career in housing
25/09/2012 6:53 pm
Hello all, I hope I have posted this in the correct forum.
I am seeking a career in housing and some advice on how I can go about it.
My background, I have studied Environmental Health at degree level in which we covered housing, HHSRS and attributes associated to exclusion to those living in social housing and how these can be tackled etc etc. Furthermore, I have experienced in private rented sector as a landlord, and property manager for properties owned by my family. Here, I have covered and dealt with all aspects from rent arrears, organising repairs, rennovation, finding tenants, ending tenancies/eviction and every other little detail that is required.
However, the issue I have is 1) I cant provide a reference for myself, and 2) it sort of seems social housing recruiters dont want me near them as I have experience in the private sector.
If I could opt, I would go for the maintenance side of things (or property manager), or even housing officer. However, choices seem to be out of my hand at the minute.
Any advice would be appreciated.
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26/09/2012 11:51 am
I find the smaller HA are much more responsive to job applications than the bigger ones. I made numerous application to a large one based in the city I live in, everytime stating I was passionate about working in the housing sector and if they couldn't employ me in that role I'd love to come and do some free volunteer work to gain experience, and got no response. Not even a letter saying sorry you need to apply this way for a volunteer or we have no volunteering vacancies at present. It was pretty disheartening.
I now work for a much smaller HA that I commute (an hour each way) to everyday and found that being smaller they were much more focused on the individual and really took the time. They send letters to every one even if you don't get an interview and I'm really happy with the position I hold with them.
You say you can't provide a reference for yourself - have you considered asking a lecturer or tutor from University for a reference?
What I've seen of housing you can't walk into a high level management position without some social housing experience (doesn't necessarily have to be the junior version of the role you eventually want) so you may need to consider junior roles to begin with. This may be different in other parts of the country to where I'm based (the south) though.
26/09/2012 3:50 pm
Hi there, I stumbled into a career in housing roughly a decade ago now and have done a multitude of different roles for a variety of Housing Associations.
I would say that you need to get a basic grounding in Social housing and start at an entry level role, there are a variety of roles that are around, something along the lines of a housing assistant - i.e. someone who is mainly office based but supports front line staff is a good starting point as it will give you exposue to a variety of other roles and could inform where you would want to take your career. You will not be able to get a Housing Officers job without direct experience, so have to aim a bit lower than this to start with and gain experience as you go.
I have worked in Housing, where most senior roles are what could be called "Housing Professionals" either by qualification or many years experience, Finance where top brass are all Chartered Accountants (this is one skill you can transfer other business experience directly) and now am in maintenance where most senior roles are taken by Surveyors.
If I were you I would aim at a junior role that gives you exposure to as many departments / roles in your day to day to assess where you might want to take it.
In respect to small vs Large company, I've worked for both, they both have pro's and cons as one might expect, I think application processing has become an art in itself especially with larger corporate companies, I would try to get someone with recruitment experience to vet your application, as it's all about ticking boxes and stating the obvious these days, when I apply for any role its about 5 sides of A4 with half of it re-iterating their statements and relating experience repetatively,having done afair amount of recruitment myself a lot of candidates lose marks when from their qualifications and work experience would seems right, but they have not stated what may be considered too obvious.
26/09/2012 4:09 pm
Cheers for the tips.
Yes I can get a reference from university, but that will be like "academic" reference. But for my own housing experience that would be more of a "work" type of reference if you know what I mean?
03/10/2012 11:20 am
A lot of local authorities (and maybe larger RSLs, but I am not certain) will have a service contract with a particular temp agency - it may be worth contacting them to ask which agency or agencies they use, then getting yourself registered with those agencies. I know temp work isn't ideal but if you've got nothing else on at the moment and you need to get experience in the sector, it might be a good way to start.
23/10/2012 5:00 pm
Don't be put off because you think your private sector experience will be a problem. I think this could be a real asset -there is much we can learn about how other organisations are managed and this experience could stand you in good stead.
