UCL Careers


Sabelle Adjagboni

Sabelle graduated from MSc Urban Development Planning in 2021 and is now a Planning Officer for Haringey council.

University College London alum Sabelle Adjagboni.

Tell us about your career path, from graduation to where you are now.

While I was doing my masters, around dissertation time, I started networking a lot with planning professionals on LinkedIn and got myself a mentor. He gave me a lot of tips and it was through his network that I found my first role as a planning administrator in the planning team of a private consultancy. I started that part-time as I was doing my dissertation. When I submitted all my uni work, I went full-time. After about six months, I got promoted to Assistant Planner, and overall, I worked that first job for a year.  

After a year, I wanted to progress but the planning team being a small one, meant there was not much of an opportunity to do so. Hence, I started looking in the public sector as I know councils are always in need of planners and I knew it would be an invaluable experience.  

Having a year's experience was very helpful because I was more prepared and understood the role and the industry better. When it came to my current role with Haringey council, when offering me the position they told me that having UCL on my CV played in my favour because of its reputation but also because there were some alumni in the team that were all hyper-performers!  

What are your core duties and what skills are important to your role?

As a Planning Officer, I handle planning applications that come through the council. It can range from small sites such as single residential houses, to bigger sites like apartment buildings or commercial units! It’s exciting because I get to work on a good range of projects.  

In order to work as a planning officer a good understanding of the UK planning system and policy documents is required. An ability to manage a high workload and meet deadlines is also needed. Additionally, good communication skills are extremely important as I communicate with members of the public and various stakeholders daily.

How did your time at UCL prepare you for the workplace?

Before coming to UCL, I was quite shy and really didn’t like public speaking. But I soon learned that there is nowhere to hide at UCL. You’re really encouraged to put yourself out there. Whether it’s through all the group projects, presentations, or class discussions, you’re encouraged to be critical and bring your point of view forward. In the professional world, this translates into an ability to provide more meaningful and thought-provoking contributions.

The interdisciplinary approach was extremely beneficial because it makes you apt to communicate with specialists in different subjects in the built environment which is invaluable when going to networking events. Networking has played a pivotal role in my professional career. It keeps me on top of relevant news in the industry and I get to meet amazing and influential people. My time at UCL gave me the basic confidence I needed to put myself in those spaces and make a good impression. 

Additionally, on the MSc Urban Development Planning programme, we had a career module that was excellent for gaining real-life experience of what it would be like working with professionals. It allowed us to put the theory into practice and it remains one of my favourite parts of the course. 

Whilst at UCL I was also a Course Representative and a Student Ambassador. Needless to say, such leadership roles are extremely beneficial! Today I proudly volunteer with independent organisations like the BAME Planners Network and Women In Planning, contributing actions and ideas to different parts of their agendas.    

Lastly, I have to recognise the incredible team at UCL Careers, I made full use of the support on offer. I had multiple meetings to discuss my CV and plan of action to apply for jobs and secure interviews.  

UCL Careers ran multiple events throughout the year where professional organisations gave talks about their work, the kind of roles they have, and what they're looking for in candidates. It’s basically a cheat code to get employed and in most cases, you can apply the information to different companies!

Were there any challenges in your job hunt? How did you overcome these?

The biggest challenge was the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that recruitment was generally slower than usual. The best way to overcome that was by being very proactive and networking, which now I realise are still very important although there is no pandemic anymore.

Top tips for current students:

  1. Be passionate, curious, and interested. The truth is, you will only want to go above and beyond for things you are genuinely interested in. My instincts to be proactive and network came from a genuine curiosity to know what the industry was like. I asked, and still ask, so many questions in order to learn but also to challenge practices and explore what we could do better as planners. Passion will also enable you to volunteer for tasks that maybe no one would want to do, but that would also set you apart and demonstrate your reliability; but also, you might actually enjoy it!  

  2. Network, network, network!! Just in case it wasn’t prominent enough in everything I've said before. Having a good network truly is invaluable and can make all the difference. Use every platform at your disposal and go to events for in-person meets as well.

  3. Be a knowledge sponge! Yes, knowledge is power. Stay informed and on top of things happening in the industry and in companies of interest. Familiarise yourself with their websites and work they do so if you ever get an interview, the conversation and flow will be very natural, and you will feel more confident and prepared. I listen to a lot of planning podcasts which I find is a good and convenient way to stay up to date with planning news.

Sabelle was recently awarded the Rising Star award from the BAME Planners Network in partnership with The Royal Town Planning Institute, in December 2023. 

Graduate holding a certificate award to the left of a banner about the award