Nick Smith is a development manager at South Tyneside Council and holds a BA in Estate Management and a PgDip in Housing Studies.
I completed my degree in estate management part-time which was hard work, but it gave me the opportunity to work at the same time.
The work I had during this time was mainly for fairly small companies, and although it gave me loads of good experience that was relevant to completing my degree, I found that once I finished I wanted to join a large organisation, where there would be opportunities to progress.
I was lucky that shortly after completing my degree, a graduate position was advertised at a local council as a housing management trainee. I had to go through two interviews and a series of assessments, but I was very fortunate to be offered the job, and learned later that it was the experience I gained whilst studying that gave me the edge.
I then spent the next three years on various placements within the housing department, which were typically three to six months long, but gave me a great understanding of how the department, and indeed the council operated. During this time, my employer also put me on a postgraduate course, so I was able to back up my experiences with academic learning.
After the three years, I applied for a management position which I got and I haven’t really looked back. I was promoted a few times within that local authority to different positions, and then I moved to a more senior position with another local authority where I have been ever since.
What I really like about working for local government is that there is no such thing as a typical working day as the work is just so varied. Working in what is essentially a customer-focused environment means that I’m always reacting to questions and queries from the general public, colleagues and from local councillors.
The most challenging part of my job is trying to balance priorities as local government can be a busy place to work, and you have to be able to prioritise work.
My role develops all the time, as we have to keep abreast of relevant legislation, and we’re always reviewing policies and procedures, and trying to maintain excellent customer service. As for my career ambitions, I’m currently looking at gaining further qualifications to move into new and growing areas of work, and I’ve just started an environmental management course which I hope will open more doors for me in the future and give me another string to my bow!
The best thing about working in local government for me is the opportunities the sector offers, there are just so many departments and sections, and it is easy to move within councils to gain promotion, or work in areas that might interest you more.
The best advice I can give to students or graduates looking to get into this profession is to try and gain some relevant experience in a customer focused environment, and before you go to any interview, do your homework so you know all there is to know about your potential employer.
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