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What it’s like to work at United Living – a graduate perspective

 · Posted in Social Gain

What does it mean to be a GEM? For those who don’t already know, GEM stands for Graduate Employment Mentoring.

This programme run by the Centre for Partnership is what introduced me to United Living. The GEM programme has been designed to empower future leaders within housing through a rigorous one year training programme that enables graduates to study for a CIH Level 4 Qualification. So far, I have spent two fun-filled days at a GEMShacks in Bradford. A GEMShack is what we call an event or a meeting that GEM’s attend, because effectively, there is a shack of GEMS. At the event, I explored common issues faced by housing professionals and I was able to gain further perspective on the current state of the housing stock, whilst getting stuck in with taster plastering, plumbing and joinery sessions. Although I have only worked for United Living since October, I’ve also just returned from a full day discussion about the impact of homelessness in the housing sector – the opportunities to learn and develop are endless. It’s not all fun and games though, with training for my CIG qualification alongside my role, I have already had to submit two assignments, with three more due in 2017.

For me, the best part of the GEM programme so far aside from the learning experiences has been the interaction with other GEM’s – many of whom are working with housing associations or social landlords across the UK, including Scotland and Northern Ireland. Being around other GEM’s has really put into perspective the different issues that the housing sector faces in different parts of the country. Coming from the capital, I often think that London’s problems are reflective of the whole country, but, the other GEM’s are quick to tell me that London’s housing issues are not the same as Glasgow’s! Through being able to hear first-hand experiences about a variety of issues that plague the sector and the method each GEM’s employer is taking to tackle them during the current economic climate, I am really forced into thinking outside of the box. What more can be done? How do we improve? If I make this decision, what impact will it have? We ask ourselves these questions at every GEMShack and I hope that in 12 months’ time I will be able to answer them instantly without a seconds thought.

My first few weeks working in the United Living office based in Swanley have provided me with some of the most eye-opening and insightful moments of my professional career and I am yet to work in a friendlier office. Over time, I have started to get used to all the acronyms (such as LA meaning Local Authority and TLO meaning Tenant Liaison Officer) being thrown around the office, thanks to my supportive marketing and communications team who are always happy to answer my questions. Whilst working in the marketing and communications office, I have been tasked with getting the resident’s website up and running, updating the corporate website and producing a video on the hidden roles of construction. When I first read the sheet with the list of jobs I would be working on in this department, I thought that the tasks were particularly daunting and didn’t know where to start.

I’m in my eighth week now and it is safe to say that this has been an exciting experience. My role has a direct impact on the way we choose to represent ourselves at United Living and this has been challenging. I am pleased to say that tasks that at first seemed daunting are all coming together now. The United Living resident’s website is almost up and running, and this is in part thanks to the amazing team over at Social Communications. The corporate website will soon differ from its current format and hopefully by January 2017 the construction video should get underway. When I look back on my first week, I often question why I was so nervous about joining United Living. Reflecting on the progress I have made so far, I only wish that United Living had joined the GEM programme a lot sooner.

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