Life & Culture

Me&You: 'My mentor Lesley helped me back into work'

‘She asked me,where are all these negative thoughts coming from?’


When Merav Shub, 51, from North London, decided to return to work, she turned to the services of Resource, a charity which helps get Jewish people back into employment. Lesley Trenner, a life and career coach from North-West London, was her adviser.

Merav on Lesley:
I went to Resource because I wanted to return to paid work after 10 years of being at home full-time with my three kids. But I was applying for jobs and not getting them because there was so much competition.

I studied geography at university and ended up working in food campaigning, which I did until I stopped to look after my children.

When I went to Resource, I initially did some employability workshops and then I met Lesley, who helped me craft my individual plan and goals.

Within a matter of a year or two of not working, I had started losing confidence because things move so quickly. When I was in my first job, there wasn’t social media. I was running an international campaign, but wasn’t using any of that.

I approached any interview feeling awkward about having to explain the gap. It wasn’t good enough to say that I thought my children needed my attention.

So there were all sorts of fears and self-limiting beliefs that I brought to the process of looking for a job, but Lesley would say: “You seem extremely capable to me. Where are all these negative thoughts coming from?” She really listened to what I was saying and was a very calm and steady presence.

It used to be: see a job advertised, send CV, do that 20 times and get a job. But that system is broken. Now these job adverts are put on multiple platforms and get hundreds of applicants of extremely high quality.

So, one of the most important lessons I learnt from Lesley and Resource was to network. It doesn’t matter if it’s a barmitzvah, a wedding, anywhere. I learnt how to read a room, how to behave, whom to talk to and whom not to talk to.

After starting my sessions with Lesley, I spent a year volunteering before getting a part-time job as an executive assistant. I also did a master’s in town planning because apparently there is a shortage of planners. Well, it turns out there isn’t such a shortage of entry-level planners in London! That proved extremely competitive as well.

Lesley kept encouraging me to keep going, saying I had a lot to offer and that I had made great progress. She reminded me that women who have had long career breaks can get back into work. It just takes time.

Alongside all of this, I paint and am a member of East Finchley Open Artists.
Last February, after lockdown, they held a party. A week earlier, a thought had meandered through my mind: “Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a local artist who needed help running their business and I could be that person?”

At the party, I overheard a guy saying that he was looking for someone to help him take his photography business to the next level. I went up to him and said: “Did you say you’re looking for somebody to help with your business?” I got his card and I’m now a production and project manager. I love that it’s visual, that I’m working with images and film.

Throughout this winding journey, Lesley has always been there to give advice, encouragement and support. When I got the job with the photographer, I said to her that I was in the right place at the right time. But Lesley said that it was that I now knew what a good opportunity looked like, I was ready and I had grabbed it.

Lesley on Merav:
I used to work for a pharmaceutical company and I when I took voluntary redundancy, I reinvented myself as a career and life coach. I wanted to give something back, so I started volunteering at Resource.

We call ourselves careers advisers, but I tell people I’m going to be their adviser for whatever they need. Sometimes, people want a shoulder to cry on. Sometimes, people want to know how to write a cover letter and sometimes, people want to bounce ideas around.

When Merav first came in, she was so lacking in confidence and there was a lot of: “No, I couldn’t possibly do that,” or: “That would never work.” She genuinely had very little self-belief.

You have to dig with people to help them see the unique combination of what they have and how they can package and present it to people.

Merav really did have all those things that she was working so hard to not let me see. She had lots of academic qualifications; she had experience and she understood her subject. She was very intelligent and had good connections.

She was also very good at demonstrating one of our key messages —networking. Around 60-70 per cent of people get jobs this way, but people say: “What does networking even mean?” or: “It’s too scary. What would I say?” Actually, it’s just about talking to people, seeing those opportunities and opening your mind to them.

When you get to know Merav, she is quite chatty, although she’s not a natural extrovert. But something switched in her after she attended our seminar on networking and she realised she could just talk to people and tell them what she’s passionate about and what she had to offer. Her confidence really grew. It was so gratifying to see.

When you’re in the position of being the adviser, people can assume that you’ve got it all cracked. In fact, it’s a two-way street and I always think that I learn something from clients.

The fact that Merav could decide that she would go along to a party and talk about herself on her terms made me think that would work for me as well since I’m also not particularly extroverted. Volunteering at Resource has definitely helped me too.

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