It’s not every day you get to have people acting like your very own Trinny and Susannah, but luckily for me, I have had that opportunity. My name is Mercy, and I’m currently halfway through my eleventh week on the Employment Programme at The House of St Barnabas.

The Programme offers participants loads of opportunities to learn new skills and techniques from professionals, including work experience, stress management, leadership, and teamwork.

One such opportunity was to visit Smart Works in North London, a charity whose aim is to help women from all backgrounds find employment by dressing them in work appropriate outfits and giving them interview training specific to the roles they’re looking for.

I was very nervous about trying on clothes and having two strangers critique them, but as soon as we arrived, we were put quite at ease. Tea and coffee flowed freely as Leanda and Claire introduced themselves and told us what to expect for our appointment.

Leanda and Claire asked me to describe in detail what kind of clothes I like so they could shortlist a selection; anything purple, flowy skirts, quite long sleeves, and under no circumstances polka dots! A few minutes later I was whisked away into what must be a shopaholic’s dream – a massive room filled with row upon row of clothes, shoes, and lots of drawers filled with handbags. Leanda and Claire had shortlisted several combinations for me to try and I eventually chose a translucent black and orange blouse, black pinstriped trousers and a long black jacket. I absolutely loved the outfit as soon as I stepped out from behind the curtain. It was the most professional I’d ever looked or felt.

The next stage was to find some appropriate shoes, which seemed to take ages but both Leanda and Claire were patient and attentive to what I liked and didn’t like. In the end a high-heeled, beige coloured pair of ankle boots caught my eye. They fitted really well and I found I could actually walk with confidence in them (I still need more practice though)!

My outfit was complete, and I felt great. To make things even better, I was given a bag to match, and a goody bag of make-up treats too!

The next port of call was a quick interview training session with Annie, which again, I was a little nervous about because of my lack of confidence.  This tied in well with other workshops and interview training I had already done with the DWP, as part of the Employment Preparation Programme.  Annie’s training helped me fine-tune my vocabulary to promote myself to a potential employer in the best way.

I left feeling much more confident than I had when I came in, and very excited for my mock interview with Holtby Turner. The experience was informative, fun, and inspiring, and when I do find a job with the help of my mentor and Jules from the Academy, I can go back to Smart Works to pick some more clothes to boost my wardrobe!

With the help of my work experience buddy Alice, Brian and Amy from the Academy team, and all of the other great people at HoSB I definitely feel much more confident and enthusiastic about working and living.