Sarah works as a rural practice surveyor with the leading surveyors, Savills, based in York.
Sarah graduated in 2007 with a BSc in Rural Enterprise and Land Management (REALM) from Harper Adams University College after a four-year sandwich course including a year’s paid placement.
Farming at home encouraged my interest in the countryside. I’m the first member of my family to go into HE and I knew I wanted to do a course closely associated with the countryside and farming, but not practically ‘hands on’.
I studied geography, history and business studies at A-level with law at AS. Interest and association with the countryside also contributed to my wanting to study at a land based university. I felt the REALM degree course pulled all my A-level subjects and interests together.
I attended the Higher Education Choices Conference at Harper Adams University College. This is an annual event held in July and it gave me the chance to attend various taster seminars and see what the courses I had read about actually involved.
I enquired and gained some work experience with a national employer for a couple of weeks. This gave me the opportunity to see the wide range of work I could become involved in and helped reinforce my choice of degree.
The four-year BSc REALM course involved a one-year placement. I knew I wanted to work for a national company and competed hard through applications and selection to achieve this. On this placement, I took the initiative to really carve out my role and make a substantial contribution both to the work I was undertaking and in the office team. This helped enormously in securing an offer of employment when a vacancy was advertised with the same firm in my final year of study.
Getting into a national company was helped by having useful experience and a real interest in the rural environment. My advice to anyone considering this profession would be to work hard at your A-levels. Any course accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) will have basic requirements for entry and it will help if you are seen as exceeding these, especially now, in a competitive job market.
As far as getting on in the job is concerned, I would say that you need to enjoy what you do. You’ll need to be conscientious and flexible in your approach, and communication will be important as this is a people business. To help develop your confidence, know your strengths and develop them, and know your weaknesses and how to deal with them effectively.
The knowledge I gained from my course has been helpful in my career. The placement gave me applied hands-on experience and enabled me to build confidence about my capabilities. And I now deal professionally with friends I made and networks of colleagues I got to know on courses. My final year dissertation also gave me the opportunity to research something that gave me specialist knowledge when meeting at conferences with other professionals.
My role is changing. In the current economic climate, the rural sector has been a little more sheltered than the commercial/urban sector. The agency side of my work has been quiet, but this has meant I’ve gained wider opportunities in valuation, advertising, probate, planning and stewardship. Challenges have also been to complete tasks in a shorter time, reducing cost to the customer but still providing the same high standard of work and making a profit for the business.
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