How difficult is it looking for work when you’re female, single, newly arrived here or have been out of the workforce for years? On top of this you may not have the ‘right’ clothes and when it comes to that dreaded interview confidence is pretty low – it’s not hard to get the picture.
‘Fitted for Work’ (FFW) is a volunteer based community organisation of women that supports disadvantaged women obtain work and achieve financial independence.
“‘My first client was a statuesque woman who was applying to be a bank teller…She finished up in this red suit and when she looked in the mirror, it was as if a magical transformation had occurred. She looked at herself and said, ‘I could be the bank manager, couldn’t I?'” Renata Singer, FFW Founder quoted in Marie Claire magazine.
Renata Singer, a Melbourne project manager, developed the idea. She knew firsthand how difficult it can be to find a job. As an ex-schoolteacher embarking on a new career, she sent off 60 job applications before finally landing work.
Later, when she and her husband, author and academic Professor Peter Singer, moved to New York, Renata volunteered at Bottomless Closet, a charity that supplies clothing to disadvantaged women. She realised the concept would work in Australia and teamed up with a friend, philanthropic advisor Marion Webster, to start Fitted for Work.
The FFW service provides women, referred by employment agencies, with a suitable free outfit prior to a job interview . If successful, job applicants are invited back to the FFW Boutique for a second outfit allowing women to commence work looking and feeling positive.
FFW also provides interview advice as well as ongoing relevant training programs. All of the clothing, both new and used, is donated through corporate sponsors, clothing drives and from members of the community. FFW opened its doors in 2005. It has assisted over 1400 women looking for employment, has over 100 volunteers and almost 1400 supporters.It’s a volunteer based organisation that helps with business clothing, presentation and interview skills as well as building self confidence.
There are now branches throughout Australia and since its launch in 2005, Fitted for Work, which operates out of a small office in Melbourne, has helped more than 2000 women referred to it by government agencies, tertiary institutions and other organisations.
Maybe the phenomenal growth of FFW is due to the simplicity of the concept. Women seeking work, perhaps for the first time, are more likely to be successful if they feel good about themselves. Volunteers who assist clients in preparing for work understand the importance of first impressions, particularly for women.
The immediate benefits to clients who are provided with work appropriate clothing and support are apparent when they walk out in a suit, maybe for the first time. What is less apparent are the affirmative flow-on effects of the FFW organisation and service in terms of building social capital and strengthening the community.
Volunteers who are able to give their time and other resources work closely with clients who need support. The emphasis on ensuring that the service is conducted in a non judgemental environment forms the basis of FFW’s values and is incorporated into the volunteer training sessions.
The satisfaction coming from the clients being appropriately dressed and prepared for a job interview matches the satisfaction experienced by the volunteers in being able to give this invaluable support. Volunteers become sensitised to the disadvantage and hardships many women in our community face and clients experience the genuine willingness of women, more advantaged than they, of wanting to help. The outcome is a healthier, stronger and more inclusive community.
Feedback from supporters and donors is that they experience similar positive affect in giving to a cause that directly and simply helps women open doors of opportunity. These supporters are also members of the community who recognise the value of FFW goals and want to help in their achievement. Women who donate their clothing at corporate fundraisers enjoy listening to the FFW case studies.
Fantastic…on all fronts!