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How I became a Chartered Surveyor

26th November 2021

The post: Valuer, Land & Property Services

The post holder: Marianne Graham

An interest in property has been a guiding factor in Marianne Graham’s career journey.

Give a brief outline of your career to date.

After university, I spent five years working as a residential estate agent. I joined Land & Property Services (LPS) in May 2015 and became a Member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in October 2018. I specialise in statutory valuations for rating purposes but I’ve experienced a wide variety of work during my career to date. I am now part of the Reval 2023 team, which will revalue over 74,000 business properties in the coming months to ensure business rates stay up-to-date and reflect local economic changes.

What was your favourite subject at school?

English Literature – I enjoyed the texts we studied, analysing characters and their role within the narrative. It also helped that my mum was an English teacher so she was able to keep me on track!

Did you go on to further/ higher education, if so what did you study and where?

After completing my A Levels, I attended Ulster University and completed a four-year degree in Property Investment & Development. My placement year was a huge benefit as it gave me a real insight into the world of property.

How did you get into your area of work?

My grandfather had a friend who was an established estate agent and l was asking him questions to learn more. This further sparked my interest in the sector and led me towards a degree in property.

Is this what you always wanted to do?

I briefly wanted to be an Interior Designer but on balance felt that I was more suited to a career in property. I still take a keen interest in design and enjoy decorating.

Were there any particular essential qualifications or experience needed?

The essential criteria for LPS valuers includes having an RICS Accredited degree. LPS supports people beginning their career in property and with this encouragement I was able to achieve my goal of becoming a qualified chartered surveyor. Being a chartered surveyor will support my career progression within LPS.

Are there alternative routes into the job?

LPS regularly recruits new staff, from those with a third level property related qualification who are not yet chartered, to fully qualified and experienced chartered surveyors with many years’ experience.

What are the main personal skills your job requires?

A significant proportion of my job involves liaising with the public where interpersonal skills are crucial to building trust. On a daily basis, having a good professional knowledge of the issues assists with accuracy and fairness in decision-making based on factual data.

What does a typical day entail?

The great thing about my job is that I learn something new every day! My current role on the Northern Ireland Reval 2023 project involves supporting business ratepayers with queries they may have when completing the Rent & Lease Questionnaire. The questionnaire is an opportunity for ratepayers to have their say and ensure their rates bills remain fair and accurate. The information provided will be analysed and used to set the new valuations on which business rates will be payable from April 2023.

What are the best and most challenging aspects of the job?

The best part of my job is being part of new and diverse projects. The job takes you out on site, collecting property information, meeting ratepayers at their properties and dealing with queries.

The move to a remote working environment has at times been a challenge. In my new role, I miss being able to ask a colleague a question in an office environment but I have been fortunate in that my new team are all approachable and have the ethos that no question is a silly one!

Why is what you do important?

Rates are hugely important as they help fund the vital public services we all need such as health, education and essential council services. My role in LPS contributes to ensuring fairness in the valuations, which are used to calculate business and household rates bills.

How has Covid-19 impacted your business/role?

Covid has undoubtedly changed how we do our jobs. Moving to home working was an easy transition for me as meetings and training moved online. As an organisation, the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) supported us with IT equipment to ensure we had the tools to do our work. The pandemic strengthened our role as an important support service to the public and we took on the additional task of administering vital financial assistance through various Covid grant schemes.

What adjustments have you had to make?

The main adjustment has been working from home and getting to grips with virtual meetings, with the camera on! I made a conscious effort to separate my work environment from home life, converting a spare bedroom into an office and this has worked well for me.

What advice would you give anyone looking to follow a similar career path?

Speak to someone who is already involved in the property sector and seek out any work experience or work shadowing opportunities. I found these beneficial and they will help you decide if this is the career for you.

If you weren’t doing this what would you like to do?

I would like to teach primary school level or go back to my aspiration of interior design.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to yourself on your first day?

Be yourself and don’t panic! LPS is a supportive and encouraging organisation, which wants you to succeed. Listen and take every opportunity to learn from the more experienced staff members. Every person has had ‘a first day’ and will want to make you feel welcome so smile and introduce yourself.

Describe your ideal day off.

My ideal day off would be waking up in Donegal, walking the beach with my husband and our dog Molly (and maybe a hot chocolate) followed by lunch with my family in Nancy’s Pub in Ardara.

And finally, what’s the key to any successful job search?

Carry out thorough research and speak to people who are already doing or have knowledge of the job and keep your options open. You never know what opportunities will come along and I am a firm believer in what is meant for you won’t get past you!

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