Nelly was a self referral to Workwise.

When Nelly first met Sue* her Workwise employment consultant, Nelly told Sue she was living at home because she didn’t feel confident enough to leave. Although Nelly presented as a bright, bubbly young woman she had low self esteem and was not happy in herself.

Prior to coming to Workwise, Nelly had tried many ventures which were not as successful as she had hoped. She had applied for a number of positions but she was not successful in gaining employment. “She experienced this as rejection” says Sue. “She had also completed a lot of study which meant she had incurred a large student loan debt. Unfortunately none of this study had led her to a job – which was the desired outcome.”

Nelly had a diagnosis of clinical depression and had attempted suicide several times in the past. She was really keen to work either as a pharmacy assistant or in the clothing retail area. She was clear that she would only consider these two options.

“I began to suspect one of Nelly’s barriers to employment was that when people first saw her, they judged her on what they saw and this was a reason why she could not get past the interview stage”, says Sue. At 23, Nelly was very overweight and no matter how bright and bubbly she was at the interview, it appeared to Sue she was being judged on her size. Sue encouraged Nelly to keep persisting.

Sue provided her with employment suggestions outside the two fields Nelly was  pursuing but still Nelly was clear these were the fields for her. “We emailed, hot knocked, sent CV’s by the dozen. Finally, a fashion store valued what Nelly could offer” says Sue. “They had not judged her on appearance alone, and she was offered a part-time position.”

When Nelly was offered the position, she told Sue, through her tears, that she couldn’t believe it and that this was the first time in her life that she had a real job. “To say that she was ecstatic would have been an understatement”, says Sue. “In fact, I don’t know who was more ecstatic, Nelly or myself!”

“Nelly’s determination is a lesson to all”, exclaims Sue. “She has taught me the importance of sticking with your dream.”

Nelly’s position started with 15 hours per week. During those 15 hours, she worked extremely hard and achieved bonuses. The company was so impressed with her performance they offered her further hours. Still, this was only part-time and her true desire was to work full-time, lose weight and move out of home, which could only be achieved on full-time work.

We worked on her goals and identified some issues. Nelly took my suggestions on board and started to work on herself. She looked at her budget and how she could afford to move out of home. She started exercising slowly, this started by Nelly getting off the bus a few stops early. Her fitness increased and she started to lose weight.

Regular customers began to notice the changes that were happening in Nelly’s appearance, now she was an inspiration to them. Again her hours were increased – this time to full-time. Finally, she was able to cancel her benefit assistance and move into a flat which represented the achievement of independence.

“Throughout this time, I was in contact with Nelly’s parents”, says Sue. “They told me that they were ‘blown away’ with what was happening for Nelly and that they didn’t believe they would see their daughter achieve this level of independence and self confidence.”

Nelly was asked to assist with staff training and applied for a 2IC position. She didn’t get this position however, this inspired her to look further beyond the present and Nelly applied for Teachers College. Her application was accepted.

Nelly decided to continue working part-time at the store to supplement her student allowance. She has lost a total of 40kgs and tells Sue that she is half the person she was when Sue first met her – “but in reality she is double the person now”, says Sue.

“She is a true inspiration to all.”