Not an awful balcony view
London Lofts is tucked away in a gated mews just off Angel’s Upper Street. I spent two weeks with the start-up, which specialises in London’s alternative living spaces, and completely surprised myself with how much I enjoyed it.
I’ll admit up front, working in the property industry was a bit of a long shot for me. It was one of my more ‘sensible’ choices among the 25 careers, and was something I was considering more because I liked the idea of the creative side of it – the development and interior design aspects really. However, what I found during my time with London Lofts was far more than that. It was not so much the anticipated design or development which drew me in, but the entrepreneurial spirit and camaraderie.
Whilst at university, I had intentionally wanted to avoid the private sector and was set on working in the public and third sectors. Why? Because I didn’t like the idea of working purely for profit and, in the narrowest of viewpoints, for any social impact or benefit. Realising fairly early on into my working life that profit and social impact were by no means mutually exclusive, one thing I wanted to do through 25before25 was gain some varied experience in the private sector. The idea of working for a start-up was especially attractive, as I imagined it would provide the greatest contrast possible to the 440,000-person strong organisation I had just left.
London Lofts has three members of staff – two co-founders and a bright-young-thing in his twenties. Between them, there is an awful lot of banter, bad singing and lunches at the local caff. But those are the exact reasons why they seemed to work together so well. On several days, 40% of the time I spent with them was purely about bouncing ideas around, or to put it in long-abandoned officespeak ‘determining the strategic direction’ of the company. We moved between that and the minutiae of a sales deal without pausing for breath. And if someone had a good idea, ‘great, let’s go for it!’ It sometimes felt impulsive, yes, but is that always a bad thing?
On the Importance of Banter
Reflecting on my time there, the positive impact of getting on with colleagues had never been more apparent. This is something that seems obvious and that, of course, everyone would like. But I have never felt the real effect of working in such a friendly and happy environment. This is not to say my previous experiences with colleagues have been unhappy by any means, but never before on a Sunday evening had I looked forward to Monday morning. Was it because I enjoyed what I was doing or because I enjoyed the company of the people? I can now understand why this distinction might not matter too much to many.
Recruiting ‘people with personality’ mattered to the chaps at London Lofts. It makes work feel less like work. Add the excitement of a start-up to the mix and you have an engaging, dynamic and creative workplace.
They even played Christmas songs. In November.
The Actual Job
London Lofts sells and rents ‘alternative’ properties, and as their name suggests, it usually involves lofts. And some pretty nice ones at that. The sorts of places that most of us will only ever dream of owning (see The Millennial Contradiction for my gripes with that issue).
They have also recently branched out into property development, and were working on converting a disused chapel in Peckham that, until recently, belonged to a ‘banker-turned-bohemian' who realised he was 'actually more of a banker’ in the end. I was incredibly fortunate that I arrived at (what I viewed as) the best part – the furnishing of the show house. One thing I maintain to be true, is that it is difficult not to have a good time furniture-buying your heart out. It has even made me consider taking an interior design course at some point in the future.
Much of the rest of my time with London Lofts was spent working on their social media, writing PR pieces, going all over London to look at properties, and the general business brainstorming that I have already mentioned. I loved the problem solving nature of working with the company, and found it intellectually stimulating in a way that I’d never experienced before. Working in such a small start-up like London Lofts would certainly allow me to add a huge amount of value, be innovative and creative. Getting out of the office meant that every day was a bit different and varied, although I’m not sure if it would be varied enough for me in the longer-term.
Despite this so-far glowing review, on balance the role still didn’t tick half of my key boxes. There would have been very little travel, there were very limited opportunities to make a difference and whilst I would be able to think strategically about the company, I’m uncertain if that would be strategic enough for me.
Strategic, for me, would be having the opportunity to advise on a national level about the London’s property crisis or homelessness issues, for example. This being said, as with any career, it is very much what you make of it. Making a difference and influencing at a strategic level are by no means impossible goals if I decide to work in this industry.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with London Lofts and got a huge amount out of the experience. I now know that I want to work for (or launch my own!) start-up as I loved the freedom, camaraderie and challenge that it can provide, along with that undefined entrepreneurial spirit.
I definitely want to explore working in the property industry further. However, I wonder if it would perhaps be better suited to an Emma-in-her-forties. The opportunity to travel through work is pretty critical in my twenties, as is the ability to make a difference and influence at a more strategic level. If I chose to pursue a career in property now, these elements would likely not come until later life, whereas working in other industries would provide me with those opportunities earlier.
Although if there was a way to build it into a portfolio career sooner, who knows!
London Lofts website can be found here.
This article can also be viewed on the Property careers page.