FIRST impressions are crucial when it comes to the nerve-racking process of job interviews, but one charity is offering a unique experience to ease some of the stress.

Nestled in the quiet backstreets of Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, Dress for Success provides corporate attire to unemployed people struggling to join or return to the workforce and offers support to get them back on their feet.

“Dress for Success was established as a not-for-profit, charitable organisation, set up to assist disadvantaged persons in the community looking for work and to maintain that work once they get it,” said Michael Franzmann, Brisbane Executive Manager for parent company Suited to Success.

“There are over 120 Dress for Success affiliates worldwide and just in Brisbane alone, we’ve assisted over 2,500 women since 2008 when we started,” he said.

The organisation, founded 16 years ago in New York City, also runs a number of support programs, teaching skills like resumé and cover letter writing, personal grooming, budgeting and even how to cope with office politics.

Although the Dress for Success boutique is hardly out of place amongst the many high-end stores of the Valley, the charity offers its clients a whole new fashion experience.

People referred to the program are matched with a personal stylist, who fits them out with a complete corporate outfit, selected from the enormous range of quality clothing that has been donated by individuals, stores and organisations.

Wearing the outfit, the client is then taken through a mock interview, and offered some comments on their resumé.

“It’s a unique service because we supply the outfits from head-to-toe, free of charge,” said Franzmann.

“Everything from shoes to handbags to accessories, suits, ties, belts, shoes and socks. It’s quality stuff that we’re giving people and they get to keep it all. If they get the job they can come back and get fitted for another outfit.”

Clients from across south-east Queensland are referred to the organisation, from a large pool of job training programs, homeless or domestic violence shelters, immigration services and educational institutions.

“We’re providing a service that no-one else does. We’re giving outfits and clothes for people to go and attend a job interview – people who may not otherwise have been able to present themselves in such a situation,” said Franzmann.

“If you haven’t got the presentation right, you won’t get the job, employers won’t hire you. So you’ve got to be confident, you’ve got to be dressed right, and you’ve got to present yourself well.”

Dress for Success affiliates are also located in Sydney, Melbourne and Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, as well as eleven other countries throughout the world.

The success of the Brisbane program comes as little surprise, given last year’s figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealing Queensland’s worst unemployment rate in three years, at 6.3 per cent.

The growing need has seen Dress for Success now open its doors to men, which Frannzman said was in direct response to community demand.

“We see the job market from a different side. We’re not all about finding the jobs for people, but we like to say we’re in ‘manufacturing’: we assist in manufacturing taxpayers,” Franzmann joked.

Geeta Signh, a former client who now works in administration at Dress for Success, said the program helped to build not just her wardrobe, but also her confidence.

“Dress for Success gave me this job with ongoing support. Without it, I might still be struggling to get a job now,” Signh said.

“I love my job here. Each day gives me that inner feeling of satisfaction that I have helped someone, because just one helping hand makes a difference in a person’s life.”

For more information about Dress for Success, click here.

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  • Desley Hedges

    I am a new case manager at Wesley Mission Brisbane in Fortitude Valley I am going to run a group for some of our clients who reside in a men’s refuge around presentation, resume, cover letter, grooming etc. I am planning on commencing the group in the next few weeks and will start with only 6 clients. I would like to ask if your program could provide any support to us or help the clients out with a business shirt etc at the end of the group. I would appreciate any feedback you can provide.

    • Ursula Skjonnemand

      Sadly no, we’re not in a position to support this sort of thing as much as I would like to.

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