Working at Guide Dogs isn’t your everyday office job. This is heads, hearts and hands-on stuff. Every month our Spotlight series shines a light on one of our many life-affirming roles.
Very often the public’s first point of contact with Guide Dogs, our Guide Line advisors are an essential part of the organisation - so say Hello to Jessie, Julia and Emily. Experts on all things Guide Dogs, each has an area of specialist knowledge: Julia is our children and young people services expert, Jessica specializes in adult services, while Emily deals with dog health and welfare.
Jessica: On a typical day the team speaks to around 400 people a day, who’ve called Guide Line asking anything from how do I get a guide dog to how can I get a specialist teacher for my child’s school to can you send me a guide donkey! I had one lady ask if we could send her a guide Chihuahua because she lived in a small flat.
There’s 18 of us in the team, answering calls from people all over the country, so you have to have a good overview of everything Guide Dogs does, and then be a real specialist in your own area.
Because the nature of the calls we take are so varied, sometimes from people who are really upset or angry, to be a good Guide Line advisor it’s really important be a great listener and have a practical nature. You’ve got to be able to take in complex details and then give the most helpful advice, so it’s no good if you’re someone who gets flustered easily.
Julia: I quickly learnt that calling Guide Line is often a really big step for someone; you could be the very first person they’ve spoken to about their sight loss diagnosis, or has just been told their child will go blind, and they’re really confused. So it’s down to you to give practical step-by-step advice to someone who is furious or heartbroken - and you have to be resilient.
Jessica: I love it because you couldn’t ask for more variety from a job. On any day I can take a call from anywhere in the UK talking about any subject. Everything is process driven - but we take those processes and make them human.
Emily: I take calls from people asking for help with their guide dog or buddy dog’s health and welfare – and an awful lot of the calls are about diarrhoea - I have such a glamorous job! We perform a triage service, so we can give advice and we have access to decision pathways. For certain conditions or injuries we can say go to straight to the vets ASAP.
I first got involved with Guide Dogs when I was a puppy raiser, then I became an access assistant, where I got involved with community fundraising - so you could say I’ve been with Guide Dogs a veeery long time! This role is perfect for me, as I have a huge amount of dog knowledge and I like working from home but feeling part of a super supportive team.
One of the nicest parts of my job is building up the relationships with my clients, which I find very rewarding. It feels good to know I’ve helped someone.
We’ve got a fantastic team. Maybe because we all work from home, we seem to have put more effort into bonding, and now it feels like we’ve all known each other for years.
I think to be a good Guide Line advisor you have to be friendly, be able to stay calm in a crisis and don’t be squeamish. Occasionally people will call me from a vet surgery wondering if it’s time to put their dog to sleep and the owner is very stressed out.
Jessica: One of the best things about the job is that people usually are so lovely! And they can be so fascinating. We’re not trained counsellors, but we do add humanity. I love it. Plus it’s so nice to chat to people who need your help. I just find it really rewarding.