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Changing expectations for young Londoners

By Sophia Wood-Burgess

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Empower young people to reach their full potential.

On 13 October, 2021, Foxtons CEO, Nic Budden welcomed Career Ready CEO Tokunbo Ajasa-Oluwa and Cambridge University Graduate/Career Ready Alumnus, Victoria Ayodeji to share their experiences of social mobility and mentorship.

Every socially distanced seat was filled in the room, and we welcomed a max capacity digital audience in our offices across London.

The Career Ready and Foxtons panel, with speakers seated in front of a social mobility infographic

A word from our panel

Through this event, the panel speakers packed the hour with a wealth of information. It motivated swift action from the Foxtons team, driving up our mentor applications and creating a buzz of excitement around our offices.

  • Nic gave advice on how young people can achieve social mobility from his own journey to becoming the CEO of Foxtons, “I know from personal experience how important social mobility support is. The school you go to, the networks that your parents have, your financial position, can either boost or hold back your career substantially.” In the workplace, he recommended setting high standards for yourself, going in to every professional experience with clear objectives and a strategy to reach those objectives, and finding a mindset of personal resilience – treating success and setbacks both as an opportunity to learn and change.
  • Nic Budden talking at panel on mentorship

  • Tokunbo expressed the value of mentors throughout a professional life, “I swear by mentors. They played a role in my life where they were able to challenge me, help me to acquire a bit of critical thinking around my assumptions, but they were also opening doors and championing me in rooms that I couldn’t get access to, and providing the exposure to experiences that I wouldn’t be able to get alone.” His work, as the CEO of Career Ready, seeks to bring together young people with those mentors who are reliably supportive, showing them how to navigate office politics and gain experience in the business environment, and in so doing, remove the barriers to their confidence.
  • Victoria described her experience of the Career Ready programme and how it developed her confidence and helped her to pursue more opportunities. Victoria remembered, “I’d gone to see [my Career Ready mentor], and I was really on the fence about applying to programmes because I didn’t know much about consulting or the tech sector, but she booked out a client room and we did the application together,” She was accepted to the programme for Accenture, and followed it up with more work experiences, including geological research in the US and an internship at the Department of Education. She recently graduated from Cambridge with numerous accolades to her name. She faces the working world with a considerable resume, on the cusp of launching her own public speaking business.

Victoria Ayodeji talking at a panel on mentorship

The road so far

We began our partnership with Career Ready in April 2021. Much of our relationship so far has been virtual, as a result of the pandemic, so this panel was a wonderful opportunity to see the Foxtons spirit bolstered by a new opportunity, and to get to know this remarkable programme better. Career Ready is on a mission to empower young people, because too many of their paths in life are determined by their background. Tokunbo described how Career Ready works: “The role we have, essentially, is connecting undiscovered talent to an abundance of businesses. Many of the young people we work with have phenomenal potential and great skills. What they lack is totally out of their control – it could be based on the circumstances that they’re born in, lack of network, but it’s never about their lack of talent. Our role is helping them realise their talent and potential, and we do that by exposing them to opportunities, like meeting individuals like [Foxtons employees] and coming into businesses like Foxtons. That helps them make informed choices.”

The word that kept cropping up at our panel was confidence. Career Ready puts together experiences that give young people confidence in professional environments, which enables them to make informed decisions throughout their career path. For the role of the mentor, Tokunbo stressed the importance of bolstering confidence in the mentee’s own skills rather than providing all the answers, pulling from is own experience as a young journalist, “I never fathomed that I would be running a multimillion-pound, national organisation as a CEO. I didn’t know any CEOs, and there’s less than 2% CEOs in this country that are black. So there wasn’t really much of a template out there for me. So looking back on the role that my mentors played, they were in my corner every round, boosting me up, giving me that self-esteem injection that I needed to keep persevering.”

Tokunbo Ajasa-Oluwa talking at a panel on mentorship

Building a broader perspective

There is a huge benefit from estate agencies, like Foxtons, partnering with an organisation like Career Ready. Tokunbo said, “I think it’s critical to have estate agents [connected to Career Ready], because we target supporting undiscovered talent in environments of high challenge.” The goal is to give young people a reason to walk through the doors of the Foxtons on their high street, “from the perspective of aspiration, to say, ‘One day I’m going to purchase one of those properties.’” It enables them to engage with their communities, move up and potentially become community leaders.

A Foxtons office lit up at night with business people inside.

There are also benefits for Foxtons, and even for our customers. Foxtons believes in reflecting the communities we work in, to build a more knowledgeable team that can honestly and openly connect with the people we serve. In the panel, Nic said, “When we recruit, we look way beyond academic qualifications. We look for enthusiastic people who are going to work hard for their customers, and, importantly, who are going to add something special to the team in terms of diversity of thinking. I think it’s time to turn that outside of the company to focus on some of the younger people in our communities who could do with our support to reach their full potential. And that’s really what our partnership with Career Ready is all about.”

We decided to join together with Career Ready because it allows us to bring into our team the perspectives of talented individuals we might not otherwise be able to reach. As Tokunbo pointed out, a chance like this puts Foxtons in contact with the next generation entering the workforce. That benefits our customers, because a well-rounded company is more informed, creative and capable. Together, we can build stronger communities throughout London.

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