Bundaberg woman Sharen Roberts has found the ability to believe in herself again thanks to IMPACT Community Services’ WORKFit program.
After experiencing some near misses while working as a coal train driver, Sharen was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and given an ultimatum from her employer – quit or we’ll fire you. Sharen was fired and left to deal with the aftermath of the experiences she had gone through.
“I was in a really bad mindset once I’d finished the WorkCover,” Sharen said.
I had no confidence and I was very resistant in going to work with anyone where I thought there was any possibility of my life being in jeopardy.”
Sharen’s doctor gave her a letter stating that she did not need to work due to her mental health, but despite this she felt the need to return to the workforce.
“I really wanted to get myself back on track,” she said.
“I didn’t want to feel like a victim and a bludger, all those things that my generation say – you don’t go on Centrelink, you don’t ask for charity. And that’s what I felt I was, and that was also affecting my self-respect and the image I had of myself.”
Sharen enrolled in JobActive, now Workforce Australia, through IMPACT Community Services, and was a few sessions in when she was offered the opportunity to join a new voluntary program called WORKFit. Keen to do whatever she could to make a change, Sharen eagerly put her hand up to take part.
WORKFit is a flexible four stage program designed to provide participants with the tools needed to develop skills and improve their employability. It provides one-on-one support to access a range of external support for resilience, online learning and resume creation to give participants the confidence to progress in their job-seeking journey.
Sharen started working through the WORKFit program, undertaking resilience coaching with Adaptable Mentor Jonathan Bailey and working on her resume with WORKFit coach Jeanette Perry.
During this time, a job as a Specimen Collector for QML was advertised – a role she had previously considered but lacked the confidence to apply for. One of the barriers Sharen had to overcome was that she had only ever done one job interview before, and it had been a negative experience despite getting the job.
“My WORKFit coaches had done some mock interviews with me, and it made me feel more relaxed and a bit more confident,” she said.
Sharen, who previously spent 27 years as a registered nurse before changing careers, applied online to QML and was quickly invited in for an interview, where she was offered the job on the spot.
That was in July 2021, and she has been working for QML since.
Initially, Sharen worried about patients wanting her to move faster, but she went back to the techniques she learned in the WORKFit Program to help her face this new challenge.
“Jonathan and Jeanie gave me the confidence to assert myself without being aggressive, I am generally quite passive, but I have learnt it’s okay to stand my ground,” Sharen said.
“If I’ve got two people in the waiting room and they’re getting grumpy then so be it. Once I got over that and went back to what Jonathan was teaching us in the sessions – I’ve got this job, they believe in me that I can do it, and I should stop trying to please all these people that were bossing me around, I managed better.”
“I had to say I’m the boss in here, I’ve got to make sure I do the job right, you don’t want to have to come back because I’ve made a mistake. You don’t know what’s going on in this little room. You’re in the waiting room, so take your time, sit down and wait until I come out. Once I’d got my mindset to that I could do that, I was okay.”
Adaptable Mentor Jonathan Bailey said Sharen took part in WORKFit’s resilience workshops and embraced the process from the start.
“One of the greatest pleasures was seeing Sharen grow in her own confidence and self-belief,” he said.
“I personally believe that sometimes it was just knowing that she had a supportive team around her and knowing if she had a question or was seeking some advice then the WORKFit team were only a phone call or email away.”
Jonathan said getting to know WORKFit participants and their past experiences was essential to the success of the program and ability to improve participants’ lives.
“Building up a relationship, creating that rapport, is important because within that comes trust. Once the trust is there we can continue to work together, making steps forward, tackling those personal barriers.”
Sharen believes she wouldn’t have been able to return to work when she did if it wasn’t for IMPACT’s WORKFit program.
“If I hadn’t have done this course and been given the ability to believe in myself and understand what resilience is, I wouldn’t be working now,” she said, adding that you need to be understand what your challenges are before you can overcome them, something WORKFit helped her with.
Sharen firmly believes that anyone can change their life, but you have to put the work in to make that change happen.
“You’ve got to want to do it,” she said.
“If you don’t want to do it, then nothing will change. If you don’t want to be there and you don’t want to get anything out of it, then it’s not going to do anything for you.”