I was pleased to be asked to speak at London Metropolitan University’s Housing Careers Event this April, which was a really engaging morning packed full of insights, advice and inspiring professional stories from people across an array of roles and levels.
Social Housing is a fantastic career choice, which offers a diverse, inclusive and collaborative workforce, strong community values and some exceptional flexible working opportunities with many organisations prioritising accelerated career pathways, a positive mental health attitude and a focus on a healthy work-life balance. It never ceases to surprise us here at Greenacre that housing careers are so under the public radar, as it’s an excellent industry to work in.
As a Social Housing Recruitment Consultancy and Leadership Development Specialist, Greenacre Group were happy to be part of this discussion and share some of our own knowledge on the current opportunities emerging across the industry, as well as some tips on getting a foot onto the career ladder. Here’s a summary of our contribution in case it’s helpful to any of our network who may be at the start of their housing career journey.
A transforming jobs market
The housing employment market has really transformed a lot over the past year due to Covid, especially with the transition to remote working, and positively, we are now finding that many of our roles offer more flexible working locations, the opportunity to work either fully or partly from home, and we are casting our net nationally to find the right people for the organisations we work with rather than just those candidates who are limited to within specific regions. This has created more opportunities for people who may have, say, disabilities or may have to balance work and home life, or be disadvantaged by being a certain distance away from a key role they would otherwise be perfect for. It also has the added advantage or reducing carbon footprint and travel costs, as less travel is needed for a large portion of the employment community to do their jobs effectively, and many organisations have been transitioning their operations to work remotely, and updating their technological infrastructure.
An adaptive and responsive work environment
These changes in the market have reshaped how we do business as a recruiter. Greenacre Group have offices in the South East, The Midlands and Manchester, as well as a Hotdesk in London, and we have found that as remote and flexible work models have taken precedence, our traditional, formal divisions have become less necessary and we are more able to support each other’s areas of expertise on a national scale. Ironically, working remotely has actually brought our teams much closer together, as we have adjusted our work patterns to collaborate and to support each other across our different employment divisions, in order to give a really smart streamlined service.
This is generally how the UK workplace is going to be looking in future, and the housing industry has started to become much more collaborative in pooling different people, resources, services and projects in order to give the best experiences to their tenants and their teams, and to add the most value from the resources that we have as a sector.
Housing Career Pathways and Creating Opportunities
There are several pathways to get into a decent housing job, and as well as directly applying to organisations and using specialist recruitment services such as ours, there are organisations such as the Chartered Institute of Housing, Housing Diversity Network and other housing bodies that can offer support, qualifications and opportunities to get your first foot in the door. A lot of Housing Organisations also advertise many of their jobs across their social media platforms, so it’s worth following and engaging with as many as you can to see those opportunities as they become available.
Apprenticeships and internships have really come a long way in recent years, and no matter what age you are or level of your career you are at, these have become much more inclusive and diverse, tailored to helping people gain a step into the door of the roles that support the communities we are living and working, in no matter how old you are or how much experience you have.
It’s all about you
If you are willing to look for them and actively be aware of your own wants, needs and strengths, there are more opportunities now to apply for the roles that really suit you as an individual, and it’s really worth doing your homework and finding out as much as you can about the background of an organisation you are interested in working for and its culture, to see if they fit your values, your work life balance needs and your career interests.
There is a big drive to ‘be yourself’ and ‘not be afraid to be you’ in the housing industry right now and it’s important to make sure you really have that level of self-awareness and to know what really motivates you when embarking on your career journey, which will help you to make the right choices early on, and you are less likely to become stagnant in your role. Greenacre Consult have been publishing a lot of self-awareness advice and tips on our social media pages over the past month, as our April theme, so check them out if you need any help in this area.
The Leadership Programme uses two really good psychometric tools which can be used to find out more about yourself and your individual strengths; Facet5 and StrengthsFinder. We use these types of tools to find out how each individual in the group works best with other people and what motivates them, because when you are armed with this knowledge you can really get an idea of what’s going to motivate you in the workplace and how well you work with others in a team, as well as understanding yourself better and making the most of your strengths and abilities.
Understanding an organisation’s culture is something that will show you whether you and they will be a good fit for each other, so it’s a really important thing to look at when creating opportunities for yourself that fit your personal career journey.
The social housing market is one of the few industries that has remained buoyant throughout the pandemic. We’ve actually had our most successful year ever over the past year at Greenacre, and we’ve achieved this predominantly by adapting quickly, putting trust in our team to work autonomously from home and by prioritising each individual’s mental health. We have found that those organisations who adapted to a more flexible approach and gave most trust and autonomy to their employees and have been able to give the right emotional support as well as structural and technical support to their employees since the beginning of the pandemic have come out the strongest overall.
