When did you first meet each other?
Sharon: I first met Sham after I’d finished my Ready for Work placement in retail. Before Ready for Work, I hadn’t worked for 20 years because I had to look after my children. Once they’d all grown up, I was determined to work, but I really struggled to find a job. I seemed to go between the jobcentre and handing out my CV around town, and every rejection made me feel more depressed.
I heard about Ready for Work and decided to give it a go. My placement went better than expected; I had to travel on two buses to get there every day, but it was worth it because I gained some really valuable experience.
Sham: When I started coaching Sharon I’d been volunteering for nearly two years. Having spent some time looking for a job after Uni, I had some experience of how demoralising job searching can be, so I wanted to try and help. I was very hesitant to begin with and doubted that I could help. But I quickly discovered that I had skills to share - things like updating my CV, applying for jobs, even using a computer – they’re things that I would do naturally, but others need a bit more help with.
When I first met Sharon, she’d just finished her placement so I wanted to help her build on the confidence it had given her. But at the same time, she’d been out of work for 20 years, and wasn’t having a lot of luck with applying for jobs. So we chatted through her experience and what she might like to do going forward and she decided she’d like to apply for jobs in retail. To start with, she was getting about 400 new emails a day, which obviously made it difficult to track job applications. So, that was one of the first things we tried to get sorted!
What was the impact of your weekly meetings?
Sharon: Sham was really helpful – every week she would be there to offer me support. She would help me to write my CV and we’d check the internet for new jobs. She’d help me to apply for them, and would even text me during the week to see how I was getting on!
Sham: Sharon is such a bubbly and friendly person so I knew she’d be well suited to retail - it was great to be able to help her find a way to express that on paper.
Sharon: One week when we were checking my emails, we saw one from Tesco, where I’d had an interview. We opened the email and discovered that I’d got the job! I couldn’t believe it to begin with, but it began to sink in when everyone at job club started congratulating me.
Sham: It was a really great moment - she really deserved it, and I was so pleased for her.
Sharon: Now I work in Tesco, on the magazine stand. I have to make sure stock is up to date. I really enjoy my job, even though I have to get up at 5am! It gives me something to get out of bed for, and I’m already learning new skills.
How important do you consider job coaching to be?
Sharon: Having a coach was so important for helping me to find a job – it made a huge difference. Job club is great, but a job coach can help even further. Having someone who was there to support me and look out for me made all the difference.
Sham: Job coaching is really good for developing your soft skills. It has helped me to build my confidence and communications skills, and it’s great to do something outside of the requirements of my job. It really helps when I go back to my office – I have more motivation as I’m always in a great mood!
It’s also really flexible – I did it for six months and then had a break, then did another six months. It offers you the chance to give something back to the community and it’s a good reminder that not everyone has had the same opportunities.
Sharon: I really think people should consider volunteering – there are people out there that can’t get a job and just need a helping hand. With the support of Ready for Work, the job club, and Sham, my job coach, I felt like I had an army of people helping me to get back into work.
Find out more about the help that Ready for Work provides to the long-term unemployed.
Read other personal stories from the Ready for Work programme.