For the first time, you can hear one of our She Work’s clients tell her own success story in her own words.
We first met this client at the Fitted for Work Mentoring for Women in Prison program. Within five months of leaving prison at age 55, she had a new job at L’Oréal Australia with the support of She Works.
Our She Works Intern, Sophie Berrill caught up with this client over Zoom during lockdown of 2020 to chat about the hurdles she faced to find employment and how that is working for her now.
She Works Client: If it wasn’t for she works, I really would have struggled to actually get a job. It’s just the understanding. They know where you’re coming from. There’s no judgment. I think everyone should take up every opportunity that’s handed to them. And unless you’ve been in a situation like me, you don’t even realize that this facility is out there helping people.
Narrator: She Works is a social enterprise owned by Fitted for Work. We help employers recruit more diverse and inclusive workforces. We do this by connecting employers with the amazing women and gender nonconforming folk who use Fitted for Work’s job prep services. She Works candidates come from all walks of life. Earlier, you heard the voice of a woman who came to she works after exiting prison at age 55. She faced the daunting task of re-entering the workforce not only in her 50s, but after two years inside. Within five months, this woman got a packing job with one of She Works partners, L’Oréal. She would like to remain anonymous, but generously agreed to chat about her unique road back to work.
She Works Client: It’s scary. A lot of people associate someone that’s coming from prison as they’ve done something absolutely horrible. And that’s just going by what they see on TV. They watch Orange Is The New Black, Prisoner, and they assume that it’s like that, and the people there are like that. And it’s not, it’s a completely different environment to that. But you still have lost that confidence, you don’t have much confidence in yourself. Because you want to go for a job interview and be honest and say: “This is why there’s a gap in my resume”. But it’s very hard to approach, you’re not quite sure how to say it. So it is very daunting. It’s very daunting. So you need to call on all the support you can get.
Narrator: I just want to rewind a little bit. When did you first meet anyone from Fitted for Work?
She Works Client: I was in the prison system for two years and Fittted for Work ran a program for the prisoners that are about to be released, showing the services they can offer and the assistance they give. So virtually the next day after we got out, I made an appointment and and just took it from there.
Narrator: And did you find that She Works and Fitted for Work were sensitive to the needs of women exiting prison?
She Works Client: When I initially went in, I went in for the clothing to start applying for jobs, and they were very sensitive to what we would be going for. And there was no judgment, no judgment at all. The coordinator contacted me and said I think we need to get you in for a resumé session as my resume was an old resume in an old format. So I made an appointment and went and spoke to the lady and she was very honest, saying, “This is what you need to do. Don’t mention it, but we can skirt around so that when you can actually get a face to face interview, you can bring it up yourself, if you want to.” So they were very sensitive, they were very aware that the confidence level is not there. Then after that there was a lot of contact and it was just lovely little a phone call to see how I was going and that was important because at that stage, that was really the only contact I had, besides family members, was with the people from Fitted for Work. So that was that was important. It made you feel like someone was out there having your back.
Narrator: So after all the job preparation an opportunity arose through She Works. L’Oréal was advertising for the casual warehouse role. What was the application process like?
She Works Client: I went into She Works and met with the coordinator. Sharon spoke to me about what was expected and the process of the application. It’s all through an agency. So Sharon contacted the agency and I got an appointment. The manager for L’Oréal—I met her and we had a good talk. We did the exams and they sat me down and said look, we’ll put you on. So it wasn’t difficult. It was easy, but it was actually being able to get in and meet somebody. With the age and the prison background, it’s very difficult to get a foot in the door to actually meet people. I think it was easier coming from She Works as well because the agency knew where I’d come from, they knew a bit of our background. So I could actually say, “Look, I’ve been in the prison system for two years,” and they they weren’t worried at all.
Narrator: And what previous work had you done before?
She Works Client: I was always in administration and finance. It’s a big difference. But I think a change is good.
Narrator: And how did it feel to be working again?
She Works Client: Oh it was wonderful. Look at the beginning, you’re still very unsure of yourself. But L’Oréal were very understanding. I didn’t have much success with picking. And She Works actually went back in and said, “Look, she’s just come out.” And the situation wasn’t perfect for me doing a night shift. It just didn’t suit me. And I was prepared to not be employed by L’Oréal as well. And when She Works went in they had a meeting and gave me another chance, which was wonderful. And just being able to go out and earn your own money. I’m married with children, and not having to ask your partner for money, it’s just—it makes you feel better inside. And having company and just going out and meeting other people, otherwise you would sit at home and not go out. It was a mental saviour for me. Because I thought I would get very comfortable just sitting at home, and I was just going out. The girls were all lovely, they’re all welcoming. And even though I’m a more mature person, L’Oréal do have a lot of more mature people there. And I think they realize that someone who’s more mature is still valuable and can work and is not inclined to leave a job. We’re not going to pick up and leave and move to another job. They have a stability there. So I think L’Oréal will recognize that and they’ve been wonderful.
Narrator: Lovely. Do you have any plans for the future?
She Works Client: Oh, look, I really enjoy being at home. I love the shift work. I’m working six in the morning until 12pm. So I’ve got the afternoon free. And I think you’ve missed so much time with the family. Being home in the afternoon, I love it. I love it. I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else. And I wouldn’t want to go back to a nine to five job. I enjoy the flexibility of having shifts. Look it’s just important to be able to get out there. And I know I’m going to be home by 12pm and I can still do the family and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. Yeah, that’s good.
Narrator: I think that’s one of the upsides for everyone this year, is a bit of extra quality time at home with the people you love.
She Works Client: Yes, I’m settling in very comfortably. But it’s important to have somewhere to go. People think, “Oh, work work.” But works important. Just for your own self worth and to make yourself feel better about yourself. I think it’s important to go out and it doesn’t matter what I do. I really don’t mind what I do, it’s just the fact that I’m going out and meeting people, I’m socializing with people I would never meet in a normal circumstance and I love that. I love it.
Narrator: That was one woman’s story finding a job with She Works. To read more, head to fittedforwork.org/news. If you’d like to partner with She Works, you can find us at sheworks.org.au or call us on 03 8842 2954. Let’s get more women working.