It would be prudent advice to look out for those organisations that prioritise your mental health and wellbeing, and who have an emphasis on supporting employees to work autonomously. This also builds trust and creates a healthy environment for you to grow, develop your role and build your confidence and your place within the organisation.
First top tip for securing a role in housing – Build you online presence!
At least for the foreseeable future, much of our professional interactions will be happening remotely. It’s always been important to network in order to create opportunities for yourself, and meet people who can help you progress, as well as being actively involved in things that are happening in the industry, and to get involved in collaborative events, and now many (if not most) events are happening online, it’s important to get to grips with your online professional presence.
Whereas before we would be filling our diaries with different meetings and networking events to get opportunities, the past year and a half has thrust everyone into the world of online professional dating, and with this a whole new set of skills and engagement tools need to be learnt in order develop ourselves professionally online.
Around 80% of employers will seek you out on LinkedIn when you put your CV forward to them, and they’ll be looking at what you have been doing recently as well as who you are engaging with and the things that you are interested in and involved with professionally. Establishing and maintaining an online presence has become an essential tool to ensure you are not left behind, and it’s important you create an effective online profile that aligns with your professional goals, reflecting your strengths and values. Don’t be afraid to connect with people and engage – a lot of opportunities are found by simply showing up, joining in and being present.
Second top tip for securing a role in housing – Volunteer!
Volunteering for things and actively getting involved in community events and professional housing events helps to really build up that experience of working with people in the housing industry and helps to put you on people’s radar and get that step in the door. It can also help boost your confidence as you will be learning from seasoned industry professionals who have been where you are now. Start following housing groups and connecting with professionals across the sector to build your professional network. Across social media you will find a plethora of events and activities happening all over the sector at any one time. Sign up, get involved and join in!
Third top tip for securing a role in housing – Be self-aware
It’s important to really make sure you know yourself and your motivations before you apply for a role. Throughout our leadership development masterclasses the one thing that just about every successful leader says they wish they had done differently as they were climbing the ladder was to be comfortable with who they truly were from the beginning and to find an organisation that appreciates them rather than trying to change themselves to fit an organisation. And once they were truly comfortable being themselves as a leader, their unique strengths were seen much more visibly by others, and the more quickly and better opportunities came to them that fitted their natural work and style.
The housing employment landscape
There are a huge variety of roles in social housing; from the housing services side, which typically includes roles such as Housing Officers, Tenant Support roles, Income Officers and Resident Engagement roles, which are generally more ‘people’ centred’, to the Technical side, which include roles such as Planners, Surveyors, Project Managers, Asset Managers, Procurement officers and Managers, Repairs and Maintenance roles, which have a more technical skill set, although all housing roles are becoming more people centred as we focus more on tenant engagement. There are also a whole range of other roles which are typically associated with running a business, including Strategic positions, Marketing, Communications, Social Media Management, Technical Support, Finance, HR, Administrative jobs and lots more, so find your passion, and look for a space that needs it!
An adaptable, diverse, transient workforce
Right now and in the future, employers will be looking for a more diverse skills set across all their roles, and it will be important to have the ability to adapt, and have at least some basic understanding of how to use tech equipment and software, as we head towards a work environment that relies more on automation. However, employers are starting to look much more at your adaptability, your mindset, and your ability to think outside the box more than specifically targeted skills and experiences, which can in many cases be taught on the job.
It’s important to be aware that many (but not all) people move on from their roles within two to three years nowadays. This may be either within the organisation they work for, or moving on altogether somewhere else, and this is no longer seen as a bad thing by recruiters, but a reflection of the more transient work environment. It’s also becoming popular to move ‘sideways’ rather than ‘straight up’, by diversifying different skill sets and gaining experience in different areas of the organisation before moving up the career ladder.
So in summary, create your own opportunities by actively networking and building your online presence. Don’t be afraid to be yourself and to own that, and understand what really motivates you and what your strengths are, so that you are more likely to find the roles that are most suited to you. Focus on building on your experience by volunteering and getting involved in collaborative projects. Work on your ability to adapt and think outside the box, and don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t understand something, as it shows that you are willing and eager to learn.
We are in an age when even those at the very top are having to learn so many different ways of doing things from scratch, and it’s that ability to be authentic, ask questions and really show up that will get you ahead of the game when it comes to building and accellerating your career.