How did you first hear about jobs in housing?
I was vaguely aware of social housing in general but I did know a bit about Clanmil Housing Association as I worked directly across the road from Lavinia, our big development site on the Ormeau Road. However, before coming to work for Clanmil I didn't fully appreciate the complexities of housing and the job that Housing Associations do.
How did you find further information about a career in housing?
When I was invited to interview I did all the usual research, most of which was carried out on the internet. I looked at the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations website and this was a good starting point in terms of the structure of housing in Northern Ireland and what the housing associations do and how they are funded.
I looked at the DSD website and read about the new Housing Agenda. Obviously I also looked at the Clanmil website and at the sites of other big players in the Housing Association movement to get a feel for what was going on in social housing at that time.
From all of that it became very obvious, very quickly, that social housing in Northern Ireland is a very vibrant sector with lots happening and many opportunities.
What was it that appealed to you when you were thinking about a job in housing?
There were two things really: The job with Clanmil really stood out because of their work life balance policy. I wanted to work part time so it is important to me that an organisation commits to supporting its staff and to helping people work better by giving them the flexibility to balance home and work.
Having worked previously for an organisation whose purpose is to help vulnerable people, I liked the idea of continuing to work in an area that has a positive impact on people's lives. A roof over your head is such a fundamental necessity of life, and providing a high quality home in a safe and peaceful environment where people are happy to bring up their families is what Clanmil is all about.
How did you get your first job in housing?
I saw the position of Marketing and Communications officer advertised in the Belfast Telegraph. Although I was very happy working for the British Red Cross the job was totally media relations and I wanted something with more variety. And boy did I get it!
I applied for the position in Clanmil and after two interviews was appointed.
What personal skills and qualifications did you have that helped you secure your first job in housing?
I had all the necessary academic qualifications needed for the job and lots of experience of working with the media in Northern Ireland.
I also had good experience in producing publications, particularly newsletters, and this is one of the areas that Clanmil wanted to develop at that stage.
I also had lots of events planning experience which has come in very useful for our many scheme openings etc over the past year.
What skills & training have you gained since you have had your job in housing?
There's been tons of on the job training. I've had to get a good understanding of issues such as the development process, allocations and housing management, especially how we deal with tenant issues and anti-social behaviour. In my role I need to know all aspects of how the organisation works as the media can take an interest in any of the areas we cover.
I've also attended some industry specific conferences including the National Housing Federation's Marketing and Communications conference and, on a more local level, conferences relating to the Northern Ireland media sector.
I've attended some external training courses including one on using company newsletters to engage with our stakeholders.
Describe a typical day?
There is definitely no such thing as a typical day. I come in every day with a plan for the day but by lunchtime it's often in the waste paper bin!
Everything I do is about raising Clanmil's profile with our stakeholders, and the reason we want to do that is to ensure that we are in a good position to deliver affordable social housing.
My typical day can range from working on publications or website updates, to events management. And there's always proactive media work going on to get the good news stories out.
Often those more planned activities are interrupted by reactive media work where I need to respond to an enquiry from a journalist, often on a really tight deadline. It can be a really busy couple of hours while I try to get the information needed to highlight Clanmil's position, draft a statement, and get it approved for release.
What would you tell people who are interested in a housing career?
I would tell them that it's an excellent sector to work in if you enjoy a challenge and a wide variety of work. I know it's a cliché but no two days are the same! I don't think people realise that, as well as housing specific professions, all the general professions are also needed in housing, including Human Resource Management, IT, Finance and Marketing.
Although it is challenging it is also extremely rewarding when you visit a tenant and see for yourself the difference a good home can make to someone's life.