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Graduate Spotlight: Mike Brown

Mike Brown Website pic 1

Mike studied at Henley between 2011 to 2014 and now works for DVSA as a Property Surveyor in Corporate Estate Management. We were thrilled to speak with Mike about his experiences; from choosing to study with REP and his time as a student, to how this set him up with a promising career.

Thank you for taking the time to speak with us Mike. So, to start with, what made you initially choose REP and Henley Business School?

Originating from a farming background, I have always had a keen interest in land and property. Growing up carrying bags of corn and driving tractors I wanted to study a degree which would incorporate both my interests and lead into an exciting career which included practical tasks and was not purely office based. A Real Estate/Surveying degree with a rural emphasis seemed like the perfect choice and it’s proven to be a great grounding for a number of career routes after graduating.

Henley Business School and University of Reading have brilliant reputations both nationally and globally for Real Estate degrees. I chose to study at Reading as I felt there was opportunities to build up relationships and establish connections with contacts in the industry and this has certainly proved to be the case. I recall attending evening seminars with representatives from Surveying firms, graduate open days and receiving some great support from my Reading Real Estate Foundation (RREF) mentor. All the activities on offer additional to lectures certainly make Reading stand out and hugely improve your chances of securing a graduate position.

You mentioned that you now work for the DVSA, please could you tell us more about this?

After graduating from Reading in 2014, I spent several years working in the private sector with Strutt & Parker before moving in to public sector/interim roles to allow time to assist with the management of the family farm/tourism business.

My current role as a Property Management Surveyor at the DVSA (Driving Vehicle Standards Agency) sees me responsible for the strategic management of all aspects of their property portfolio to help ensure the agency’s business needs and aspirations are met. The day-to-day work here is both interesting and incredibly varied. It’s a bit of a cliché but no two days are the same! One day I could be negotiating terms for a new lease for a Driving Test Centre in inner-city London, the next I could be working on a planning application for one of our smaller sites on one of the remote Scottish islands! My role covers all aspects of Property/Estate Management including; lease renewals, rent reviews, valuations acquisitions & disposals, planning matters and general estate management.

The portfolio covers all areas of England, Scotland and Wales, providing opportunities to visit some lovely parts of the UK.

How do you think your time in REP set you up for your current role?

One of the best parts of the undergraduate course at Reading is the format where all students study the same modules in years one and two before specialising in year three. I chose the Rural pathway for year three but having good knowledge in other disciplines from the first two years of study made the transition from Rural Surveying to my current role as a GP/Commercial Surveyor much smoother and undoubtedly opened up a range of job opportunities.

My time in REP also enabled me to develop and improve many soft skills through numerous group activities and presentations. The academic side of the course is important but in this line of work it is equally important to have a wide range of soft skills. Good communication skills, the ability to work well in a team, effective time-management and leadership are all skills I use on a daily basis and the course at Reading certainly helped me improve in these areas.

Are there any lessons you learnt over your time here?

I had my ups and downs during my time at University like most students will. Prior to starting the undergraduate degree I had three years in the workplace after completing sixth- form and as a result I found adapting to study and lectures tough. There were a few modules I found particularly difficult to grasp and I would get downhearted if I didn’t get the best marks on a coursework or exam. I eventually received a few graduate job offers but was also very hard on myself if I didn’t get offered an interview or job for one of the roles I applied for.

With a now older (and hopefully wiser!) head on my shoulders I can see now how I shouldn’t have let these experiences deter me. At the end of the day, everyone has different strengths and weaknesses and I do believe that good results will come if you keep plugging away and trying your best. The lessons I learnt here were to believe in myself, back my own ability more, manage my emotions better and turn possible negatives in to positives.

Are there any lessons or advice for prospective undergraduate students whilst studying at Henley?

There are endless opportunities to get involved in course-related activities, societies, clubs while at University of Reading so my advice would be to throw yourself in and have a go to fully maximise the experience!

Obviously, it’s important to do your best on your chosen course but making the most of extra-curricular activities will not only enable you to make some great memories but also boost your CV which is hugely important when it comes to standing out in a competitive job market. Speaking from experience, I had a part-time job as a youth Sports Coach and was involved in several sports clubs during my time at University. These experiences all helped my post-University job prospects.

I would also advise students to explore the local area. Coming from “up north” I had no knowledge of Reading prior to starting university. Myself and my mates found some cracking pubs off the beaten track and there is lots to do and see in the town and Berkshire is an amazing county to discover! Three years at University passes by very quickly so most importantly, have fun!

Do you have any advice for graduate jobseekers?

My advice to graduate jobseekers would be to make yourself stand out in any way you can and ensure you’re in the best possible position when it comes to applying for jobs. The hard work and additional hours are worth it in the long run.

I thought I was lacking a little industry work experience so asked my RREF mentor if I could do a few days with him and this definitely strengthened my CV. Jane Batchelor, the Careers Development Office was another source of support I made the most of and she was a tremendous help. Jane advised on how my CV could be altered to look more professional and concise and I have used this format ever since when applying for jobs. So I would strongly advise you to make the most of any additional support available which might give you the edge when it comes to the graduate job application progress as there is certainly a lot of help out there.

My number one piece of advice is to be yourself! Some of the best job interviews I have had are where the conversation has moved from questions about technical expertise to hobbies and interests. An employer is looking for someone to do a good job for them but in my experience, they are equally looking for someone with character and personality which makes them a more rounded member of the team.

Published 9 December 2021
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