You do, however, need relevant and recent experience in the public sector to give you the all-important independent reference of you work, achievements, attitude etc. A really good way of getting some hands-on experience is to volunteer your services for a few weeks to a local housing association, as most will readily welcome some extra help in return for a reference, and if you do really well, it can be a foothold there in case a vacancy comes up.
Another way to get paid experience is through an agency - register with a few agencies for interim and temporary opportunities - again you gain the experience, the reference and the potential opening for a job.
It is worth looking at the CIH website too as there is help there such as career advice, mentoring etc. and a range of publications available to help broaden your knowledge. In addition, if you have not already joined as a member then I would say this is essential to keep you in touch with the sector, give you access to local branch events and networking opportunities and help you make long lasting friends and contacts that will help you in your future career too.
Well done for choosing housing as a career - it can be hard work, very challenging and difficult at times, but the difference you can make to the lives of others less fortunate than yourself is amazing - go for it and don't give up - that job is waiting for you somewhere!! Good luck!!
26/10/2012 5:09 pm
Usually social housing organisations welcome people from different or allied sectors with transferable skills and experience and I don’t believe that the reason you haven’t had any success – if you have been applying for jobs – would be prejudice about the fact that your experience has been in the private sector.
It may be that because you come from the private sector that you have not had a great deal of experience in the way that social housing organisations run their recruitment and selection processes. Whereas in the commercial sector it is the norm to submit a CV and a general covering letter, most housing organisations will expect you to demonstrate – either on an application form or in a structured covering letter – how your previous experience and achievements match each of the criteria on the person specification for the job. If you don’t do this, you are very unlikely to get an interview.
Once you get invited to a test centre and interview, you will be given every opportunity to demonstrate how your competences, skills and experience match what the organisation is looking for.
You could look at registering with a recruitment agency working within the sector that provides free seminars or coaching on how best to present yourself at application and interview stages.
With regard to references, you can explain in your application that you have been self-employed but offer to provide references from clients or contractors that you have worked closely with.
27/10/2012 4:28 pm
Some people say its all about the person and to some extent that's true, however it all depends what role you are seeking in a HA. I retired from the police and focused on housing (I mercilessly networked though beforehand), once I realised what the role entailed I went for it. I did make one mistake...I applied for an income officer and went on an assessment. This showed up my inexperience in that particular field, when I saw a housing officers position come up I applied and it was evident that the interviewer (my boss now) was looking for a particular type of person. With the transferable skills of being a police officer and other factors she employed me. I didn't know the first thing about housing law, tenancies, repairs and specific housing related matters ie benefits but after a slow start I am getting there. I would say sell yourself with what skills you have now, volunteer (some larger RSL's will have the scope for this) and in the meantime soak up everything about the welfare reforms so you will be clued up on interview. This job is full on and very busy, sometimes downright draining but it is rewarding at times. Good Luck
01/11/2012 4:31 pm
I would say that recruiters might regard you as a bit ‘non- standard’, that is harder to place, if they felt that your background experience was likely to suggest to employers that you had only a minimal background in social housing. That’s not to say you don’t have transferrableskills, it may be a perception that you have to work around. One way to do that might be to get some unpaid or intern experience with either a HA or local authority. We have a Dutch student working with us at the moment on a three month internship who has no experience of the sector but is working on communications – the web site, the Facebook page etc. This works well for us and I think for her, as he can put this on her CV. You mentioned maintenance and this is another route in, if you have basic building construction knowledge, but a bit more of a harder ‘sell’ unless perhaps you find an apprenticeship on offer. By the way, a housing officer post is quite likely to be the level you should aim at initially. We also took on someone with no housing experience as a trainee a few years ago and she is still here! She was able to convince me that she was genuinely passionate about housing and for a recruiter this has real value. I think if you could find ways in which to demonstrate your enthusiasm for this kind of work, then this would help.