How did you come across a career in IPS?

I volunteered for a drug and alcohol service for a couple of years in the Education, Training and Volunteering Sector. During my time there, IPS was rolled out in the organisation. I was encouraged by management to apply internally for a job in the team.  IPS as a model was then explained to me for the first time.  It didn’t quite work out with that service, but I realised I had the skills from my voluntary work to do the job, so ended up finding a role closer to home.

What does a typical day look like?

It doesn’t really feel like there is one! I meet with clients several times daily, but the contents of the meetings are so different, they can be around building confidence to work, interview skills, creating in-work support plans – they’re different every time.  The rest of my time is divided up by meeting with employers and clinical teams.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I really enjoy interacting with people face-to-face – it’s the perfect job for that.  I’m meeting new people from all kinds of backgrounds all the time.

I’m rarely sat a desk which is another part of the job I really enjoy, always cycling from place to place in a working day, so I’m never clock-watching.

What are the challenges?

Dealing with clients who are in distress can be draining at times, but it’s something you learn to deal with.  More experienced colleagues are always on hand to talk things through with as well.

How useful was your degree? Do you apply the skills you developed during your undergrad? 

I studied Psychology at University and as the job is within a mental health service, some of the modules on specific mental health issues (e.g. depression, anxiety etc.) were useful for background knowledge.  However, as interesting as learning about theory can be at university, you have to be prepared that most of your learning is going to be on the job. Nothing can really prepare you for the face-to-face interaction with clients, you just have to do it and learn!

What advice would you give to someone looking to become an IPS employment specialist?

Get some relevant voluntary experience if you can.  My work with the Drug and Alcohol service pretty much got me the job.  I spent 90% of my application speaking about my experiences there and in other voluntary roles, so I’m not sure I would have been offered the role without them.