A Year in the Life of a Graduate - Jack Shields

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Becoming a Lifestory Graduate

I’ve always envied those people who knew they wanted to be a police officer from age 4. Unfortunately, that person wasn’t me, and although I always had an interest in development, and property more generally, I had no grasp of where I wanted to take my career.

Ahead of graduation I accepted (or rather fell into) a role selling protein shakes to premier league football teams (Everton were my best customer for all the Toffees fans...if such fans exist?). It was during my 3 year stint in this alternative industry that my passion and desire to work in development manifested, as I saw a clear career path and longevity in the industry for myself. I fantasized over the idea of being able to place-make and ‘change the map’ so to speak. I took myself back to university, completed an MSc in Real Estate Investment and Finance at the University of the West of England, as well as some work experience stints at a local housebuilder and estate agent, to strengthen my knowledge base and employability.

In December 2019 I submitted my application for the Graduate programme. I was aware of Pegasus following my morning commute which took me past One Bayshill Road, the grandeur and style of that development in particular left me starstruck. My application was successful, and following a telephone interview, I attended the Graduate Assessment Day at our Winchester Regional Office. The calibre of attendees was high, and the day testing, having to complete multiple tasks to prove our knowledge-base, communication skills and team working capabilities. Fortunately, I had done enough to be formally offered a Graduate position at Lifestory, and despite offers at alternative organisations, I accepted the position based on the exciting vision tabled for the company, and more importantly, the people who I met on the day.

I joined Lifestory in September 2020, off the back of Eat Out to Help Out and no rugby, I joined the company a little plumper than I envisaged, but keen to grasp the opportunity I had been offered following the graduate recruitment process. In all honesty, it was a relief to finally get started following an uncertain time over whether the role would actually still exist following the Covid-19 global pandemic that took hold in 2020.

But what does a graduate do?

It is not the most prescriptive term and there is no clear job description to talkthrough. So to help build the picture, I am going to highlight some of the projects I have worked on over the last year, and the roles and responsibilities I undertook in order to help deliver those projects.

Restoration and Refurbishment

The restoration and refurbishment of Monks Walk Wall, in the gardens of one of our Pegasus communities in Lichfield, Chapter House, is a project on which I acted as the Client, Project Manager and Contract Administrator.

With planning for the works already gained, I coordinated the discharge of pre-commencement planning conditions, the contract administration of the project in its entirety and final account reconciliation. I liaised with external and internal stakeholders (Conservation Officer, Interest Groups, Consultants), and negotiated monetary contributions and access arrangements for the works from adjoining owners.

£265,000 Car Park Extension

The nickname given to me by the Regional Head of Customer Operations, Esther Hunting, and Regional Head of Sales, Darren Thompson, of  ‘Car Park Warden’ I have my next project to thank - the £265,000 car park extension at our Pegasus Steepleton community in Tetbury.

In conjunction with our appointed Project Manager, I took the role as the Client, working with the Main Contractor to deliver 20 additional car parking spaces to reduce the burden on our existing road/parking curtilage. Sourcing contractors, contractor interviews, site review meetings, quality inspections, finding solutions to challenges occurring on site, pursuing O&M information, were all part of the process. 

Land Disposal

I have also been fortunate to be heavily involved in the disposal of a piece of retained, but surplus to requirement, land. Facilitating answers to technical questions posed by the buyer, contract negotiations via solicitors, devising favourable Transfer and Overage Deed terms, meeting the buyer on-site and negotiating boundary positions, are some examples of the tasks I have been involved in. 

Looking Ahead

I’ve been fortunate to have been afforded the accountability and responsibility to own my own projects, which has offered an invaluable learning experience and something I am hoping to pursue further as we start development at Lichfield, Solihull and Henley-in-Arden over the next year.

The graduate role has therefore been a rather varied one - which I think does come with the job description. It’s about being exposed and getting involved in as much of the business as possible, and saying yes to all opportunities that come your way.

I would recommend the Lifestory Graduate programme to anyone looking to pursue a career within the industry - It has been the quickest year of my life, the learnings have been vast and the support I have received has been extensive.

A few words from Mike Gill, Midlands & North Regional MD

I personally am an advocate of the Graduate Programme here at Lifestory and Jack has reinforced this for me by demonstrating his enthusiastic, affable and conscientious approach.

I have been amazed by his depth of knowledge in the industry, and demonstrates a constant appetite to keep on learning and growing into an established member of the team.

Following the success of Jack’s appointment, we have recently employed three more Graduates to our Region who seem to share the same ethos and characteristics, proving to be excellent additions to a growing team.

If we haven’t met, then I hope to soon. Thank you for reading,

Jack Shields

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