How did you first hear about jobs in housing?
I have always worked in the public sector and when I was in the Health Service I was involved with the trade union. This gave me the opportunity to attend conferences where I had contact with staff working in the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. Because of this I became aware of the issues surrounding housing and raised my awareness of social housing.
How did you find further information about a career in housing?
I was looking to broaden my accounting experience as there were few opportunities to develop my skills within the Health Service. I approached a recruitment agency who looked at my public sector background and my financial skills and they suggested working in Clanmil who were recruiting at the time.
Before attending my interview I looked at the Clanmil website to get background information on the organisation. I also read the local and national press and researched current housing issues. The recruitment agency was also able to provide me with useful general information about Clanmil and the position I was applying for. They also advised me that it was a growing organisation and that staff generally stayed there for a long time. I took this as an indication of staff satisfaction.
What was it that appealed to you when you were thinking about a job in housing?
The main thrust was to do with my qualifications. I was looking for a job that would broaden my experience in Accounts.
I also liked the idea of working for an organisation that was providing a service and not just operating for personal gain. Clanmil is a charity that is addressing housing need and supporting independent living.
How did you get your first job in housing?
I provided my CV to the recruitment agency. They forwarded it to Clanmil who invited me to attend interview along with a number of other people. The position I applied for was Finance Assistant. Although this was roughly equivalent to the job I was working at in the Health Service, I saw it as an opportunity to gain much broader experience which would help towards me achieving the accountancy qualifications.
What personal skills and qualifications did you have that helped you secure your first job in housing?
At the time I was an Accounting Technician and had completed the first stage of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) examinations and was part of the way through the second stage. Clanmil were looking for someone who was committed to achieving these qualifications.
On a more personal note I have always been able to work unsupervised and have strong organisation skills. I am also a strong communicator and find it easy to make things less technical when producing written reports for people from a non financial background.
I was the Branch Chairman for the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA) trade union while working in the Health Service. This involved me attending conferences and making presentations to large groups of people. I also sat on panels where grievances, pay disputes and grading issued were examined and resolved. This developed my negotiating skills and gave me skills to deal with difficult situations.
What skills & training have you gained since you have had your job in housing?
I have continued along the ACCA examination route and am soon to complete my final exams. Hopefully by this time next year I will be a qualified Chartered Accountant. Clanmil have supported me in this and pay for all expenses. The only thing I have to give is my time!
Clanmil are constantly investing in staff development and I have attended many in house courses and conferences. I have also attended several Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) courses covering issues in public sector finance.
Where I feel I have really developed in Clanmil is from the many different opportunities to experience a variety of accounting duties. You get the chance to work on many different issues and I have been lucky that my job has changed and developed through re-evaluation. ACCA also require that I gain practical experience in a number of key accounting skills before being considered fully qualified. Clanmil have fully supported me in achieving this.
Describe a typical day?
The beauty of my job now is that I don't have a typical day! The only thing that is typical is that most days I work in head office.
The level of variety in the work means that it is constantly challenging me. It can be anything from producing management accounts, setting budgets, agreeing auditing procedures and addressing any weaknesses in procedures, carry out financial appraisals, cash flow projections and responding to queries from staff on ad-hoc information needs.
What would you tell people who are interested in a housing career?
The same skills are required in any organisation as far as finance is concerned. The difference when working in housing is that you are making a contribution to our society and helping people to live independently. In the past people may have been placed in an institution if they had special needs, here at Clanmil we work towards providing these people with the skills and resources to live as independently as they can.
There is a vast array of opportunities within housing - from general housing provision to working as a qualified Accountant! There is a fantastic atmosphere here and you feel that you are trusted and recognised for the work you do.