The start of my North Star journey…Week 1

23/01/17 the star of a new adventure! After being at college for the past 3 years beforehand not knowing what career path to take this seemed like a perfect opportunity for me when it arrived, so far that is what it’s turning out to be. I previously did the Princes Trust level 2 course where I found out that North Star were looking to hire two new apprentices,one in the customer service side of things the other in Digital Communications and PR. As part of the course it was a requirement that you completed a two-week work placement in order to pass and of course I chose North Star where they would get the chance to see how I worked….god help them, but turns out it wasn’t a disaster since I’m now doing a one year digital communications and PR apprenticeship with them.

Going further back I did an information and technology level 3 college course and passed but I soon learnt that’s not the road I wanted to take so I hit a brick wall in terms of finding a career path, Until I was recommended to do the Princes Trust course where I met members of the North Star team during a presentation, later in the course I then had my interview with them and again met Laura Wood the lead for Digital Communications and PR  who is now my manager… I know I feel sorry for me too but jokes aside I don’t think I could have had a better choice for a first manager and looking forward to see what the year brings.

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The Land Of Finance

I didn’t think starting an Apprenticeship in Pr and comms would end up with me working in Finance for two weeks, but there you go. It’s a slight change from one minute working on social media, posting on Facebook and twitter etc. To then doing things such as; invoice logging, supplier maintenance, and a lot of paper work. Definitely surprising when you’ve never had any experience in this role but still things I can add onto my CV, think i’ll have a few updates to make to it before I leave here…

It’s given me a good insight to how they deal with and store invoices as well as what to do with new Suppliers. But don’t think I’ll be heading down the numbers route any time soon. Although I thought about getting away from technology, the amount of paper work they have to deal with has helped make up mind. But I’ve enjoyed working in a different department other than what I’m used to as I want to help out as much as possible.

 

Why Housing is a good place to start your career!

Although people might not realise it, there are a vast amount of different job roles within a housing organisation, so if you start in one department you get the chance to experience what it’s like in other areas such as; housing, finance, I.T, people services, communications, customer services and community investment. So when you are just starting a career it’s handy to see what goes on around the whole organisation and get an idea of the different departments that make the business what it is, along with building connections with people at the same time.

There are chances to go on visits with housing officers, take part in projects with the community investment team and you get to go on conferences that interest you. So having these opportunities allow you to gain transferable skills which you can take into future job roles and experiences that you can include on your CV. Along with this the apprenticeships are unique in the sense that while you are learning on the job, you also go to college and learn more about what goes into your role and things that you can contribute back to the business which they might not have implemented already, they are also well structured because when you start, you don’t just get thrown into the deep end which you might in other organisations.

They do this by having weekly catch ups with your line manager which slowly turn into monthly one to one’s so you can see how you are doing progress wise and how you are settling in.

Half a year in…. A career in Housing?

With it now being halfway through my time at North Star, this is where I have to start thinking about where to go and what to do next. Do I stay in the housing sector, but see if I can try a new role? or go into a completely different organisation but stay in the same role? At the moment I’m thinking about changing altogether and trying something new, instead of being stuck behind a computer screen like I have been for the past 4 years. I’m sure my manager would agree that this role maybe isn’t for me, being in a communications role when i’m not the most confident or sociable person is always a bit of a setback.

I have still learnt so much, gained so many new experiences; like in recent weeks visiting a women’s refuge which is something I hadn’t done before and I have also worked with great people, so even if I did change altogether this year won’t have been a waste for me and I hope that it hasn’t been from my managers perspective either. I’m still yet to decide so I could potentially stay in this role, or do something similar and with half a year left this will be what makes my decision.

Mental Health Awareness Week- My story

Surviving or thriving? The question that keeps cropping up this week, but if I was to ask myself which one i fell under….I would probably be just surviving trying to thrive, but unable get past the surviving part enough to do so. This has been part of my life for around 4 years, the countless counselling sessions but still ending up back in the same place every time no matter how hard I try for it not to, there have been times where I’ve thought that i’d finally past it, like in the past year where things have been going well but yet I can’t let myself be happy, much of that is down to me and overthinking. I was diagnosed with depression when I was 16 and it has affected me in someway ever since, i’m now nearly 20 and have accepted that this will stick with me for many more years to come, but now what’s different is the fact that I have been more open about it by talking to my manager about it for example and now writing this…so i’m hoping that these steps will actually help me beat it for good and would advise anyone else to be more open about it, because it’s more of a relief knowing someone else knows.

A big part of this is down to North Star, as it’s the first place where I’ve really felt valued as a person, unlike school where they say those years are supposed to be some of the best, not in my case. Years of bullying and feeling isolated , I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. So when college came around it was nice to finally fit in and not be socially awkward, but that’s when I started to put things into perspective more and overthink-ed on pretty much everything which doesn’t help, so things started going downhill and other feelings came into place; loneliness, emptiness, worthlessness, this list could probably go on, and of course…depression. North Star has helped me grow so much as a person, has given me a purpose everyday and it doesn’t feel like i’m being judged for the first time in my life and I couldn’t have started in a better organisation. Now I want to be as open about it as possible and make people aware that trying to go through it on your own isn’t always the best answer as I’ve found out, and finally try to beat it.

 

National Apprenticeship week

So with it being national apprenticeship week, my manager thought it would be a good idea to do a blog celebrating it; So since I started 6 weeks ago I have already learnt so much in such as short space of time; from being trusted to post on the organisations social media to attending different conferences in places such as Leeds and Durham. Each has helped me progress within this role which I can take into different job opportunities. I am trusted to be an admin on North Star Housing’s website, to add new news stories then share them on social media, add new properties that need advertising and post them on Facebook since our tenants are more Facebook based. I monthly update the company’s social media analytics and have started to set my own goals for each month that I will be able to take into future interviews as a way of comparing from when I started to where they are when I finish.

