When I came across CLI I was working in a Prison for a Mental Health organisation. Although I enjoyed the work I was doing and found it very rewarding a couple of things made me consider change. Firstly, my organisation wasn’t giving me the support necessary to face some of the challenges working in a prison throws at you and secondly I recognised that there was a need for more support in the community when people leave prison and in general, especially with substance misuse issues.
I came across the role for a Volunteer Co-ordinator for a project in Bedfordshire called SAMAS. Reading the job description lit something within me, CLI sounded like such a forward thinking and passionate organisation. Exactly what I was looking for. I applied for the role and eagerly awaited to hear back. I was offered an interview and made aware the Project Manager Beverley Copestake and Managing Director and Founder of CLI Peter Atherton would be present. Daunting stuff, until I had an email exchange with Pete himself. He said how he was aware a structured interview process can prevent the employer really getting to know the person, therefore him and Bev hope to create a nice relaxed environment with a coffee and a chat.
I have to say this is the first time I’d really come across this approach with interviewing, especially with an established and successful organisation. After reading this email I instantly felt relaxed and felt inclined to be myself, I stopped trying to rehearse facts and scrambling at why my experience was relevant and just went with it. I was welcomed by Pete and Bev at a lovely hotel in Woburn. Pete absolutely kept to his promise; I wasn’t directed to a secluded room to sit in front of a panel but rather gestured to a coffee lounge in an open space which looked very welcoming.
When I sat down with them both I was instantly put at ease. It all began quite light-heartedly. They both just wanted to know more about me; hobbies, passions, what I like to get up to and I got the sense they were trying to build a picture of the real me. We then moved on to my knowledge of what the role entailed, what skills and insight I had to offer and how I would go about recruiting volunteers. When answering these questions, I didn’t feel under pressure as it seemed they weren’t looking for the perfect answer. They were happy to guide me a little at times, this was useful as it led me to think of points that I may not have thought of until I’d had the time to think later that day.
In the interview I got to find out more about CLI, the dynamics of the organisation and the team. Its values appeared to match mine perfectly and that was important to me. I could see how they had a family feel amongst the staff and they were truly passionate about helping people. Coming from a prison where there was a lot of red tape and an organisation that were quite inflexible at times, this was a breath of fresh air. CLI has the attitude to grow and figure out what works best for people, rather than remain rigid in old ways just because ‘that’s how we’ve always done it’. Upon leaving Bev and Pete I felt full of optimism, the interview couldn’t have gone better and Pete’s firm handshake with reassuring words left me feeling confident. The style of the interview allowed my bubbly, positive and chatty self to shine through, which on reflection I feel is a lot of why I was employed by CLI. In structured/formal interviews it’s harder to let your true personality come to the surface because you focus so much on getting it right and the questions don’t really allow for it.
In the next few days I felt truly excited to hear back and quite wobbly for the first time in a while at the thought of not getting a job as I was so keen. I heard back sooner than expected. Bev and Pete were both on loudspeaker and informed me I had got the job, I shrieked (literally) down the phone and they said they couldn’t wait to tell me. Again, such a warming feel to them both which made you feel valued and welcome. They seemed as excited as me and I couldn’t wait to get started!
Rather than taking time off between jobs I was ready to get stuck in, I started with CLI straight away. Talk of the family feel of the team made me feel relaxed in the build up to my first day. The first week was all about easing me in and getting familiar with faces. Bev, my manager, has such a kind and supportive approach that made me feel so welcome and appreciated from the off. I came away everyday feeling like I’d finally found the organisation that would enable me to flourish and develop in my career. It was a pleasure meeting those who use and volunteer for SAMAS, each person I spoke with had nothing but grateful and positive words to say about CLI. It was evident this service truly helps people make lasting change and always encourages them moving forward in life.
Bev said I was like ‘a duck to water’ and therefore as soon as I felt comfortable doing something, she’d support me doing so, this way of managing has allowed me to get stuck in and begin utilising my skills straight away. Couple of weeks in and I am already mentoring someone fresh out of rehab, recruiting volunteers, attending groups, working with our community reporters, gathering social media content and writing this blog… I feel so inspired and motivated and that is credit to CLI. This has and will be such rewarding work. Everyone I have met working for CLI is so passionate about helping others which just shows how important values and attitude are when it comes to employability here.
I have never felt so relaxed when transitioning into a new role and already feel at home. I am excited to see where this takes me and finally feel comforted by the support of my team. I feel the means of recruiting that CLI has adopted will play a huge role in the success of this organisation, there is so much more to someone than their CV.