First impressions count. A client’s decision to choose an agent is usually made as soon as the valuer steps over the threshold. I wonder what clients’ first impressions of me were; a baby faced teenager trying to look older by wearing a smart suit and odd cufflinks.
I do look young, aged 21. Whatever I do or say, I am hindered by the fact that I look 15. Chris Collins, ‘one of those very young estate agents’.
I’ve moved on since I started in estate agency aged 18, I’m even seeing the first signs of stubble! I have just turned 21 and like many others, I like to think I know everything. I realise I don’t but a slight confidence (cockiness) helped me survive three years in this industry. Hands up – I’m no property expert, I am just starting my career as a young estate agent; I understand that I need to rely on the wisdom of others to progress. However, I know it can be difficult for someone young to get into the industry. So, where does someone under 25 start?
After my A levels and six months travelling, I decided that property was the career for me. I didn’t have much luck; no job,no car, no money and considerable debt. After many fruitless applications, a family friend gave me hope; a month’s unpaid work experience at the agency where she worked. I jumped at it. During my time there, I overheard a conversation about a new office opening nearby. After an email to the director and an interview, I was offered a job as a trainee property Valuer at TW Gaze, in Diss, Norfolk. I was lucky, few 18 year olds have such good fortune. But should young people have to rely on luck to get a job? Shouldn’t employers look at young people as an opportunity to protect the future of their business rather than an unnecessary expense?
I’m not implying that all employers discriminate against us, just trying to change the mindset on young people in the workplace.
I’m not implying that employers discriminate against us, just trying to change the mindset on young people in the workplace. If the right employer gives an enthusiastic youngster an opportunity, the relationship can flourish; as happened with TW Gaze and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity and the advice they gave me, particularly Mike Sarson and Rowena Youngson. It wasn’t always easy; a few employees may have questioned why Mike hired a fresh faced 18 year-old to do a more experienced person’s job. I like to think he saw something in me, a driven person with a willingness to learn, (I may be getting a bit carried away here!) During my first months, colleagues did not necessarily acknowledge my input, but that changed as I proved myself capable.
I do look young. I am hindered by the fact that I look 15. Part of my job was to convince potential clients that I was sufficiently experienced to comment on the value of their home. Advice like, “I’d think about de-cluttering before you come to market,” was met with dismissive looks, or a call to Mike asking why he had sent a ‘kid’ round! Mike, to his credit would reply with “If I didn’t trust him I wouldn’t have sent him out.” He showed great faith in me. I’ve only recently learnt to ignore the comments about my age, it used to really knock my confidence. Mike told me that self-belief would give the clients a reason not to even consider my age. I give the same advice to others with similar issues! Oh and dress the part. A good quality shirt goes a long way. Or try Rowena’s main advice – grow a beard – believe me, I tried!
Young estate agents like me can be an advantage – particularly with technology; we grew up using the internet so whether it’s helping a colleague sort out their email inbox or suggesting an iPad app; I feel I was effective. Our valuers had iPads with a few brochures of previous sales on them. I suggested and helped to develop an iPad app which provided a live link to all previous sales and current listings to give the client a better idea of where their home stood in value.
Studying towards a recognised diploma or degree is now a must. Mike offered me the chance to take the NAEA exams; the letters after my name would ‘add weight’. Because of this I decided to leave to study at the University of Portsmouth. I’ve completed my first year towards a degree in Property Development and I’m set for my second. There are plenty of other courses; I highly recommend them. Although experience is priceless, industry qualifications put you in a much better position. I also worked at TW Gaze over the summer to back up the studies and pay off my student overdraft!
I’d like to see more young people in the industry. The job requires enthusiasm and energy. The onus is on the graduate/trainee to develop a professional approach and a confident manner to break the barriers between them and colleagues/clients. However, the employer needs to be brave enough to support a trainee to ensure their professional development succeeds. I hope this article changes the attitude towards young people in the industry, give them an opportunity! Fingers crossed; in two years time, once qualified, I’ll be looking for a job