Get to know John Murray, Community Works

17 July 2020

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Meet John Murray

Musician, runner and manager of our friendly Community Works team, building good relationships is how Murray helps people in Leith and north Edinburgh get into work or volunteering that they love.

When you meet someone through Community Works, what’s the first thing you like to get to know about them?
For me the basis of the support we provide for people is about forming relationships. Before I ask anything about the person’s current employment situation and what they might be looking for I like to find out a bit about them as a person. ‘Tell me a bit about yourself’ tends to be the first thing I’ll ask them.

Understanding what someone enjoys doing, what motivates them, what makes them happy or fulfilled or enthusiastic can be just as important as finding out what their work experience is. How often do you meet someone socially and the first thing they’ll ask you is ‘What do you do?’. People often place value on what others do to make money rather than focussing on who the person is. I would rather find out what makes someone laugh, how they enjoy spending their time, what type of music they prefer and where their favourite place they’ve visited is. These are the parts of people which make them, them.

How did you get into this line of work?
I began working in the third/charitable sector when I was a support worker. It was a tremendous job where I worked with people with varying degrees of mental health issues and helped them to navigate the demands of everyday life. There were lots of aspects to this, from socialising, travel, medication, cooking, cleaning, budgeting and in some cases seeking employment; both voluntary and paid. After a number of years I moved into specific employability work.

Initially I worked with people who were unemployed primarily due to illness, physical and/or mental and disability. There were similarities to my previous role however the focus now was purely on facilitating individuals transitions from benefit dependency to paid employment. In both roles the ethos was definitely one of supporting people to help themselves. Being there to mentor and support people rather than doing things for people was key.

“If there’s the opportunity to work on a voluntary basis it can be a really good, less pressurised stepping stone to returning to the culture of the working world.”


What is a top tip you’d give to people returning to work after a long time?
The reality is that there is a very well-defined and socially accepted culture around work. It takes time to adjust to this in just the same way it takes time to adjust to the culture of a different city or country. It’s vital that people give themselves time to adjust and ease themselves in if that’s possible. Even a few weeks or months away from a work routine can have a quite profound effect on people. How many people feel out of sorts after a long weekend or a holiday?

I always advise people not to jump in at the deep end. If there’s the opportunity to work on a voluntary basis it can be a really good, less pressurised stepping stone to returning to the culture of the working world. Taking on a part time, paid job before a full time job is also a sensible approach to returning to work, assuming of course this is economically viable.

It may sound counter-intuitive but no job is better than the wrong job. Taking on a role that’s not right for you will lead to a longer period of unemployment at a later date and potentially knock your confidence. In my experience people have a good, intuitive understanding of what’s right and not so right for them. Take time over your decision if you have the luxury of doing so.

“It’s interesting that the types of roles I’ve had as an adult were completely unknown to me as a teenager.”


What was your dream job as a kid?
When I was very young I wanted to be a policeman. It seemed such a heroic thing to be. In high school I wanted to be a graphic designer. I quite quickly realised my artistic skills were never going to be good enough to allow me to follow that path. It’s interesting that the types of roles I’ve had as an adult were completely unknown to me as a teenager. Had I known there were jobs out there where you could use your people skills, personal values and simple desire to make the world a slightly better place for people I’m sure my goals would have been different.

Would you like to learn more?
Find out more about Community Works and how they could help you here.

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