Michelle was out of work while she was bringing her two children up but when her youngest child started full time school she came to the GRoW Programme to find out how to start getting ready for work again.
Michelle said “I heard about GRoW through my son’s school as we had a great Family Support Service that used to run regular coffee mornings for parents and they referred me to the programme. They explained that it was free to join and, as the GRoW sessions were held in the school, would be really convenient for me to attend as I could come straight after dropping off my children at their classrooms. I knew I would want to return to work once my youngest son started school but I had no idea about what I wanted to do. I had been out of work for several years by then and was panicking about what it would be like to go back and I had lost a lot of confidence.
The GRoW Programme offered one session a week for four weeks followed by weekly meetings with my dedicated Adviser, Liz Sewell, and covered practical advice such as how to write a CV and interview techniques. I found it really useful and it very quickly helped to build my confidence. I was really pleased when Liz asked me if I would be interested in joining her team and work for GRoW, she recognised that I was really keen to start work and had got to know me well over the time I was on the programme. She needed someone to call the GRoW clients to remind them of their appointments and she paid me a salary and covered my expenses. What was really great was that she offered me the flexibility to carry out the role in the mornings to fit around taking my children to school and it was during Term Time only which meant I could be at home still with the children when they are on school holidays.
As I continued to work with GRoW the role further developed to include researching job opportunities for clients as well as managing my client list and as the job was part-time I was able to pursue other opportunities to progress my work experience. I helped out at my sons’ school in the afternoon in a voluntary capacity as a Classroom Assistant, reading to the children and carrying out duties for the teachers such as photocopying. When a vacancy became available for a School Midday Supervisory Assistant both Margaret from the Family Support Service and Liz helped me with the Application Form and Liz supplied a reference for me which was a huge help. I was so pleased when I got the job!
I feel that I have been on a bit of a journey since attending the GRoW progamme. I have progressed so much, not just with my confidence but with the experience, learning and knowledge I have picked up along the way with the volunteering and my role with the clients on the GRoW programme.
I now combine my work with GRoW with my SMSA role and I am also carrying out paid work in the afternoons at school helping children with special educational needs as a 1:1 Learning Support Assistant. This is an area of work I am considering developing further in the future. I am so happy with my work situation now, it’s great having a variety of jobs and to be working in roles where I am helping other people at the same time.
I think achieving success in your journey into work is largely down to just putting yourself out there and gaining confidence is the key to doing that. Once you start doing something, anything, it gives you the confidence to do other things. When I started on my journey to work I really didn’t know what I wanted to do but once I started doing something I just moved forward. I am happy with the way things are, the two roles work perfectly around my two boys and I now my youngest is in Year 3 I’m thinking now about what my next steps should be and am looking at undertaking training. I’m still not 100% sure of what I want to do in the future but I do know that I want to continue working with people and children, possibly in a counselling or advisory capacity or in Education.
The fact that I’ve been through the GRoW Programme myself has given me an insight and better understanding of my clients and I feel my experience has a positive influence on them. I know how it feels and what it means to not have any confidence and it really helps me in my job to support these women. If they hear that you have been in their position and understand their journey it gives them hope as if success can happen for me, it can happen for them too.
From my work with the ladies in GRoW I have recognised that the biggest barrier to them finding work is not having worked in so long, or not ever having worked before. The main problem with this is that it has such a negative impact on their confidence. GRoW helps to break down the steps to work so that it doesn’t overwhelm people and makes it easier for them to start their journey. You can feel quite hopeless when you just don’t know where to start. By signposting people to the places they need to go and supporting them to get there it makes it more manageable and achievable. The difference you see in these women when they complete the programme is amazing, some of them are very timid when they start but the support they find through the networking opportunities with other people in the same position as them really helps to bring them out of their shell. Just getting together with other likeminded individuals in one place to talk about the issues they have empowers them to look at ways to improve their lives.
I for one have found it so empowering and I’ve been able to develop what I call my ‘portfolio career’, wearing a range of different hats for my different roles and being able to juggle a successful career with bringing up my family.