Sam Johnson is from Cumbria. Having studied BSc (Hons) REALM 2010-2014 and spending his placement year working for Savills UK he was offered a job as a graduate rural surveyor with Carter Jonas. We caught up with him just before his final exams.
Was attending an open day useful in helping you choose a uni?
The open day was a brilliant day to not only see what the university was like but also talk to current students about their experience of what life is actually like at Harper.
Why did you choose to study at Harper Adams?
I heard of the university through some family friends who also came to study here. I was drawn by the reputation the university had, but also the fact that the REALM course was RICS accredited, which gave it the winning edge.
What have been the best things about the course?
The diversity of modules enables you to develop an understanding of the key principles to become a professional Chartered Surveyor.
What skills/knowledge have you gained that will be useful after you graduate?
A Chartered Surveying career is a ‘people’s business’ therefore the course has given me the confidence to communicate and present to a range of different people. The REALM course is kept up to date with current affairs too. For example, I found in my final year a lot of information was given to us regarding the current CAP reform.
What sort of projects have you been involved in? What is your dissertation/research project about?
The REALM course is fortunate enough to have numerous assignments sponsored by leading Chartered Surveying firms who provide real life scenarios that are helpful in converting theory into a practical scenario. My dissertation was influenced from my time spent on placement in Oxford, where I was fully involved in the sale and acquisition of farms and estates throughout central England. As such, I did my dissertation on the methods of sale used to sell farmland in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. I found that the private treaty method of sale was generally used to sell larger acreages whereas smaller parcels of land were more likely to be sold by auction.
How would you describe Harper Adams?
I think the Harper motto ‘Work hard, play hard’ says it all. And both of these are definitely provided for by excellent state of the art facilities.
The teaching/staff support at Harper is …
Second to none. The majority of REALM lecturers have spent several years within the industry so their practical experience is evident in their lectures given which helps when giving examples.
What do you think of the campus?
I think Harper Adams has developed significantly in the four years I have been here. The library offers excellent resources and assistance. The Faccenda building has provided a central hub to the campus but has also provided a diverse atmosphere of social and learning facilities.
What’s your favourite SU activity?
The SU always provide an excellent Wednesday night with endless themes… It’s also a brilliant chance to catch up with friends.
What are your favourite memories of the university?
The annual summer ball is always a highlight of the year.
Have you explored Shropshire and beyond campus?
Harper Adams is well placed to be able to visit a wide range of places. With Shrewsbury only being 30 minutes away, a group of us often visited there. Ironbridge, near Telford, is also a nice place to visit if you ever have any visitors to stay.
What did you do in your spare time?
I was a Student Ambassador in my first year. This involved showing prospective students and parents around the campus and explaining what the REALM course involved.
What did you do on placement?
I worked for Savills UK Limited as an Assistant Rural Surveyor. It is a leading chartered surveying firm. I was based in Oxford where I was predominantly involved in the sale and acquisition of farms and estates throughout central England.
What would you do in a typical day?
No day was ever the same. A typical day would sometime consist of a morning spent in the office taking enquiries of farms on the market as well as drafting sales particulars for farms that were coming to the market. The afternoon could be spent out on farms doing viewings with prospective purchasers or pitching to a potential vendor who is looking to sell their farm. The diversity keeps the career fresh, with no day ever being dull.
What was the best thing about being on placement?
Meeting a variety of characters and gaining a invaluable year of experience which has helped enormously in the final year modules where you can apply experience you have gained whilst out ‘doing the job’!
Did you apply what you’d learned at university while you were on placement?
The first two years at university provided the core principles to allow me to go out and put it into practice. My supervisor said it was evident that I had the basic understanding of the sales process involved in selling farmland, which was gained from my valuation and rural professional practice module. I think overall, placement not only gave me more technical knowledge but also provided me with better time management which I felt was of great importance in final year to balance work and social life.
What support did you receive from the placement team?
Regular e-mails and telephone communication with my placement supervisors was a comfort to know that there is support for placement students if needed. My placement supervisor came to see me twice whilst on placement; one at the beginning and one at the end to review my progress. We were also regularly updated on the university’s latest news.
How will placement help you in the future?
It has opened many doors to the land agency career and having already gained 12 months of my APC, I hope to be able to become Chartered within the first 16 months when I graduate.
Tell us about the job you are going into …
I’ll be working for Carter Jonas as a Graduate Rural Surveyor.
What sort of tasks and responsibilities will it involve?
A varied role within the rural department, I will be predominantly involved with day to day estate management for private and institutional clients as well as valuation, farm agency and landlord and tenant matters.
How did you find out about the job?
The Harper Adams Careers fair was where I first made contact with the firm regarding graduate positions. I was also fortunate to have a weeks’ worth of work experience with the firm which gave me an insight into the firm and what the line of work involved.
What skills/experience was your future employer looking for? And why were you the right person for the job?
Carter Jonas was looking for someone who is innovative, approachable and to take on the opportunity to learn new skills. They also look at people are passionate about the rural sector and its future preservation. I think I was the right candidate because I had a year of experience with another firm in the local area. But also because I am passionate about developing my own knowledge of the chartered surveying profession.
What careers, in your experience, are available to land-based graduates?
The future for the rural sector is very optimistic. In a time when there lies a lot of uncertainty within the commercial and residential market, the rural farmland sector has grown in size, attracting a lot of attention from the non-farming background. A rural Chartered Surveyor is not just limited to dealing with the rural sector. The rural Chartered Surveyor will also often deal with commercial and residential portfolios of their clients. There is also an increasing need for rural Valuers overseas, in countries such as Australia and Eastern Europe, so it’s not just tied to a job here in the UK.
Do you think being a graduate will make a difference to your position and salary?
A graduate position for me, enables me to complete my RICS exams to enable me to become a fully Chartered Practising surveyors. From there I hope the salary would increase to reflect my professional standard.
What advice do you have for a student interested in a similar career path?
Get as much experience as you can, both with land agency firms but also a variety of different farms to enable you be able to apply that knowledge to your professional career. I would also advise speaking to existing students and lecturers on the REALM course to tell you about what the course involves.