Polly Burdell

Director

Company: The Accouter Group of Companies

Industry Sector: Property

A Levels: Business and Economics, Politics, Geography, General Studies
Grades Achieved: AABB

University: Oxford Brookes
Degree Course: Business and Marketing Management

Professional Accreditation: BA

I left school not knowing what I wanted to do when I ‘grew up’, so university was the natural progression and it gave me a bit more time to decide what I would do as a career. I never really considered that not going to university was an option. I was good at and enjoyed Business and Economics at school and I felt it was a good idea to study a broad subject at university, allowing me the potential to enter into a variety of different sectors afterwards. Three years later and I was still none the wiser, so I thought I’d take a gap year and as such needed to earn some pennies to fund my travels. I started working at the LSF Development Office, which was a great insight into the 9-5 world of working. I was able to spend time with a number of alumni, coordinating events and helping on the marketing campaigns. I discovered how much I loved working with and talking to people. My people skills developed further when in my next move, I worked for a local start-up selling gorgeous hand-made dog collars and leads to gift shops via home and giftware trade shows. I loved spending time with lovely things and like-minded people. I was dealing with many individual shop owners, and at trade shows, I loved wandering around looking at all the other gorgeous things being sold. I was able to use some of the skills I’d learnt at university to help implement brand, marketing and PR plans. After a couple of years, still living at home, I decided it was time for a move. Many of my friends had moved to the ‘big smoke’ and I had at this point decided that I liked working with ‘nice things’; luxury products, brands that I identified with. Homeware and giftware, a food focus, boats… I had lots of grand plans and my thought process changed a million times as to what my next grand venture was going to be! I applied for one job through a recruiter and found another job through an advert on Facebook posted by a friend from university. One was for a big gift company, the other was a sales job at a luxury interior design company. I started my day of interviews in Mayfair for the interiors company. I was able to show that although I had never worked for an interior design company, that I would be able transfer many of my skills learnt in previous work to the role posted – becoming a Business Development Coordinator (essentially finding new business and dealing with administration for my colleagues).

I then headed off to Bethnal Green to interview for a role selling ‘party bag style’ products in great scale to multinational gift shops. I think both the interviewer and I realised the job wasn’t for me within about three minutes. Not quite the luxury brand I had in mind. I left the interview in Bethnal Green and received a telephone call from the interiors company offering me the job. Not quite as easy at that, but not far off and I had a good feeling about the company.

"I felt it was a good idea to study a broad subject at university, allowing me the potential to enter into a variety of different sectors afterwards."

I started as a junior, mentored by a fabulous boss who I was able to shadow, meeting and managing clients and targeting new ways to find business. This experience was invaluable as I was then introduced to other property people on the back of these initial networks. I worked all hours wining and dining, entertaining and building a strong network of contacts (this all sounds very glamorous but it was exhausting at the same time!). No longer ‘9 til 5’, my hours were 9 to often 3 am, returning to the office the next morning to start again. The key was the networks and I used my people skills to make friends with referrers and clients who have gone on to give me lots of repeat business. I quickly started bringing in my own business and brought on some big accounts which I then managed and in time grew a team to help manage these accounts. From around 10 of us when I started, we are now a team of around 70 and I am lucky to have grown my position as the company has expanded. I was fortunate to have brilliant bosses, who saw where my skills were and let me run with what I was good at and didn’t pigeonhole me into one role. They essentially created a role to suit me. I work from home when I need to, get to go out and see some of the most beautiful homes in London, I travel overseas, work with incredible clients and have made so many friends along the way! I have been very lucky and I love my job!

"I was fortunate to have brilliant bosses, who saw where my skills were and let me run with what I was good at and didn’t pigeonhole me into one role. "

Alumni Wisdom

Job Search Tips

Jobs can be found everywhere and anywhere. Talk to people you know, find out what they do, if there are any openings or if you can be introduced to anyone relevant. Friends are a great place to start; Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

Current Needs of Employers in my field

We like to hire like-minded people, which is why we try to recruit internally through friends of friends and social media.

Things I wish I’d known in Sixth Form

You don’t have to go to university. Although I loved it and had a brilliant time and made lots of great friends, I know so many people who spent those three years working their way up ‘on the job’ and didn’t come away with £££ of debt, but more ‘real life’ experience. For my job, it wouldn’t have made a difference if I had a degree or not, but obviously this depends on the job.

There is an endless list of jobs out there that you never knew even existed. So many people like me fall into jobs that they never dreamed of at school. When I was at school there were books with lists of careers which I would look through. I don’t think Business Development Manager at an Interior Design Company was in there funnily enough!

Personality, confidence and hard work can get you a very long way. A positive, can-do attitude is a game changer. I think you draw people to you with a positive energy. Grades aren’t everything.

You build different skills through every step of your life and there are always transferable elements of every job you do. Don’t think because you started doing one thing, you can’t change. You don’t need to pigeonhole yourself into one thing. Things develop as you move through life and the world is your oyster.

Describe LHS in three words

Memorable, Enriching, Educational (!)