“When I put on these clothes in the morning and look in the mirror, I hear the dressers telling me to be kind to myself and to stand proud. I feel like a success story, and I want to keep going.”
– Lorraine, Smart Works client
After more than a decade caring for her family, in January 2023 Lorraine was ready to return to the workplace but didn’t know how to take that first step.
Made redundant a decade ago in a corporate restructuring, the 53-year-old spent the intervening years putting everyone else’s needs first. Working as a carer had totally consumed her life until a meeting with the Smart Works team set her upon a different path.
This is Lorraine’s story.
“For the past 12 years I have been taking care of my family who have complex health conditions. It’s not easy caring for someone, especially when you are caring for adults. It’s exhausting. I lost myself in it. Which is why when I first came to Smart Works it was so amazing because they saw me. They saw me as a person rather than a carer, and that’s a huge thing.”
“I’ve always told my kids that you have to find a purpose in life. You need to push yourself to reach for your goals, but I found myself at the end of the pandemic adrift and lost. I was in my 50’s and didn’t think that anyone would want my skills after such a long break. In January I had no heating, no running water, no electricity, no way to pay my bills and no hope.
I was walking down my local high street and I told myself that I had to make a change. I believe everything happens for a reason and the first leaflet I received when I walked through the door of the job centre was from Smart Works. With the encouragement of a work coach, I started studying and applying for jobs. One day I got a phone call and I didn’t realise until the end that it was a telephone interview.”
“I panicked when the recruiter said they wanted to meet me. But my work coach at the job centre was able to get me an appointment with Smart Works the next day.
You have to understand, money’s been tight for a while. All the office clothes I have in my wardrobe are 18 years old and size 8-10. I was never going to fit into those clothes and all my shoes have holes in the bottom. I seriously thought about cancelling the interview because I didn’t have anything to wear.
The team was so friendly and welcoming. They picked out the perfect outfit for me which was bright and fun, and I am eternally grateful. They really calmed me down and helped me practise answering questions so that when I went to the interview the next day, I felt prepared for anything. It’s hard to feel nervous when you are wearing a bright pink leopard print!”
“After I got the job they invited me back and I got to choose trousers, tops and a couple of jackets. I’ve been mixing and matching these outfits ever since. When I put on these clothes in the morning and look in the mirror, I hear the dressers telling me to be kinder to myself and to stand proud. I feel like a success story, and I want to keep going.
It is still a struggle, trying to juggle my caring commitments with this new role…
But I am more confident and feel capable because I have met these wonderful people. I feel seen.”