Yolanda’s story

How I got my groove back

“I got this job after a year and a half of applying for work and not getting anything, I was lacking in confidence” – Yolanda, an ex-client on the St Mungo’s RollOnMonday employment project, shares the story of her return to the ‘corporate world’ after long term unemployment.

I’m a single mum. My daughter is at college doing an access course. She wants to go to university to study psychology.

I love organising things. I did weddings and events at my previous work place, Southwark College. I worked there for a long time until it was taken over by Lewisham College. The college also had a Pupil Referral Unit where I was also a Support Officer. For four and a half years before I was unemployed, I worked with 14 to 16 year-olds with behavioural problems who were taking vocational courses.

I’m currently working as an Events Administration Assistant at White and Case LLP, an international law firm. The firm also does corporate events, seminars, ‘Lunch and Learns’ and many other things. My job is to manage all the event logistics, invoicing and administration.

‘The dry spell’

I got this job after a year and a half of applying for work and not getting anything, I was lacking in confidence. I thought, ‘I can’t take this, it’s starting to damage my self-esteem’ – applying for roles and not hearing anything back. I had never had that issue in the past, ever. So when I saw the job specification, I thought I met the criteria.

My Lambeth Council housing officer, Yusuf, encouraged me to apply for this role. He told me he believed in me. The council has a job programme they run with St Mungo’s and they get access to jobs on the St Mungo’s RollOnMonday scheme. Yusuf saw this job and said to me: “This is for you, you need to apply for it!” I updated my CV, submitted it and I was successful. The role was originally for three months but the contract was extended.

‘Daunted by the challenge ahead’

The application process was via CV. Bjorn, at the St Mungo’s  Employment Team went over some interview questions with me over the phone. He sent in my CV. Two weeks later, White and Case contacted me. I thought it would be a more formal interview but it turned out to be quite informal in the end, which was great.

I was a bit daunted, thinking it had been a while since I was in the corporate world. Plus, I thought about my age – I thought I was going to be oldest person in the department. All these insecurities were part of it; the difficulties learning new things – would they stretch my mind too far? But I thought, ‘this is just for three months, give it 100%, see where it leads you from there’. That’s my attitude. That’s how I got over my insecurities.

‘The support has been amazing’

RollOnMonday is a scheme where St Mungo’s works in partnership with law firms in London to give entry level work experience opportunities to unemployed people for periods of between three and six months. I found out about the scheme through my housing officer at Lambeth Council because I pay the extra bedroom tax. I was looking for a job and to go back to college.

Bjorn at St Mungo’s was great when I first started. I got financial support, help with my travel. I also met up with Rob Prangle, from the RollOnMonday Team, at least monthly just to see how I was doing. The emotional, financial and career support has been amazing. Really amazing! Especially now that my contract is coming to an end. I can’t express my thanks enough.

When you’ve been out of work for a long time you keep thinking ‘I’m not going to be paid for a least a month, how am I going to even get to work, how am I going to survive?’ RollOnMonday took the pressure off so I could get on with my job instead of worrying about how I would get to work the following week. I could enjoy the job without all these external pressures.

The scheme is only open to organisations that work with St Mungo’s. It should be open to the entire public. I think the Jobcentre should follow the RollOnMonday model or have a section in Jobcentres. The opportunities St Mungo’s gets aren’t the same as those in the Jobcentre. There are many people who are skilled but they never get to see these opportunities. Or, they might just need a foot in the door.

‘Looking forward’

Since getting a job, I now know that I don’t want to be in employment on a full timebasis. I want to set up my own business but work part-time – this is what going back to work has clarified. I have joined a company that, supplies nutritional cookware systems. I’m training as a consultant for them so I can be self-employed.

I have also applied for about four part time roles and I’m waiting to hear back. I’ve been thinking about this for a year, now I am certain that this is what I want.