Anna shares her employability journey, highlighting the support she received and how she managed to rebuild her confidence.
Anna came to Smart Works after being unemployed for two years. Anna was forced to leave her job as a deputy manager in a well-established hotel when her father fell ill. A single mother with two young boys, Anna had to travel back and forth to Poland to care for him. For a period of six months her mother, who has dementia, lived with Anna in the UK, enabling her to care for her and allowing her father to recover. During this time, Anna herself was ill, and needed surgery. Once her father was better and her mother had returned to Poland, Anna had the surgery she needed. However, the previous year had been so physically, financially and mentally stressful that Anna’s own recovery became even more challenging.
After being deemed fit for work, Anna had to begin her job hunt in order to provide for her children. Anna was supported by a disability employment service throughout her job search and referred her to Smart Works once she had secured an interview.
Anna came to Smart Works Edinburgh in 2018 where she received a full outfit of clothes and accessories, and one to one interview preparation training. She attended six different interviews, and received job offers for all of them. Initially Anna accepted a part-time cleaning role, allowing her to look after her boys and continue to get herself back to full health.
Following her success, Anna came back to Smart Works for a second dressing. She left with clothes that were comfortable and appropriate and would see her through to her first pay check.
Anna’s experience in her own words:
“During my long break from employment I absolutely lost my confidence. When I came to Smart Works, I didn’t know what to expect. When I opened the door, I saw beautiful ladies smiling faces saying hello. Previously I had experienced the rude and not so helpful side of the council. Coming to Smart Works reminded me that nice people do exist.
What I had in my wardrobe is not suitable for an interview. People who are interviewing are professional and look for people who can be reliable and trustworthy, so I felt the first impression was really important. I wanted to be professional.
In the first dressing the volunteers chose very nice clothes for me and I felt confident. I would never choose those clothes for myself. For example, I wore a colourful skirt, but normally I only wear black. In those clothes I could have gone for an interview at the bank, they were very professional.
I saw the difference when I opened the door at my first interview. They just looked me up and down and up and down. The first three seconds is important as it is the first impression. It is so important to look good and be confident, to think, ‘yes I came here to get the job and I will get the job’.
For the interview I didn’t have a clue, as my last interview was about fifteen years ago. The interview coach was very polite, she reassured me and gave me amazing advice. She told me what not tell them about myself in the interview, because my private life is private. I was afraid that somebody would ask me, ‘what did you do for two years between jobs?’ I didn’t want to tell them about my personal life, so the interview coach advised me to tell them that I was caring for someone in my family and reassured me that I didn’t need to tell them any specifics about my health problems.
I see the change in myself; when I first came to Smart Works I was scared in the corner, and I was a mess. There was a big difference after my first visit- I was smiling. I used to not smile very much but now I smile a lot more. I feel different, I am a changed woman. I would like my kids to have a happy Mum, who looks good and feels good, because happy Mum equals happy kids.
I’m starting again from a very humble job, but I don’t mind, I am taking pride in what I do because it is a job, and it gives me the money to put bread on the table. It doesn’t matter what I do, as long as I do that.
It is really important to encourage women to try your amazing service. There are many people who would like to go back to work but don’t have the confidence. At Smart Works I felt well cared for. It is a very positive experience for anyone who is feeling lost.”