BSc Geography - Jessica Groome

Please could you provide an overview of your career journey?

Jessica GroomeSince graduating from UEA's BSc Geography in 2018, I've worked within the Land and Planning teams at three of the largest UK housebuilders. 

This has set me up incredibly well for my career in town planning.

I was very fortunate in that I had my first full time job lined up ready for when I finished my third year of uni. I was incredibly happy to be able to stay in Norwich, where I’ve lived ever since I started UEA in 2015.

Alongside my first role as Trainee Planner, I studied a 3-year distance learning Master's course with UWE Bristol. This has enabled me to become a licentiate member of the Royal Town Planning Institute. I'm currently working towards my L-APC with the aim of become a chartered member of the Institute within the next year.

I now work as a Planner at Barratt David Wilson Homes, who set up a new Anglia division in 2022. I’ve now been with BDW Anglia for over a year and couldn’t ask for more from an employer both professionally and personally.

Please describe a typical day in your current or most recent role. What are your roles and responsibilities, and what you find most rewarding?

No two days are the same!

We have a fairly small Land and Planning team which keeps us all incredibly busy. The key purpose of our team is to acquire land for new housing and see this through the planning stages all the way to site completion.

A typical day might involve:

  • undertaking planning appraisals on new land to determine its planning potential
  • assisting with the preparation and submission of planning applications
  • project managing a wider team of professional consultants
  • liaising with local planning authorities and communities about current and emerging sites
  • and staying up to date with both local and national planning policy.

It's incredibly rewarding to see houses being built on a site you’ve been involved in from site acquisition, when previously it was just a field with no planning permission. It's also great to be able to provide a number of community benefits for the local area as part of the planning permission.

What do you love about working in your field?

I love that town planning draws on a huge amount of different disciplines and topics. It's such an all-encompassing role that has real world implications.

I can also draw upon a number of the skills and concepts I learnt at UEA during my Geography degree.

The networking opportunities are great, and there’s always the opportunity to work with and learn from a variety of different professionals.

What drew you to UEA and studying Geography?

Having grown up in Suffolk only an hour down the road, UEA and Norwich was a place that was already a little familiar to me.

I was drawn in by the incredibly friendly atmosphere I experienced on open days. UEA's School of Environmental Science appeared incredibly strong and well-respected.

Geography had been my favourite subject throughout school, owing to the amazing Geography teachers.

I knew I wanted to go to university, not only to study, but also to build my independence and confidence and so choosing my favourite subject completely made sense.

I’ll be honest, careers in the field had not even crossed my mind when I chose my course and so things have worked out pretty well I’d say!

How has your degree influenced your career?

My Geography degree became incredibly versatile when job-hunting. It opened up a number of different avenues for me.

The broad, all-encompassing nature of the subject meant that I could apply it to a huge variety of roles.

I almost fell into town planning (with very little knowledge of what it was at the time of applying for jobs). It was the first job I interviewed for and was lucky enough to get.

Little did I know I’d still be a planner five years later. It turns out that a LOT of other planners also started out as Geography students.

What skills did you learn during your time at UEA that you still use?

I learnt a number of skills during my time at UEA and definitely use the majority of them to this day.

Report writing, independent project work, problem solving, written and spoken communication, and working to tight deadlines are just a few that sprint to mind! Along with the understanding and enthusiasm when dealing with real world environmental and social issues.

At what point did you start thinking about your next steps after UEA?

I knew that I wanted to stay in Norwich after university and wanted to give myself the best chances of making that happen.

I was thinking about my next steps towards early 2018 - the year I was set to graduate.

Did you use UEA’s Careers Service?

I frequently checked the job opportunities advertised on the UEA Careers website, as well as the whole host of careers guidance available online.

There were a lot of opportunities through the School of Environmental Sciences that enabled me to build a strong CV that reflected the skills I’d learned from each of my modules.

Do you have any advice for students about choosing a career or securing employment?

Do something that includes elements of topics you’re passionate about.

Be your true authentic self and equip yourself with a strong CV and the right job will often find you.

Remember, you’re never stuck anywhere. Find somewhere that meets not only your professional goals but aids your personal goals too.

Any words of advice for prospective or current UEA Environmental Science students?

Just do it. UEA is wonderful, after all.

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