This week I had the privilege of doing a presentation at Dress for Success. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Dress for Success, it’s a non-profit organization dedicated to “empowering women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.” (source: DressForSuccess.org)
They partner with a number of referral agencies, such as shelters, employment agencies, and crisis centers, to identify women who need help. Dress for Success then works with the woman to help her find and keep employment – and help her have confidence and take control of her life. Each woman’s journey begins with a 2-hour session with a fashion consultant at Dress for Success’ clothing boutique. At the end of that session, the woman leaves the boutique with a complete interview outfit – a suit, shirt, shoes, handbag, accessories, under garments – that fits her perfectly and gives her the confidence (and attire) to begin interviewing. And everything is free!
But Dress for Success is much more than just a new outfit. They provide a host of programs and classes to further help women on their career and life path. They have classes on financial management, interviewing and job searching skills, personal development, and health and fitness. Each course is free, and participants earn credits that they can then use in the boutique to expand their wardrobe. And along the way, the women begin building a network that they can call on as they grow their career.
I had never worked with this organization before, but was excited to be presenting to them since they do such incredible, empowering work. And it shows in the woman who came to my presentation.
I was talking about “Cover Letter and Thank You Note Etiquette” and there were between 35-40 women present. Some were just starting out their professional careers and looking for their first internship while in college while others were nearing the end of their careers and looking toward retirement. Some were single moms, others were married, some were divorced. But each was alike in one way: they were tapping into their personal power, perhaps for the first time.
Each woman was alert, engaged and confident. They had realized a life lesson that not everyone does: they had the ability to take control of their lives and make what they wanted out of it. They knew that with effort and the connections they were making through Dress for Success and elsewhere that they could break out of the cycle of poverty, become self-sufficient and thrive. And they had the courage to take the leap and start their own journeys!
It was one of the most enjoyable presentations I have done in a while. The woman asked plenty of questions and made suggestions to each other and me about the topic areas. We laughed and encouraged and supported each other. My hour presentation was over in a flash and I left, feeling really good about myself, these women and the organization.
It was a great way to spend a Thursday night.
(If you want to get involved with Dress for Success, you can visit their website here. Each local chapter relies on volunteers and donations to make the impact that they do.)