Q&A with an NHS Staff Engagement & Equality Officer
Louise graduated from studying Human Geography at the University of Reading two years ago and has since settled into her role as a Staff Engagement and Equality Officer at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust (MTW). She tells us all about the day-to-day in her role, as well as how she secured her job and her top tips for job applications and interviews.
Tell us about your role as a Staff Engagement and Equality Officer
My department of Staff Engagement and Equality comes under Human Resources. Our department essentially works to make MTW a good place to be employed, and we focus on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) and Welfare. We’re a team of two – me and my line manager. Luckily, she is amazing, very experienced and so good at her job, so I am learning a lot from her.
Our aim is to ensure everyone can bring their whole selves to work and enjoy working for MTW, so that they can then deliver the best patient care possible. There are huge disparity issues within the NHS workforce with regards to protected characteristics including cultural and ethnic minorities, LGBT+ and disabled staff and we are trying to tackle this, as well as introduce welfare initiatives to help staff overall. We are responsible for advising on EDI and Welfare related matters, we carry out training, organise schemes and initiatives to work towards equality, help staff members on a 1:1 basis, help run our staff networks and many other things.
Photo: Staff Engagement – CleanLink
What is your day to day like?
I love my job because every day is completely different. We are involved in so much within the Trust and everything is done in a rolling style – it never really ends (until we are all equal haha), so it’s hard to describe a typical day. For example, when writing this on a Wednesday, I spent the morning training staff to become Safe Space Champions (which involves being a listening ear and first point of call for staff experiencing any issues within their work life). Then I spent the afternoon writing a newsletter for our Cultural and Ethnic Minorities Network and replying to emails. However, last Wednesday I was in meetings all day and then the Wednesday before that I spent the day brainstorming a White Ally Training Program with my manager. My role is a mixture of responding to current issues and working towards longer term goals. I work mostly from home, going into the office one day a week, so that also adds to the varied nature of my job.
What are some of the best things about your job?
The best thing is that my job involves what I am passionate about. In my personal life, I read about and get involved in equality, diversity and inclusion, so to be able to do that in my work life and get paid for it is amazing! I also love how my personal experiences of being a bisexual woman or being an active BAME ally can be directly fed into my job – be that as a catalyst for change, with our team working on a new initiative based on my own experience, or when delivering training and using my own stories to explain or highlight a point. I also love how each day is completely different and I learn something every day from this job!
What are the main challenges?
It can be hard to engage with staff and get them involved. It does sometimes feel like we are flogging a dead horse or that no one is interested, but I just try to focus on the fact that if I can help, educate or inspire one person, I have done a good job, because that will improve their professional and personal life and I will have made a difference.
How did you get your current role?
The only criteria for this job was an undergraduate degree. However, I had worked in admin for the NHS for a year previously, which definitely helped me prepare for the interview and have some real understanding of the NHS. In subsequent conversations with my manager, she commented that I was clearly very passionate and knowledgeable about equality diversity and inclusion, which is why she gave me the job. It was a bonus that I had relevant experience and a degree. She was looking for someone who really understood the role and would be able to contrast her well, to make a more well-rounded team.
How do you feel about working for the NHS?
I love working for the NHS. I have always wanted to work in the public sector because it is not about making money and profit, it’s about providing an excellent service and helping people. It is also a very secure, reliable job, as it will not go out of business; that’s something which has been very important to me during the pandemic. I am also really interested in medical things, so to be able to chat to medical professionals is a perk. Finally, the variety of people and job roles means I get to meet so many interesting and wonderful people.
How did you figure out what you wanted to do after uni?
I didn’t have a process at all. Initially, I wanted to go into sustainability but my mum, who works for the NHS, suggested I look for admin roles, as they are easier jobs to earn money whilst applying for a permanent job, but will actually give you a lot of experience and a valuable skillset. I definitely learned from each one I did, both in terms of skills and what was important to me from a job.
What skills are important for your job?
Being a good communicator, a good listener and being approachable are all key skills for this role. So just being able to have a conversation with lots of different people is very, very crucial as well. If I couldn’t talk to people, I would be out of a job!
How did you feel about the job search?
Job searching is horrible. Out of university I struggled to get my first admin job. It took me four months of applications just to get a part-time admin role that I didn’t even want, another three months to get a slightly better full-time admin job, and then ten months to get the job I have now. I know this is nothing compared to what others go through, but I had 25 interviews during that time and came very close to several jobs. It’s really hard to stay motivated when you keep getting rejected.
How do you deal with job rejections?
I got very close to several jobs and ‘just’ didn’t get them, and I found that really hard to deal with. I am a big believer in fate. I would always have a cry, then pick myself up again and say it wasn’t meant to be and that I didn’t get that job for a reason, but it did get very hard at times to keep thinking like this.
Now I am in my dream job, so I believe in fate even more – the reason I wasn’t accepted for those other jobs was so I could get this one! BUT at the time, it was awful. My only advice is to cry, let it all out and then pull yourself together the next day… and keep applying.
What are your top tips for job applications?
Keep your previous job applications. Then you can pick out relevant bits to use for new applications.
What are your top tips for job interviews?
Be as prepared as possible and do your background research! I would always make lots of notes beforehand. Another tip is to practise! Think about the questions they may ask and practise answering by actually talking to yourself – I always found this really helped me and calmed my nerves.
By being prepared for interviews, I was able to relax and show my personality a bit more.
Where did you search for jobs?
Once I decided to pursue a career in the NHS, I always used Indeed and then the NHS job search.
What’s important to you in terms of workplace culture?
I am a very open and honest person so I thrive in an environment where I can be myself and talk about things.
What do you look for to make sure a company is inclusive?
I would firstly look at the company website – can I see any campaigns, pages which discuss what equality, diversity and inclusion means to them? I would also want to see if they had an EDI department or dedicated person working there, and what other organisations they work with. Thirdly, their social media can also be very telling.
How have you found working from home?
Initially when starting this job six months ago, I did struggle to settle in with working mostly from home. However, having got to know people, I now love WFH – I am enjoying the best of both worlds as I do go into the office at least once a week. I have found mainly working from home to be much more productive: I am able to spend more time with friends and family and have saved so much money in petrol. I do make it a priority to have regular virtual meetings with my manager so that I maintain a connection there.
What does success mean to you, and has this changed over time?
That’s an interesting question. As cliché as it may sound, success to me is being happy, but also by doing a good job. I don’t see success as one clear thing, I think it is different depending on what job you are doing. Within my current role, success is quite hard to measure – we like to celebrate both small and big wins within our department, as so much of our work will take years to become embedded within the organisation.
I’m Louise (she/her pronouns), aged 24, bisexual. I have a degree in Human Geography and work for the NHS in an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion role! I’m passionate about all things EDI, and I’m always looking to learn more, because this area is forever changing and adapting.
Out of work, I enjoy cooking great food, working out and spending as much time as possible with friends.
Find out more:
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