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Starting a new job under lockdown

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Blog by Amrit Bhakar

Starting a new job in the middle of a pandemic is not exactly something one can prepare for nor expect.

In March 2020, the week that the country went into lockdown, I submitted my application to become a Trainee Debt Advisor to Debt Free London.

As a Legal Advice Initial Assessor at Toynbee Hall, the organisation that leads Debt Free London, since November 2019 I knew that this was the organisation I wanted to a part of long term and so I was elated when I was offered the position a few months into lockdown.

Upon accepting the offer, I found that the onboarding procedure was so inviting that the natural worries of starting a new role, particularly remotely, soon dissipated. The welcome extended from my first interview to being invited to join an early Town Hall meeting and to the pleasant surprise of the welcome packs we received before starting. In doing so Debt Free London reciprocated our own excitement at joining as new Trainees and Advice Assistants.

Debt Free London is by far the most positive workplace I have had the pleasure to be a part of and allow me to work amongst colleagues who are like-minded and passionate about creating positive change. In particular, the high quality of work produced is an incredible source of motivation. So far training as a Debt Advisor has been a great experience for me - not only by enabling me to utilise my law degree and helping my local community but also by providing such a unique work environment driven by a fantastic ethos in this unprecedented time.

Focal to Debt Free London’s success, I believe, is the detailed training plan for new recruits to work through over the course of the first month. The time taken to equip us with resources has created a working pace that allows us to absorb and retain an exceptional quality of knowledge. Thorough teaching of new trainees and providing time for independent study has meant that we have all been able to very quickly complete and receive our Level 3 Award in Generalist Debt Advice within approximately a month of joining.

The network of support for trainees, from Technical Supervisors to Partnership Managers, has been fantastic in providing us with personalised mentorship and tangible insight into how Debt Free London care about your individual career progression and growth. Our regular team meetings and culture of support celebrate the team’s continuous efforts and take time to listen to the feedback of staff to improve the service for clients and team members alike.

Some situations can be tough and often clients have very unique circumstances, particularly since lockdown, however the team are excellent, empathetic and always willing to help you deliver the best advice. Despite having had a variety of advice and pro bono experience previously, the change to a digital service has taken some adjustment, but the use of Debt Free London's omnichannel platform and support from management has bridged the gap from in-person to online and telephone delivery.

Working as part of such an ambitious and driven service as Debt Free London provides immense job satisfaction and as we see the circumstances of many Londoners become even more difficult, I feel incredibly grateful to be in a position to make a positive contribution. Being able to see firsthand the difference Debt Free London makes in the lives of people and how much comfort it brings them is invaluable.

So far, I am pleased to have completed my Level 3 Award in Generalist Debt Advice and now be working alongside my team at Toynbee Hall to support advisors and take on more client-facing advice work. Again, with a detailed record of learning, to allow me to get the most from this experience and the chance to shadow brilliant members of staff.

Long-term I look forward to continuing to progress within the organisation, taking on the role of a Debt Advisor and helping as many people as I can along the way.