A day in the life as a Graduate Planner… During a pandemic!

Rebecca Tilley, Graduate Planner at DHA, joined the company the day before the last lockdown - here she describes her experiences in navigating a new career whilst working from home.

A typical day in the office as a Graduate Planner starts at around 8.15am with a cup of coffee and a quick catch up with colleagues, before settling into work and planning the day ahead. However, this “typical day” has not been the case for the majority of my time at DHA…

On my first day at the office, I was greeted by the Office Manager who introduced me to each team at DHA, all of whom made me feel incredibly welcome. I was enjoying my first day, there was a lot to take in, but it was going well. It wasn’t long however before there were whispers of another national lockdown. I assumed it to be rumours, as we had not long been out of the last lockdown - surely, we could not be going into another?

I finished work at around 5.30pm and arrived home just in time to watch the news… Another lockdown! My working day and my experience of starting a new role was about to be a lot different to what I had expected.

The next day I returned to the office to collect my things. A somewhat surreal experience, packing up my desk after only one day, but I was ready to take on the challenge of learning a new job whilst working from home.

Being a graduate and learning a completely new job via Teams was challenging to say the least. During my first week, my day-to-day consisted of calls to my Mentor and my Manager, who could not have been more supportive! I learnt about the new projects which I would be involved in and started to pick up the basics of planning. I attended calls with other teams at DHA to understand their roles in the planning process and what their days consist of. I learnt a lot in my first week and tried to make the best of an unprecedented situation.

During my first few months working from home, I made sure I attended a variety of virtual meetings on a day-to-day basis, with clients, design teams, and pre-application meetings with Local Planning Authorities so I could listen in and help to understand from a first-hand basis the variety of work that goes into the full planning application process. I even attended a few site visits which was a really valuable way of learning about different schemes.

It was not always easy working from home; you can ask all the questions in the world and speak on the phone all day, but without the in-person interaction and getting to know my new colleagues it did prove a challenge. However, DHA arranged quiz nights, regular team catchups and virtual coffee mornings to encourage team interaction, and this allowed me to catch-up with my new colleagues on a regular basis.

Now that I'm back in the office, I have started to gain more confidence by attending more meetings, undertaking more independent work and broadening my range of projects across DHA. My day-to-day job includes assisting members of my team with preparing planning applications, planning statements, site appraisals and attending meetings.

I have worked on residential projects from 2 to 80 units, barn conversions, glamping sites, listed building consents, planning appeals and appraisals and a number of schools in Kent and London. I have been entrusted to cover work and meetings in the absence of team members which has helped to build my confidence more over the last few months. 

Starting as a Graduate Planner in the middle of a global pandemic certainly has made an interesting start to my career, but DHA have been great in helping me to settle in. The support I’ve received has been fantastic and it has taught me a wealth of things, but being able to adapt and make the best out of a situation has built my confidence in ways I could not have imagined.

For more information about DHA's graduate programme, please click here.

For more information call 01622 776226 or email:

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