Nelia finds help on the road to employment 
Nelia Goncalves moved to Belfast from Portugal in 2014 and got involved with the LEMIS+ Project at the Ashton Centre in north Belfast to help her secure a job. She tells her story: 
 
 
“I lost my job as an airport security guard in Lisbon and couldn’t find any other jobs that didn’t feel like I was taking a step backwards. I like to keep moving forwards so I came to Belfast, where I had a friend, to find a job. At first, it was very hard. Interviews here are not like in Portugal, where they just ask you what jobs you’ve worked before. I was very much out of my comfort zone and this made me very nervous. I got a job quite easily in a fast food restaurant but it wasn’t where I wanted to be so I was looking for other jobs all the time. The interviews were a mess and I just didn’t know what to do. 
 
“I saw Paul, a mentor from the LEMIS+ Project one day when I was signing on. He asked me to sign up for the project and I jumped at the chance for some support with my interview skills. 
 
“When I sat down with Paul, I discovered that I was giving all the wrong answers to the interview questions. When they asked me ‘tell me about yourself’, I was telling them my age, that I was a mum, that sort of thing. Paul had to tell me that they wanted to hear that I was friendly, personable, capable and competent. Once he told me that I could say all those things, it all made sense. 
 
"I think that I needed permission to be confident, to be more myself. Paul changed my mind set.” 
 
Nelia went on to successfully interview and secure a job in Asda before going on to apply for an internship at a gym. 
 
“At the Asda interview I was confident, because Paul had helped me to see my strengths, but inside I didn’t know if it was going to work as I’d never tested it before. When I got the job, I was on top of the world. 
 
“I had been studying to be a personal trainer and decided that the next step was to apply for an internship that would train me to be a coach. 
 
"I had to do an interview for the traineeship, and I used the skills that I learned at LEMIS+. Before, interviews put me outside of my comfort zone with the result that I withdrew and became shy. But now I knew how to be me no matter what the situation and this gave me the confidence to show myself in the best light.” 
 
Nelia moved from her internship to employment as a gym instructor and got great feedback from clients, but she had always wanted to work for herself and started thinking about self employment. 
 
“I eventually decided to start my own business doing online fitness coaching and home visits for my clients. It works really well for people who have children or who are busy and their schedules don’t allow for a regular appointment with an instructor. 
 
“I feel like I’m equipped to help people now because I’ve started to understand how to help myself. When I first moved here I was living with my children in one bedroom on about £20 a week. I had nothing but a belief that I could do it. I would say to people who are struggling without jobs to ask for help. Go to somewhere like LEMIS+ and make a plan. It’s all tailored to you and what you need, unlike some of the other programmes which don’t ask you why you’re struggling, they just move you on to the next stage if you’ve failed. LEMIS+ helped me to prepare for interviews and all of a sudden I was able to get jobs after months of failing. 
 
“There are so many benefits to having a job –the main one is interacting with different people. Before working I was always interacting with the same people, or not on any meaningful level, and now I’m meeting new people, making money and freedom for myself. 
 
“Lots of people think that especially when they have kids, that they couldn’t cope with a job because they are so tired and have so much to do already that they would be overwhelmed with work on top of it all. But really I would say to them you will not be more tired or overwhelmed as meeting other people gives you energy and you feel better. When you work you have time for yourself, you get new dreams, new ideas and new goals. You are building yourself. 
 
“The LEMIS+ Project helped me prepare for interviews and to change my mind set. I no longer think that the people on top are better or smarter than me, or just had more opportunities. Everyone has the same 24 hours in the day – it’s how you use them that counts.” 
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