WHAT'S stopping you from reaching your potential?

What's holding you back from going for that job you want?

"I don't have the skills," you might be thinking.

"I've spent too long out of work raising my kids."

"I've been made redundant and I'm over 50 and I don't get a second glance any more."

"I don't come across well in interviews."

There are many reasons a woman might find herself out of work, or unable to get a foot on the ladder.

And when you're out of work, it can get you down.

You can feel a lack of control over your life, isolated from society with a lack of structure. That can spell really bad things for your confidence.

You probably wouldn't think that there's a charity out there to help you.

But the Women And Work Commission found that unleashing women’s full potential could be worth £23 billion a year to the Exchequer.

So it seems like a no-brainer that it's a worthwhile cause. More women in work– better for the economy, better for businesses, better for communities.

And that's where Smart Works comes in.

Unfortunately, women often lack the confidence to 'go for it.'

In 2014, Hewlett Packard report found women only go for jobs when they have 100 per cent of the listed skills; men will apply when they only have 60 per cent.

I see this myself at work. Recently, I was hiring for a fairly skilled role. I didn't have a single application from a woman.

I spoke to some women in the industry, who I know are more than capable of getting the job done, and doing it really well.

So why didn't they go for it?

The answers differed slightly in their language, but in their meaning they were all the same.

The 'Me? No, I don't have the skills/I don't have the experience/I'd be rubbish' translated to 'I lack the confidence in my abilities.'

These, I should say, are women with what we would consider 'normal' lives.

What about the women who have been made redundant, or are getting back to work after long–term sick, or have just come out of prison?

Where do they get their second chance? Who is going to help them see their potential?

Established just over two years ago, the Reading Smart Works franchise has helped more than 430 women gain the confidence and the skills to get the job.

Forty per cent of clients are single parents, 20 per cent have a disability, and 20 per cent are from ethnic or minority backgrounds.

"Women come to us from all sorts of backgrounds and for all sorts of reasons," says Elina Zandersone.

"Some might be mothers that have taken years off and want to get back in to work.

"We have women who've been homeless and are getting back on their feet; or women who've been the victims of domestic abuse.

"The majority are going for entry-level jobs but we get a diverse range. We get a lot of women who are aged over 50 and might have found themselves out of work due to redundancy and they're struggling to get back in.

"Some of these women are really accomplished; we've had mechanical engineers, surveyors, or women who've got really high up in companies like Microsoft.

"It's not that these women don't have the skills– it's that they don't realise they have the skills, or they lack the confidence, or they've been knocked back so many times."

Women are referred via the Job Centre or one of Smart Works' other 65 partners.

They get to come in for a style consultation, pick out an outfit (which they get to keep), and have a one-to-one interview coaching session.

Clothes are donated from professional working women, some of whom might be retiring and no longer have use for their office wear. Fashion retailers such as Hobbs and Evans, Fluidity in Henley, Hope Clothing and Primark also donate brand-new stock.

It's expensive to be a woman.

Bras, sanitary wear...and that's before you're even dressed.

Throw in shoes and bags and jackets and it can cost a small fortune to get yourself dressed just for the interview.

"We don't want women to be stopped in their tracks because they can't afford that initial outlay," says Elina. "We want to help support them until they get that first pay check and can get the things they need."

One-to-one coaching and style advice is given by professional women who donate their time for free.

The one thing they all have in common is that they're passionate about supporting other women reach their potential.

"We see women who go 'well I don't have any skills, I'm just a mum.' But actually, think about all the skills required for being a mum– you have to be really organised, you have to be good at budgeting, you have to be resilient. Those are really desirable assets in the workplace," says Elina.

The interview coaching is tailored to the type of job the woman is going for; so if it's a position in retail, for example, the advisor will go through the types of questions employers may ask.

Around half the women Smart Works sees get the first job they go for. If they don't, they can come back for additional help.

But the most important thing, emphasises Elina, is taking that first step.

"We really feel that there is a need." (Evidenced by the hundreds of women Smart Works Reading has helped, needless to say the thousands supported by other centres across the country in places like Birmingham, London and Edinburgh) "We've helped a lot of women but this is the tip of the iceberg. There are probably women out there who want to reach out and don't know where to go. My advice to them would be– don't be afraid to take that first step. There is help and support here available for you, no judgement, no "