18-year-old Pooja Kumari knows how to handle rejection while looking out for jobs.
“That is the first thing you learn when you start going for interviews. I did not have the communication skills to even speak about my strengths. I was scared of talking in front of strangers. Isn’t that what we grow up learning, not to talk to strangers?” her question underlines an irony many girls will relate to.
Pooja started looking out for a job at the age of 17. “My father is a barber and has his own shop. My mother is a home-maker. Elder brother is married and doesn’t support our family. I have a younger sister in school and an uncle who stays with us,” shares Pooja who lives with her family in Chattarpur, Delhi.
The monthly income of her family was Rs. 10,000 – and it would often be insufficient to pay for food, rent, and books and uniform for the girls. After completing 12th standard, Pooja spent a few months aimlessly, wondering what to do to help her family overcome their financial hardships. Her friend recommended her to join Magic Bus Livelihood Centre.
“From the very first day at Magic Bus, my eyes were set on the goal: to get a job. But as I went through the training, I understood the importance of giving time to prepare before getting into a job. There were so many things I had no information about – like the job market, the different sectors – my own strengths and weaknesses, and how to leverage my strengths and be mindful of my weaknesses,” she says. “The environment at Magic Bus and the mentors made it easier to learn. None of us were looked down upon for not knowing things. Instead we were encouraged to speak up, ask questions about what we couldn’t understand. We always received complete attention by our trainers,” Pooja explains.
Pooja feels that the exposure visits that she went for as a part of her training in the Magic Bus programme gave her hands-on experience of different workplaces, thereby, giving her knowledge of the job opportunities beyond the job description.
But while the learning was immense, Pooja did face several interviews arranged by Magic Bus and even outside it. “Not all of them went well. But with each interview I was becoming confident of speaking to employers. I was learning about the kind of employees they were looking for,” she points out.
When Marks & Spencer announced internship opportunities at Magic Bus, Pooja readily signed up for it. “I always loved designing and stitching my own clothes. In fact I loved sketching and I always thought to be a designer. But the situation at home was such that I couldn’t think about it. When the M&S opportunity came I was excited because it would give me an exposure to learning fashion and textiles and understanding customer expectations,” Pooja explains.
The Marks and Start internship served as a stepping stone for Pooja. She learnt about fabrics, cuts and sizes with a focus on market demands. She learnt about how an international retail store operates and alongside customer service, retail sales, visual merchandising, cashiering, back of house stock management, and administration. “It was the busiest 2 months of my life. We had a Buddy who I could ask any question that I had,” she reflects.
At the close of two months, Pooja felt she was already a part of M&S and was scared that she wouldn’t be given a job offer. But she was mistaken. Pooja joined Marks and Spencer with a salary of more than Rs. 20,000.
“I am so glad I got this job before the lockdown. My father’s business has come to a standstill. The shop is closed but he still needs to pay Rs. 16000 as rent. With my steady income, he doesn’t have to worry about running the family and paying rent,” she shares. There is a hint of pride in her voice when she mentions her plan of continuing with higher education with her own money.
Despite the lockdown, she has been learning a lot about her job from the regular online training that M&S provides. “This is such a difficult phase. But I am determined to make the most of the time available to me to learn and plan my goals,” Pooja signs off.Back