How did you first hear about jobs in housing?
When I returned from living in London I was looking for a permanent job. At the time I didn't have a big awareness of housing or homelessness. I saw a position advertised with the Simon Community as an Accounts Clerk and was successful. It was only then that I became aware of and interested in housing and homelessness issues.
How did you find further information about a career in housing?
After a year working with the Simon Community I decided to return home to Derry and was aware that there was a housing management degree available with the University of Ulster, Magee Campus. Having worked within homeless support for a while I felt that this was the degree course and career that I would like to pursue.
What was it that appealed to you when you were thinking about a job in housing?
When I looked at the course prospectus I realised the range of possible job opportunities that would be available on completion of the housing management degree course, including the social rented sector and the voluntary sector working with homeless clients. It appealed to my desire to work with homeless or disadvantaged people.
How did you get your first job in housing?
Apart from working as an accounts clerk for the Simon Community which didn't involve working directly with homeless clients, my next job in housing was with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE). This was a one year full time placement working in a district office as a housing officer.
Within a year of graduating from the housing management degree I had a full time permanent job as a housing officer with North & West Housing. The job was advertised in the press and I had the relevant qualification and experience for the job.
What personal skills and qualifications did you have that helped you secure your first job in housing?
I had completed the housing management degree and had over two years work experience in housing.
I had previously worked in a retail and office environment where I developed line management and administration skills and the ability to communicate with clients and colleagues.
My personal skills also included good time management and organisation skills.
What skills & training have you gained since you have had your job in housing?
Within my role as housing officer my employers provided a variety of training courses which developed my skills in IT, staff management and communication. I also completed a Certificate in Welfare Rights which was funded by my employer and provided by the Law Centre NI. I then progressed to the role of senior housing officer.
During the next year I became involved in voluntary work with Divert Project. This was a Drug and Alcohol Education programme for young people. At this time I completed an Oxford Cambridge and RSA Examination (OCR) in youth work.
In 2004 the job of Foyer Manager became available and my application was successful. I feel this was due to my experience in both housing management and youth issues.
I have also completed further in house training in areas such as:
Describe a typical day?
My days vary a lot but always include a short early morning meeting with staff to review any issues that have occurred within the previous twenty-four hours.
In the course of a working week I will be in contact with other foyer managers sharing best practice and issues arising from joint projects across the four Northern Ireland foyers. I have responsibility for reviewing and developing policy and procedures relating to the foyer and some joint working with other North and West schemes.
I also have overall responsibility for the day to day running of the foyer including staff management, health and safety and resident wellbeing.
My typical week would also involve overseeing financial, personnel and maintenance issues. I review and maintain standards in terms of internal and external inspection; this could include reviews by internal audit, the Department for Social Development (DSD), Supporting People and Foyer Federation.
What would you tell people who are interested in a housing career?
I would tell people to look at the range of career options within housing. The chances are there will be something that will appeal to most people. Completion of the housing management degree can open doors to a wide range of careers in housing.
My career has developed from an initial interest in homelessness to five years experience in social housing management and ultimately 6 years in my current role as foyer manager bringing together my housing and youth work experience.
The job I am working in now is my ultimate job and I love it. It is a very rewarding, satisfying and worthwhile job.