Uneducated or Experienced?

28 Apr 2020

I am a 26-year old working for a national house builder as part of a team tasked with the acquisition of land for development. I secured my current role by way of a relatively unconventional route and I would like to share my story with you in the hope that it may open minds to a different perspective.

On paper, I am a an ‘uneducated’ employee with no degree or even A levels. The majority of those undertaking roles similar to my own have university degrees with many progressing through graduate schemes. As I say, on paper I am undoubtedly unqualified for my current role. However, I am pleased to say that I am finding success at my work. I have recently presented at a conference to over 200 people and I have been nominated as one of our business’ ‘Rising Stars’.

Despite leaving school at 17, I have now been accepted onto a distance learning MSc in Building Surveying as a result of my industry-relevant experience. In unison with this I am working towards obtaining Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) membership. I am a qualified and experienced joiner (with a practical knowledge of construction), estate agency and property auctioneer (having received national awards in estate agents and property auctioneering). Although I do not have a degree this does not mean that I am incapable or not eager to learn. Learning is easy for most people so long as they are passionate and interested in the topic. For me, this is property.

I now work with architects, engineers, quantity surveyors, sales people, production staff (the construction professionals of the business), financial experts and others in land acquisition. Many of these people are far more experienced and qualified in their respective fields than I am. So, what can I add? How can I benefit my company without a degree or the experience which others possess?

Despite these assumptions I believe I have found my niche in adding value to the business. There are those who have more experience in their field however I benefit from a rounded industry experience, particularly for my age. This is partly because I have an additional four years of work experience compared to a typical graduate of the same age.

I believe my existing knowledge helps me to see the bigger picture and to view things from a different perspective. My time spent as a joiner allows me to consider developments with the foresight, building terminology and methodology of a tradesman as well as a land buyer. Meanwhile, my sales background assists me with design, envisaging future target markets and moulding developments to suit local demand. Having a clear, accurate vision from the outset enables a high-quality product to be created with fewer amendments required at later stages.

At this point you’re probably thinking quit the life story and cut to the chase, so let’s get to it. To all of the managers reading this, I have seen countless job adverts with essential requirements stating that a degree is essential. I appreciate many of you will have requested this simply to whittle down the number of applications. Please consider, is previous experience in the role or a degree essential or could someone from related industry offer more to your company and better complement your existing knowledge? I am concerned that overly-stringent HR requirements could be supressing diversity in our industry and I urge you to keep an open mind when hiring your next team member.

Please think outside the box and recruit those from varying walks of life. I am not saying that all tradespeople should hang up their high-vis and put on a tie. Many of those undertaking hands-on construction work love their chosen profession and are in high demand. Equally there is nothing wrong with hiring graduates. I do believe however that there are great benefits which come from employing a diverse team. In order for our industry to cope with the fast-paced challenges and trepidations of the future a few outside the box ideas from individuals who complement your team can’t hurt, whatever your business may be.

To those of you who haven’t gone to university, who feel pigeonholed or who feel there is no point applying for jobs which you think you are underqualified for, do not be disheartened. Despite my achievements and experience I am on paper, a secondary school dropout without A levels or a degree.

Does this make me too underqualified to work within a specialist role in our industry, or perhaps am I instead an individual with a broad property experience and a different start in life? The property industry is varied, and I have found that the many specialties are more intertwined than is often perceived.

Doors can open, although they sometimes need a bit of a kick, as many estate agents will tell you in both the metaphorical and literal senses of the phrase! I have found that the saying “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” has seen me progress from working on a building site on an apprentice’s pay to a job I love with a wealth of experience behind me and all going well, a master’s degree at the end of the year. I hope I have proven to you all that this transition is possible and that it can be rewarding for both employers and employees alike.

It has been said that “we shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us”. In many ways the same can be said for our people. Managers choose and shape their teams around them and in turn, their team will influence the future of the organisation. Ironically for me, Winston Churchill also said “it is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations” so he’s got me there!

Andrew Everett

Assistant Land Manager, Taylor Wimpey Yorkshire