Jan from Rosebud finds her spark again after COVID-19 lockdowns

WISE Women Consultant Lisa with customer JanAfter more than a decade working in the kitchen for a childcare centre, 62-year-old Rosebud local Jan was ready for a change. While she loved the job and her colleagues, she was excited by the prospect of a new challenge. So, in 2020, she bravely resigned to find a new career path.

Unbeknownst to her at the time, the whole world would soon come to a standstill due to the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, making it extremely hard to break into a new industry.

“When it dawned on me that I was unemployed in the middle of a pandemic, I became extremely anxious. I found it hard to even string two words together and couldn’t stop crying. It was awful,” says Jan.

She discovered WISE Employment through Centrelink and was partnered up with her Employment Consultant and Business Manager of WISE Women, Lisa Ryan.

WISE Women is a program by women for women, designed to help females reach their employment goals, explore career opportunities and pathways to success. It’s aimed at women who are wanting a career change, looking to re-skill or re-enter the workforce after a prolonged period of time. A dedicated case manager assists customers in building positive change through community connections, support services and resources.

“I don’t know how I ended up being paired with Lisa, but to this day, I feel extremely lucky that I was,” says Jan.

When she found WISE, Jan had been unemployed for quite some time and it was impacting her mentally. She even tried to get her old position back at the childcare centre, but they had already filled the role with someone else.

Despite these setbacks, Lisa said Jan never lost faith.

“Jan is a little pocket rocket and full of energy. I knew not much would stop her from getting back on her feet,” says Lisa.

The two women worked together to identify what Jan really wanted to pursue after her long stint in a childcare centre. “I just wanted to be out there working. I wanted to feel like I was contributing in some way,” says Jan.

Lisa recommended a volunteering position whilst she was finding employment in the meantime, to give her a sense of direction each day. She connected Jan with a charity shop Clothes4U, and it wasn’t long before she fell in love with the work she was doing to help others.

The shop aims to provide clothing free-of-charge to men, women and children in need throughout the local community. Jan would help people find the right outfit for weddings, job interviews and other special occasions, whilst also being an emotional support. It was the connections she made that sparked the most joy.

“It’s a really rewarding experience and it filled my cup seeing my clients walk out of the shop feeling a million bucks,” says Jan.

“These people aren’t bad people – they were just dealt bad cards, and I felt like it was my duty to give back to them.”

WISE Women Consultant Lisa with customer Jan at a table in a cafeJust when Jan was settling into her new volunteer role, her previous employer called to say they would love to have her back at work. She now works two days a week at the childcare centre and one day a week volunteering.

“It’s the perfect lifestyle and means I now have a great sense of purpose, but still have time to kick back and relax,” says Jan.

Lisa was thrilled to see her find her feet again, particularly a sense of security whilst also keeping up her passion supporting the team at Clothes4U.

“She’s always been a happy person, but now she’s really found her place. When you get to that age, it’s very easy to feel down and out, but not once did I hear an ‘I can’t do it’ from Jan,” says Lisa.

Lisa and Jan still keep in contact with each other regularly, and their relationship has now blossomed into a friendship.

“You’re really not meant to say you have favourite clients – but let’s just say Jan’s up there,” laughs Lisa.

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