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Guest Blog - A Tale of One City

Pete Watson (2)

Pete Watson Blog, Work Life, Tips...

Ten years ago, living in Lincoln would have gone something like this:

  1. Work at Retail to sustain living arrangements
  2. Earn a Degree
  3. Find a Job
  4. Move on.

But in the last 5 years, great things have occurred in the city.

Lincoln has always been a small city with a big heart, with the improvements able to be traced back to the opening of the university back in 1996. Ever since then, the city has slowly grown to try to cater to the students, both current ones and graduates.

Because of the area that the university is based in, it’s also helped rejuvenate Brayford Wharf, once an industrial, uninviting area, into a destination, full of restaurants and bars, alongside the hospitality industry investing in hotels. Even for those who graduated elsewhere and have moved back, the amount of inward investment has been fascinating.

For a long while, Lincoln had been overrun with retail and restaurant establishments, but it wasn’t until the realisation of some that you had to make it on your own to make the city shine in its own right. The number of independent businesses providing a huge range of services has shot up in the last decade.

The city has also experienced an ongoing issue of what there is to do once the working day finishes. The bar and restaurant culture were thriving before the coronavirus pandemic and it will be interesting to see which ones remain once we reach a new level of normality.

This, in turn, has now led to investments across the county, with the rejuvenation of the Cornhill area, with certain businesses, previously only dreamt about to come to the city, now firmly committing to the city. With a new cinema slowly becoming close to fruition, alongside brands like Doughnotts, 200 Degrees and The Botanist firmly establishing their places in the city, it’s all great news for what was once deemed a sleepy town.

The efforts of the local football team, Lincoln City, have also definitely raised awareness, with them reaching League One last year, over a 3-year effort thanks to the previous coach, Danny Cowley. Now, people from outside the city might recognise Lincoln that little bit more. That awareness has also opened up to other audiences that previously wouldn’t have been aware of the city.

All of this relates to retaining the talent that’s prospered from the city; whether that's from graduates, or freelancers, or people who have done it alone in setting up their own path.

So what about when you want to retain that talent, to not regress back to the four points I mentioned back in the intro?

To start with, you need to show them the following:

  • Create a workplace that people want to be in.
  • Create an environment that values their time.

After this, it’s making them fully aware that there are always opportunities to build on their skills while having a great work/life balance. When in retail, it can feel like a number of days can roll into one; the weekend is when employers need their staff the most to cater to customers who have the weekend as their days off, so to show them this way of working life to start off with, can be very appealing, and can give them much-needed structure.

Especially after this year’s pandemic and what feels like a seachange in how we judge the balance of work and everyday life, the question of remote working may now feel even more pertinent into how we judge that balance, and that could be crucial in keeping that talent in the city.

The travel to Lincoln has also seen massive transformations; with a ring-road currently in progress to relieve the pressure of the traffic which was a constant sight before lockdown took hold. While an increase of direct trains to London and back in the last five years have opened the city to more investment and more connections that would have previously been inaccessible to new businesses.

Of course, students are the one constant in Lincoln that you will need to keep in mind, regardless. Lincoln University always hosts multiple career fairs that show potential job openings across the county, and these are a big factor in retaining the local talent that could slip away from the city. Keeping graduates in the city has always proven difficult. However with Lincoln remaining one of the most desirable places to live and improvements happening across the city, many are now choosing to settle in a city which they may have once thought too provincial or cut off for their tastes. That is truly something to be proud of.

With the medical school close to completion, which is in collaboration with the University of Nottingham, it is going to attract great medical professionals to the city, and their needs for when they finish their studies for the weekend will need to be met, and its this further rejuvenation of the city that will help with this, further helping these graduates stay in the city, and even raise a family in the coming years.

Right now, we’re experiencing a Digital Revolution, and Lincoln has the potential to play a big part in that. Retaining talent across the spectrum of the city will be the only way to ascend Lincoln to make it the hotspot of the Midlands. With the current pandemic forcing some to rethink their career prospects and what they want to achieve, it could be a great time to talk to those people now.


Thank you to our guest blogger, Pete Watson, Managing Director of Distract for sharing his insights. Pete also joined our Managing Director Mandy Watson for a podcast on Lincoln and how the city has shaped their businesses and careers.