How do you dress for success without the dress?
Answer: You don’t.
That’s the reality that a lot of low-income women in our country face. Even if they can get an appointment for a job interview, they don’t necessarily have the clothes to fit into the work environment. Fortunately, that’s a problem that can be addressed – and a number of Junior Leagues are doing just that!
Permanently located on the second floor of JLEP’s thrift shop, the Jumble Store, the Career Closet provides a real shopping experience in a 300-square-foot shopping area with room to really browse the racks. Shopping is by appointment and JLEP volunteers act as personal shoppers for each client. To further assist the client in becoming competitive in the job market, the volunteer briefs her on proper etiquette, resume writing tips, interviewing techniques, communication and time management skills. Clothing is provided almost entirely through member and corporate donations; however to fully round out the inventory JLEP will also purchase in-demand items such as shoes and plus size clothing. Clients are referred by community agencies after successfully completing job training and/or readiness programs.
For six years, the Junior League of Boston has partnered with a national organization called Dress for Success, making it possible for DFS to open its Boston boutique two nights a week from October to May in order to dress more clients. JLB volunteers also organize a League-wide clothing and accessory drive as well as smaller individual drives and assist in sorting donations, making follow up phone calls to clients and participating in DFS’ bi-annual sale. The League also hosts a Professional Women’s Group session for which it develops a training curriculum focused on a career development topic.
The Junior League of Fort Collins’ Career Closet program is a key component of its signature project called ABLEWomen, which addresses the needs of women struggling to overcome barriers to economic independence. Career Closet, now in its sixth year, serves over 500 clients each year, primarily referrals from more than 20 local nonprofit and governmental agencies. Clothing donations come directly from JLFC members and the community at large as well as from partnerships with local retailers likes Brown’s Shoe Fit and Chico’s and businesses like Hewlett-Packard. ABLEWomen also has a mentoring component to advise clients on job skills enhancement, professional development and knowledge of community resources.
Now in its fifth year, the Junior League of Long Island’s First Step program assists women in transitional homes who want to re-enter the work force by taking the “first step” in providing free professional clothing for interviews and beyond. Participants are referred from local social service agencies, shelters and food pantries to attend the event. At the event, JLLI members personally assist attendees with selecting appropriate clothing for their career, and lunch, manicures and child care are provided to all participants for the day at no cost. Another extra is a training component supplied by a professional human resources executive.
Maybe the trick is remembering how nervous you felt on your first job interview. A new suit of clothes…some helpful advice…and a big smile would have helped! And that’s what these Junior Leagues are doing so well.