Juan began working as a support worker almost by accident. Now, ten years’ later, he’s never looked back!
1. What initially attracted you to the industry?
My getting into the industry was almost accidental. Many years ago I was looking for work (any) while on welfare. The last application that I put in (for a Disability Support Worker position with what was known as the Spastic Society of Victoria, now Scope) for the fortnight (as required to remain on the dole) got the quickest reply, and it was for an interview. I was quite surprised, and at the same time reluctant, having come from a rather different work background overseas. Needless to say, I gave it a go, went to the interview and got the job, but there was a lot of adjusting to do. Several years down the track, I’m still here!
2. With your level of experience, what would be your advice to someone who is new to being a support worker?
The number one thing I’d suggest is to have the initiative. It’s important in any job, but more so in disability, especially if you work for an agency in which case you’d get sent to various work facilities to work with different people, both staff and clients. It goes a long way in getting regular work, as well as coming back to the same work venues on a regular basis. The majority of places won’t fail to notice that, and they do appreciate it. Another one is to be flexible. Different places have different requirements.
3. If you could change 1 thing in the industry, what would it be?
You do come across staff who seem to be there only to get paid, but either hardly do anything at all or do the bare minimum, if they can get away with it. For some reason, you see this happen occasionally on the work floor in disability. Some staff seem to think that because they work with disabled individuals, they don’t have to do their best and it doesn’t matter. I wish I could change this, but you’re limited in what you can do in regards to it.
4. Is there one specific moment in your time working with HCA that stands out as being most rewarding or special?
A bit hard to answer, this one. I guess there’d be a number of specific moments. I’d say that when you work at a particular facility, especially if it’s the first time, and they’re happy with the way you work and want you to come back, it leaves you really encouraged. Also, when you get faced with difficult situations, like dealing with challenging behaviours (even from other staff, mind you), and you manage that well, you come away with a great feeling.
5. 10 years is a long time working with any company, what do you enjoy most about working for HCA?
People have always asked me why I choose to stay working for an agency, specifically HCA (all through the years, under different administrations, starting in May 1999 with MSSA or Melbourne Specialised Support Agency, through to Randstad, and now under HCA), and every now and then there are those that try and persuade me to think otherwise – but I’ve always stood my ground, so to speak. As far as I’m concerned, the flexibility it offers appeals a lot to me and has worked very well for me. This sort of arrangement might not be to everyone’s liking, but it suits me and my situation. For instance, I like that I can go away on an extended holiday and not worry about having to apply for leave, then come back and still have a job. In addition, HCA as an organisation is professional.
6. Anything else you would like to add?
I’ve been fortunate over the years to have found regular places to work in and have secured quite long assignments. However, with that normally comes the pressure, sometimes a lot of it, to come over and work directly for any of those organisations. Resisting isn’t always easy, but all these years I’ve managed to decline (politely, if I may add). I suppose I’m just content staying with HCA.