Many (many) years ago I had the privilege of working with the Army at the Military Corrective Training Centre (MCTC) in Colchester. I was part of a Prison Service initiative where we worked alongside the armed forces to help rehabilitate young offenders to reduce reoffending. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with our uniformed colleagues and have to admit to having developed a bit of a taste for port too!
But whilst a uniformed role is not for everybody, it has taught me so much about myself, provided me with invaluable skills and set me on a path of self reliance.
But, looking back, with all the knowledge and experiences gained over a very exciting 21 year career, if I’m being truthful, I really wasn't all that well prepared for the changes I would experience when I left the Prison Service, even though I had a clear goal in my mind to set up my own business.
During the final few months before I took voluntary redundancy I did my ‘due diligence' and researched the role of an inventory clerk, including finding relevant information and some initial training (mostly on the internet). I found some courses and information online, but there was a distinct lack of any real hands on practical guidance and so it just didn’t meet my needs.
Knowing very little about the industry and without anyone to turn to I jumped straight in and immersed myself by attending property management webinars, networking events and talking to letting agents trying to learn everything and anything so I could get work, get noticed and provide the type of service I would like to receive as an outsourced, independent inventory provider.
It’s not been easy; I have made my fair share of mistakes but each mistake has been an opportunity to learn and develop and I am now in a place where I feel a lot more confident about myself, my service and my ability to train and mentor other inventory providers.
Taking that initial step into the unknown, however, isn't for the faint hearted. Finding the right career or job can be quite a daunting process, especially if you are unsure as to what you want to do and how your skills will transfer into the civilian market.
An article in Forbes notes what they think are the 7 Transferable Skills needed to best position yourself for a change in career. There is no doubt in my mind you already have many, many of the transferable skills as I recognise them all from my experiences of being in uniform and can see how they translate into the qualities, I feel, are needed to be an inventory provider.
Technical - technological competence is now a basic requirement in our everyday life and is certainly true in our role as assessors as the use of apps and cloud based reporting software is now commonplace and the most effective and accurate way to compile a report.
Communication - vital if you are to understand the needs of your clients who rely on us to deliver an impartial and professional service. We are constantly talking to landlords, tenants and agents so how you interact is key to forming positive relationships and forging that all important brand identity.
Critical Thinking - essential when dealing with issues and assessing risk at the property. We often find ourselves advising landlords and agents on how to mitigate potential loses and avoid sticky situations when tenancies aren't going all that well as we are often the one calming voice in a sea of frustration.
Multitasking - organisation; establishing priorities and managing your time. The role of an inventory professional demands a high degree of flexibility both in how you manage the number of reports you undertake and the varying expectations of your client base. Time management is crucial so that you don't over promise and underdeliver.
Teamwork - although most inventory providers work alone they do form part of a wider supply chain from letting agents, EPC assessors to gas engineers, cleaners etc so being a team player showcases your reliability; ability to adapt quickly to your clients needs and always being willing to go that extra mile.
Creativity - lets you see the patterns that lie behind the day to day challenges, helps you to connect the dots and come up with solutions, especially as we are constantly thinking forward, assessing the needs and impacts of our reports and how we can ensure that our evidence is objective and robust.
Leadership - is a combination of all the transferable skills as well as the presence of professional values which is vital to setting yourself out and above the crowd so that you get noticed by potential new clients for all the right reasons.
But as you consider your options, always remember that your working background, your academic standing, your age and your experiences, although all equally valuable, should not and do not define you, as new skills can be learnt, new working practices developed and with those as your foundations, new opportunities can be explored.
Each member of my team has their own unique skill set but what they all collectively bring to the table is a real sense of professionalism; wanting to provide the very best service they can for our agents, tenants and landlords which are attributes I see in members of the armed forces.
Each inventory provider that I have worked with has learnt their role, as I have, from scratch in their own unique way; developing and learning as we all move forward together, sharing experiences, understanding and working together to cement our knowledge base and our position within the lettings industry.
So if you are thinking about or have left the armed forces and the role of an inventory clerk interests you, or you just want to know more about the wider lettings industry then feel free to contact me for a coffee and a chat; [email protected]
I like Nespresso (George Clooney optional) and will never say no to a biscuit 😉
NB: Between April 2018 and March 2019 14,630 people left the UK Regular Armed Forces (UK Armed Forces Quarterly Service Personnel Statistics 1 April 2019).
Of the 60% who left voluntary; each service member will have left either trained or trade trained however not all trades will translate into the private sector so how do you know what job is for you? Finding Work After Armed Forces - Where Next?