I previously spent 2 years doing an I.T BTEC level 3 course where I decided that’s not the career path I wanted to take, so I went onto the Princes Trust level 2 course where I was hoping to gain more of an idea of where I wanted to go, which I did and it’s where I found out about the digital communications and PR apprenticeship with North Star. The best thing about this role is that there’s always something to do and the work never stops. People might not think it but apprenticeships are a good place to start if you are unsure on what career path you want to take, especially in housing because there are more opportunities than you may expect. Apprenticeships let you learn and earn at the same time whilst building your confidence in the workplace, giving you valuable skills and experiences which can help you in your future career. North Star has really helped me grow as an individual which I am grateful for and they have taken my opinions into account which you might not find in other organisations when you are just starting out.

 

 

 

 

Weeks 4 + 5 Durham Conference and The Local Newspaper

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So these past couple of weeks have been a bit of mix; From health and safety inductions in the Boardroom to a conference in Durham. Last week was interesting as the new apprentices at North Star; myself included. Had an article featured in the latest issue of the local Gazette and how our company (North Star housing Group) is investing in it’s youth. So it’s cool to see yourself in the local paper.

Then week 5 came along which meant going to the Durham International Festival Of Enterprise. This involved a number of business entrepreneurs and their stories of how they got where they are today. Firstly however there was Rory Underwood, he actually played for the England international rugby team back in the 1990’s  and played in a world cup final. He was there to talk about effective team working and if we are actually working in a team and not just as individuals within that team.

Next there was Andrew Tomlinson, the director of Andrew James, Started his company  in 2005 with his cousin and it’s now worth 22 million, their business consists of a variety of kitchen equipment that might be harder to find in the UK. They started when they were at a dinner party where a raclette grill which had been bought in Germany by their guests as it was hard to buy them in the UK. They realised their could be a potential business idea. They then took off when they were able to find an international supplier, next they ordered 3000 grills and began to distribute them. It was in 2007 where they moved into their first business premises and were able to increase their amount of orders for their products. They moved into a bigger warehouse space in 2009 where they were able to hire new employees and apprentices. It was in 2012 where they developed themselves more by adding media and marketing teams and created their logo, website and really began to establish themselves as a company. They have now moved into a new warehouse which covers 125,000 square foot.

Fraser Doherty started his business at the age of 14 when his Grandmother taught him how to make her jam, now he sells his own product called superjam and sells it to over 2,000 supermarkets all over the world, his product is now in the National Museum of Scotland along with other iconic brands such as Iron Bru. He now has 2 books and his own beer called Beer 52. There were other speakers throughout the day but I’ve tried to keep this as short as possible

The journey continues…Week 3

So this week was a mixture of different things from; inductions to signing up to college to then going to a conference. So not so much sitting in front of a desk all day! Firstly there were the inductions to take care of, not the most exciting things in the world but still interesting nevertheless. So firstly there was leading and growing to 2018 which was about seeing how much North Star has grown as a company over the past few years and its aims over then next few, secondly there was fraud awareness corporate induction not the most exciting things in the world but still one of them things you have to learn about.
Then Friday came around at long last, today was different because a group of us within the organisation went to a conference in Leeds called the BIG conversation, apart from it being a struggle to wake up at 6am to get their in time, it was for people that are new into housing to give them more information and a background that we can take into our roles. Firstly we had talkers telling us what would be in store for the day and where we would need to be, from there we participated in an activity where we had to draw what we thought good practice was and display our ideas to everyone else and compare what we came up with.
Our next activity was called the fishbowl sadly no alcohol was involved with this one,  where everyone at the conference separated into two sides and within those would be a group talking talking to either side about their roles and how they got into housing, there were people from across the country attending this event so it was interesting to hear their stories and how they ended up where they are. Just before lunch we had a speaker talk to us about the importance of delivering good customer service and how we can make a difference. Then there was lunch which gave us a chance to network with other people that were attending the conference and get to know them more and keep in touch by using social media and we would be able to go to them if we had any questions or need any advice.
Into the afternoon we had a women called Julie talk to us about her passion with housing and how she has helped changed lives of some homeless people in their time of need, she is an inspiration and I’m sure many people look up to her for what she does and how she helps those less fortunate then herself. We then had another speaker called Chris who talked to us about how an organisation called Crisis help change his life and his story from how he had everything to nothing and the way Crisis helped him through this. Towards the end of the day we contributed our ideas on what we’d want to talk about. We then split into small groups and shared ideas related to the topic so it could help us within our organisations. As the day drew to a close it was then time for more net working so we could build as much as we could whilst there, drinks were also supplied so it was a nice end to an interesting day, I met some good people who had interesting stories and looking forward to my next conference in a few weeks.

North Star Journey week 2….Future Generation Session

outwoodmarske

The start of the second week and yesterday was slightly different, as we visited OUTWOOD ACADEMY BYDALES which is in Marske By The Sea.

This was because we were putting on a future generation session for a small group of students in year 10 and 11, it was to give them an insight of what a housing association is, how it operates, the number of different departments that help the company function on a day to day basis.This was all to help them understand more goes into a housing association then what they might have expected.

Our presentation involved; me, Jake another apprentice at North Star but in the customer service side, Laura Wood the lead for PR and digital communications and Beth a community investment officer.We started by explaining what North Star does etc. then talked about our individual journeys into the company and the different routes we each took and what our job roles now are. We made it interactive by asking the students to go in groups and discuss what departments make up the organisation and see what they already knew to help improve their knowledge.

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