Confident & happy – Crystal’s story
This June, Crystal Whitcomb, 31, of Hinesburg, Vt., was hired full-time at Twice is Nice, a recently launched non-profit thrift store benefiting the Hinesburg Community Resource Center. Crystal acquired this job immediately after taking part in Vermont Works for Women’s Step In to Work program, a holistic work-readiness system designed to support women in overcoming their employment barriers by providing an opportunity for deep skill building and hands-on learning. VWW intern Julia Simoes spoke with Crystal to hear more about her experiences.
Crystal entered Step In to Work with the hope that the program would equip her with the confidence and perspective she felt she lacked in her career thus far. Through engaging primarily with the Build Your Skills portion of the curriculum, in just four weeks Crystal was able to see how the program could be a catalyst for change in both her professional and personal life.
Prior to beginning Step In, Crystal described herself as “directionless, uncertain, and unfulfilled.” She went on to state “I wasn’t sure of my ability to climb a ladder to a place where I could find the fulfillment I’d been searching for all these years.” This insecurity was rooted in the presence of personal barriers that Crystal saw as insurmountable in her effort to find professional success.
She explained how her inconsistent job history, a career gap due to being a stay-at-home mom, a misdemeanor on her record, past substance abuse issues, and struggles with depression and anxiety severely affected her confidence as a candidate for employment. After participating in the VWW program, Crystal felt that her self-confidence improved significantly.
Upon reflecting on Step In to Work, Crystal spoke of her realization that there are many women that face the same obstacles as she does, and determination that “a person’s future should not be dictated by mistakes made in the past.” She put this newfound understanding into context by explaining that she no longer sees her past as a hindrance.
Self-confidence. It’s weird to define it as a skill, but it is something that takes practice. It takes building habits of not knocking yourself down…the curriculum made me realize I have valuable skills, and all I needed to do was fine tune, and be confident in the fact that I know what I am doing; learning how to not be afraid to say ‘yes, this is what I have to offer’ and not downplaying my strengths.”
In comparing her pre- and post-Step In to Work selves, Crystal said those are two completely different people. Using her interview with Twice is Nice as an example, she explained that she “wasn’t stuttering over [her] words in nervousness,” or second-guessing her value as an applicant, as she believes she would have before the program. Rather, she was composed, and sure of herself, and she believes it was these qualities that were recognized by her future employer and resulted in the phone call back to offer her a position.
Valerie Woodhouse, Step In Program Coordinator, had the following to say about Crystal’s success: “I was not surprised when Crystal told me about her job offer. It was clear that Crystal was ready for meaningful work and to be a valued employee. Behind her motivation we found an extremely skilled and capable woman who needed a small push to pursue work that challenged and valued her, while fitting her needs and lifestyle. In the end, Crystal not only wanted a job, she believed that she deserved a great one.”
When Crystal defines herself now, she uses descriptors such as “exuberant, outgoing, confident, secure, fulfilled but still hungry for more, and happy.” In the final exchanges of our conversation, Crystal concluded with this sentiment:
If there’s a situation in your life that you are unhappy with, it can be changed. And if you have aspirations, they can be reached. You just need to take the first step, and not be afraid to take the second. There are people out there to support you, and you probably have more value and worth than you give yourself credit for.”