“I was impressed when a CEO interviewed me for the Graduate Programme" by Sabina Jereczek
Sabina Jereczek is a Development Manager at Countryside, having completed the Countryside Graduate Programme three years ago.
Looking back on her time as a graduate, Sabina says the contact she had with the senior team is one of the things that has helped the most in her career today.
After completing the Countryside Graduate Programme, I moved into the company’s Development department. I am currently overseeing the £150m regeneration scheme at South Oxhey in Hertfordshire, which will deliver more than 500 new homes and over 50,000 sq. ft. of commercial space to the area.
As a graduate, I never doubted that I had made the right decision in choosing the Countryside Graduate Programme and, looking back now, I still feel the same.
The programme is perfectly set up to instil confidence in each graduate. Instead of practice tasks and dry runs, you are given real projects to work on right from the get-go, and there are so many opportunities to learn and upskill.
But one thing that really stands out to me now is how much face-to-face contact we had with the senior team, and what a confidence boost that was. You often read about senior team involvement in graduate schemes but, at Countryside, it’s genuine.
This contact started from day one. In fact, I had my entry interview for the programme with Graham Cherry, who was then the CEO of Housebuilding. That was really impressive: I was completely blown away by the fact that he had made time to interview graduates as I imagined he would only be involved in interviews for very top-level roles. I am still amazed by it, to be honest.
I remember how Graham always made a point of speaking to the graduates. If he was walking by, he would come up to my desk and ask how I was getting on. He wanted to know what I was working on and whether I was enjoying it. I really appreciated that—all the graduates did.
These interactions made it clear that the senior team did not just support the Graduate Programme—they were interested in the graduates on an individual level and were closely monitoring our progress. Not only did I feel like I was actually cared for at work, it made me feel like an important part of the company—I had something to bring to the table that was valuable.
Over the course of the programme, graduates rotate through different departments, gaining varied experience and an understanding of how the different departments operate. The rotations also mean graduates have an opportunity to work with different teams, including different senior people.
So, as a graduate I was able to build key working relationships with senior members of the business from day one, which really came in handy when I started in the Development team.
For example, once I’d completed the programme, I moved over to Countryside’s office in Acton. Being separate from head office meant I often needed to speak to senior people on the phone but knowing that I had met and worked with them made those phone calls far easier.
My relationships with senior staff gave me confidence as I started in my career—a way of bypassing the nerves that can hold you back when you’re beginning in a new role. This is something I could only have gotten from Countryside’s Graduate Programme: though I have a few different property and construction-related degrees, nothing can replace the contact I had with the senior team, right from the start.