Dress For Success

Posted by editor 26/09/2013 0 Comment 3899 views

dfsBy Jenny McBain //

The clothes we wear affect the way we feel.  Beyond that, a good outfit actually holds the power to greatly enhance our chances of getting a job, says Dress For Success

When politicians deliberate about so called ‘barriers to work’, the need for those seeking employment to have access to suitable clothing is rarely considered.

Dress for Success is an international charity, with two UK branches, which aims to support women who have been out of the workplace for some time due to personal difficulties or family responsibility. For them, regaining confidence is an important step on the road to re-entering the world of work and looking professional is a good place to start.  Dress for Success provides their clients with clothing as well as morale boosting advice, tailored to their own needs.

Forty-nine-year-old Helen contacted Dress for Success London the day before she was due to attend a job interview.  She was applying for the post of PA at a property development company but had no suitable clothes and was feeling unsure of herself.

She says, “What Dress for Success did was kindly let me try on lots of suitable clothes for interview and I came away with clothes and shoes I really felt good in.” Helen also benefited from the advice of an expert volunteer who helped to prepare her for the interview process.

Helen says, “This lady gave me a great way of answering a difficult question which came up the next day near the end of a long, exhausting interview. I really do not think I could have answered well without her help.  She was brilliant; very clever and experienced.”  Helen got the job.

According to Delyth Evans, executive director of Dress For Success London, many of the charity’s clients enjoy similarly positive outcomes.  She says, “We’ve got a fantastic job success rate. Seventy-five-per-cent of the women who come to us for help have been out of work for over a year, but 54 per cent of them get a job within the first month of contacting us.  We know we are providing a unique service that is making a huge impact on the lives of the women we support. Every day we get calls from women saying we make a difference”.

Dress for Success London has a simple business model.  Most of the clothing is donated by individuals or retailers and the workforce is almost entirely comprised of volunteers.  So the cost base is low and resources, including financial donations, are efficiently managed. Four paid members of staff work alongside around 50 volunteers to deliver the service, which was set up twelve years ago and now helps over a 1,000 women a year.

Meanwhile, Dress for Success Strathclyde, which was recently established in Lanarkshire in Scotland, is presently operating on a part-time basis and is exclusively staffed by volunteers.  Its founders are currently seeking financial assistance in order to be able to employ a paid worker and extend opening hours.

Right now Liza Meenagh is juggling a full time job in marketing with the task running the organisation north of the border.  Many of the women who go to Dress for Success are aiming for low wage, entry level positions. In these cases the way a candidate dresses can strongly influence the outcome of an interview.

Liza puts it this way.  She says, “In an economic downturn women are especially affected and clothing becomes a low priority.  If you have a choice between buying new clothes and feeding the kids, you will feed the kids. But first impressions really count.  If a woman walks in to a job interview wearing a suit people think she has made an effort. Even if you are going for a bar job or a cleaning job in a supermarket, the person interviewing you will probably be smartly dressed and it puts the candidate on an equal footing.”

So what inspires Liza and other people involved with Dress for Success to keep going?  Liza says, “I have worked with vulnerable women before and this just happens to be a really good way to help.  It is a double edged project.  We can provide free clothing and we can also provide advice.”

Delyth Evans describes similar feelings about the rewards her work brings.  She says, “It’s great just meeting women who, when they come to us, are lacking in self- confidence and then seeing them when they get the job.  Their self confidence improves and a woman quite often describes herself as feeling like a completely new person.”

















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