The North East is fortunate in having a number of excellent universities. The students who attend bring wealth to the region and contribute to our cultural buzz, but for the small business community, universities represent an opportunity for growth through an influx of talent.
We have chosen to partner with Northumbria University and to date have employed six graduates, some of whom are still with us, some have moved up the career ladder, going with our best wishes. The latest addition to our happy band is our new Lettings Manager Lucy Denham (pictured right) who comes to us with a BSc (Hons) in Geography.
“A degree in WHAT?” I hear you ask. How does the knowledge that Patagonia is not a new Indy band help a lettings agency? Admittedly, at first glance there is little obvious connection between the study of landscapes, people, places and environment and the interpretation of a lettings contract but this is where Northumbria University comes into its own, matching the individual graduate to a job opportunity.
"When opportunity knocks, don't pull down the shade"
Lucy had shown a marked interest in property and real estate so she came to us in order to undertake a specific project in that area. This was to analyse the home leasehold sector then develop an explanation of the advantages and pitfalls of leasing property. The result exceeded our expectations primarily because it was clear to the laymen. When we try to explain how a lease works we tend to fall into jargon. Lucy did not. As a result, we now have a clear, concise analysis of leasehold written in plain English.
Other benefits in employing a graduate are pretty obvious. Lucy is a ‘digital native’, having grown up with technology. This means understanding the complex digital systems that underpin our business comes naturally with very little tuition.
Lucy grew up with social media and while we do not expect our Lettings Manager to update our Facebook profile, Lucy has an instinctive understanding for reach, influence and penetration in social media. To us digital invaders who did not grow up with social media this means being able to spot what is cool and what is naff. Vitally important if your target audience is primarily under thirty.
Which brings me to another benefit of hiring a graduate. Our ProShare Plus package matches like-minded young professionals, initially on social media, and offers them an all-inclusive shared rental package. In this respect Lucy is our target market with an intuitive understanding of what is important to a young professional starting out on their career.
Any successful business will have a focus on quality management and process improvement, be it the somewhat formal Kansei QMS systems favoured by manufacturing or our more laid-back Italian approach – having a discussion over a nice cup of Lavazza coffee. It is often astonishing how a new pair of eyes can bring a different perspective to our daily challenges and opportunities.
So, by employing a graduate with a keen interest in our business sector we are gaining far more than an extra pair of hands. Statistically there must be a bunch of miserable, grumpy graduates out there? But in my experience the graduates we bring into the business bring drive, ideas and optimism.