conspire to turn the Christmas party into a career disaster unless you exercise self-control. Many people interpret this situation as an invitation to get drunk and go wild. Others, who try too hard to make a good impression, end up being unpopular with their colleagues and viewed suspiciously by their superiors.

Many people interpret the Christmas party as an invitation to get drunk and go wild. Others try too hard to make a good impression

These types of casual parties are designed to build relationships and attending such events can be seen as demonstrating company loyalty.

So it's wise to turn up especially if senior people are likely to be there. Use the situation to your advantage by mingling and networking.

Regard the Christmas party as a chance to accomplish something beneficial for you and your company. Enjoy getting to know your colleagues in a relaxed atmosphere but don't do anything too extreme.