Claim back your confidence

MILLIONS of women suffer from low self-esteem, affecting their relationships and work prospects, but tomorrow night could be your chance to start turning your life around.

By Tracey Sparling

MILLIONS of women suffer from low self-esteem, affecting their relationships and work prospects, but tomorrow night could be your chance to start turning your life around.

Features editor TRACEY SPARLING reports on tomorrow's fun, free event designed to help Suffolk women claim back their confidence.

A STEELY confidence was the trait which won Yorkshire mum Kristina Grimes a place in The Apprentice final, keeping a nation of TV viewers gripped.

Many of us watched over the 12 weeks, as business mogul Sir Alan Sugar set his potential recruits an array of challenges, and the former sales manager emerged as a 'formidable opponent.' Kristina -whose uncle Nigel Mayhew lives in Felixstowe - settled for the runner-up place in the end, but Sir Alan admitted that this year's decision was the hardest yet and the world is now her oyster.

Of course, closer to home, that winning sense of confidence which can open so many doors in life, is not always so easily come by.

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In fact Britain is said to be a nation of self critics…we tend to criticise our own skills - or lack of them, and the way we look and feel about ourselves.

Pitman Training has launched a 'Ready for a Change?' campaign, to encourage women of all ages to start claiming back their confidence. It says learning a new skill can make a real difference to their lives.

Claire Lister, managing director said: “We were really interested in research carried out by the Priory Group last year, which identified that half of women in the UK consider themselves to be their own worst critics - and two out of five women don't say what they think because they're worried about what others might think of them.

“We undertook some informal research amongst the female learners we work with, and our findings completely reinforced that report.”

Rose Richards, centre manager of Pitman Training in Ipswich agreed: “We speak to hundreds of people every year whose confidence has taken a knock due to a variety of reasons. Some left school with no qualifications, some gave up work to raise a family and others simply feel left behind or stuck in a rut. They all want to make changes in their lives but their lack of confidence is holding them back.”

She hopes a special night in Ipswich will help put women on the right track, and stressed it will not be about 'hard sell' to sign up for a Pitman course.

The free 'Claim back your confidence' event in Ipswich tomorrow, has been designed as a fun event. It will see experts from Pitman Training, Future Recruitment, and image consultants from Avon advising on how to update both your skills and your image. The Avon team will also be carrying out makeovers to show how you can look and feel professional.

The first step is a free, one-to-one session with Rose or one of her team, to talk about their concerns, previous experiences of learning, and the changes they want to make to their lives.

Rose said: “We offer a wide range of courses from basic computer skills for the completely terrified to advanced secretarial diplomas and accounting. We know that getting a qualification will not automatically increase someone's confidence and change their life. But we firmly believe that learning new skills in a friendly and supportive environment is a really positive first step.”

Everyone who goes to the free event will also receive factsheets. Subjects include how to make sure your CV gets put in the 'yes' pile, top tips for taking control of your day, and a dress-to-impress guide.

Ela Lisowska of Pitman Training added that modern business people need a lot more than arrogance and a ruthless streak as demonstrated by some applicants on The Apprentice, if they really want to succeed: “In my experience, employers are looking for staff who have both personal qualities and the practical skills and experience to back them up. The organisations who send their staff members to us want well trained, confident and professional people who understand good business practice and have great IT or specialist office skills. Being able to sell yourself is incredibly important but you have to have the basics in place first.”

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The 'Claim back your confidence' evening runs from 5pm to 7pm tomorrow at the Pitman centre on Silent Street in Ipswich. It is open to anyone over 18.

Call 01473 406971 to book your place.

One in three adults in the UK regrets not having got better qualifications while at school, according to research by the Learning and Skills Council.

1 Always wear a bit of make-up for a more professional look - get free advice at a beauty counter in Debenhams or Boots.

2 Black is the hardest colour to wear, and the least flattering. Choose a subtle colour instead.

3 Invest in a good haircut at a top salon to keep the shape, but have interim cuts elsewhere.

4 Any new purchase should go with at least three items in your wardrobe - that way you will be sure to wear it.

5 Get your proportions right. Have 60pc of your wardrobe as classic items which will last up to five years, 30pc as fashionable basics, and 10pc high fashion which can be replaced every season.

6 Don't wear jewellery which jangles - it will annoy both you and your colleagues!

7 Don't forget your fingernails - which should be groomed, clean and neat with no vivid nail varnish.

8 Avoid printed or trendy handbags - they should be classic, conservative and inconspicuous.

9 Cover up - open-toed or backless shoes are not appropriate for interviews and you should wear tights or stockings even in summer.

10 When you're told 'smart-casual,' always go for the smarter option.

Source: Claire Bunton, East Anglian image consultant, who works with House of Fraser.

JANIE Caesar has just started work in a solicitors' office in Felixstowe, after boosting her confidence by studying for a legal secretary's diploma.

The 19-year-old from Ganges Road, Shotley now works part time at Margary and Miller solicitors in Felixstowe, and continues her studies.

She said: “It really gave me a confidence boost because I'm not a very confident person anyway so I was able to go in there knowing what I was doing. I've also had the confidence to ask questions when I've needed to.

“The training is really good because I can go in and teach myself, by listening to tapes.”

A recent survey said 50 per cent of women are their own worst critics, and Janie said: “I definitely agree with that.”

Janie did watch The Apprentice but does not admire any role model in particular. She said: “I'd rather just look to be successful and be able to do it myself. I'd like to work my way up.”

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