RHPi: A regular blog from RHP’s Chief Executive David Done
Is a career in housing a best kept secret?
Over the past couple of weeks young people across the country have been going through the knee-trembling experience of getting their exam results. A day for most that prompts thoughts on future aspirations and what they ‘want to do’ or ‘be’.
But during all these conversations that’ll be happening right now across kitchen tables and in living rooms around the country, I bet there are very few that involve someone saying ‘what do I do next to help me get into housing?’
And that makes me pretty sad.
That’s why I was interested to see it as an issue raised by the Chartered Institute of Housing recently (check out this great blog by Adam Clark on the subject).
I know that many of us working in the sector are extremely passionate about the work we do and like me, choose it as a long term career path.
In fact I think the housing sector is a bit of a ‘best kept secret’ when it comes to career choices and here’s why:
You get to make a difference
For me, I love working in housing because of the people I meet – both work colleagues and customers, and because I feel that what we’re doing is really important and makes a huge difference to people’s lives.
On leaving university I knew I wanted to do something that made a difference but if I’m honest, housing hadn’t crossed my mind. It was only by accident that I found it after doing some voluntary work at a community arts project. At this time, I met many local people who were living in really poor housing, which shocked me and made me want to get involved in help tackling this. This led me to London to do more voluntary work with a homelessness charity running a hostel for young people – and then on to my first paid job as a housing advisor working in a day centre for homeless people in Bristol. Six local authorities later I set up RHP where I am today.
So why, when millennials are so driven by having a sense of purpose in their career are they not running to the sector in droves?
It’s an exciting place to be
I love the way our world is changing really fast and the incredible opportunities it’s creating. It feels like both the most challenging and exciting time to work in housing all rolled up into one. I wake up every morning looking forward to going to work – and one thing’s for sure, there is never a dull day.
When people visit RHP for the first time they’re always surprised by our bright and modern offices and comment on the buzz and energy they feel as soon as they walk through the door.
The best training ground
In my opinion one of the best things about working in housing is how much you can learn and develop. I think this is down to the diverse range of areas you can get involved in and all the different situations you get exposed to. We have a number of people who work at RHP who’ve progressed through various roles and levels internally and then there’s the people who we’re proud to see take those skills to big private sector organisations. It’s also no coincidence that a lot of the ‘best place to work’ lists are full of housing associations and I think part of this is due to this supportive culture with loads of opportunities to stretch and learn.
So what can we do to make sure more people choose housing?
As well as a big PR piece for the whole sector there’s work we can do as individual organisations to help shift perceptions. At RHP we advertise ourselves first and foremost as a service provider with eye catching adverts that show personality. We find this attracts people from all sorts of organisations such as M&S, John Lewis, Eurostar and various airlines. We also have a well-established apprenticeship and graduate programme which sets people up for success in the sector – most of these young recruits haven’t heard about housing before but once they’re in the majority carry on with a career in housing after their scheme has finished. Finally, we try to share not just our own story but the sector’s too either by speaking at events or through PR opportunities – promoting the innovative, progressive and meaningful work we do.
The challenge as I see it though is for us to think about how we start the conversation earlier, raising awareness in schools, colleges and universities. The aim being that one day in the future, those conversations going on across the kitchen table post results day will be more like:
‘Yes! I’m one step closer to my dream job in housing’.