This week, I attended the pre-launch event for Smart Works – a national charity that operates in cities such as London, Edinburgh, Manchester and, in the next six weeks, here in Newcastle.
The charity provides interview clothes, styling advice and interview training to women in need; equipping them with the confidence and skills to help them to succeed at that all-important interview. A moment that could transform their life.
Hosted at Trinity House on Newcastle Quayside on Wednesday, the drinks reception and networking event was an opportunity for guests from the local business community to find out more about Smart Works. And it was inspiring.
As someone who has been through three redundancies – one of which left me unemployed for five months – I felt like I could relate to some of the sentiments shared in the charity’s promotional film, which was played on the night.
Consider this: when you meet someone new, chances are, they’ll ask the question, ‘what do you do?’. It’s even one of the key pieces of information that pulls through onto dating app profiles these days.
Your job, to an extent, defines who you are. And without one, it was as though I had lost my personal identity and a piece of my self worth had gone into freefall. I woke up every morning with no real purpose besides the relentless process of applying for jobs.
It didn’t take long for me to become withdrawn too; avoiding social situations as I couldn’t bear talking about my never ending job hunt and hearing those well intended ‘something will turn up soon’ comments, all fading into white noise inside my head. Crucially, however, I had very little money to enable me to even leave the house. I felt trapped and cut off from society.
At first, I was optimistic as there was a flurry of jobs to apply for. But soon the rejections tumbled in or worse still, there were no acknowledgements of my applications at all. And the more I was rejected, the more I doubted myself; my skills, my abilities, my experience, even my personality.
Despite all of my disheartening, confidence crushing emotions – one thing I never had to contend with was the stress of having nothing suitable to wear to a job interview. This might appear like a frivolous and insignificant thing to talk about in reference to this kind of situation but, in reality, it’s actually very important. Research conducted by recruitment site Monster, for example, revealed that 62 per cent of employers said that a candidate’s dress sense impacts their employability.
Needless to say, first impressions count. And when you feel good about how you look, you behave differently in terms of your body language and how you talk and engage with others. Wearing a smart, stylish and flattering ensemble can do wonders for your confidence and, ultimately, how you perform in a job interview.
That’s where Smart Works plays such a pivotal, life changing role, helping to coach women and re-ignite their self-confidence as they step in front of the mirror, interview-ready – inside and out. And it’s encouraging to hear that one in two of its clients go on to succeed at interview.
How to get involved
You don’t need first-hand experience of unemployment though to get involved with Smart Works.
Hands up if you have items in your wardrobe that you no longer wear or that don’t quite conform with your current workplace’s dress code? You can do the very simple act of donating these unwanted work clothes and shoes.
Alternatively, you can run a clothing drive, host an event, fundraise or even volunteer your time. So if you see yourself as a style guru, a super organised sorter of the fashion cupboard, or an interview coach – there are lots of ways to devote your time to this wonderful cause and really make a difference to the lives of women here in our city.
I’m hoping to volunteer my time which is something, personally, I think we should all try to do within our different communities wherever we can – so look out for updates in the coming months!
If this sounds like something you’d like to get involved with, you can find out more about Smart Works at: smartworks.org.uk
Until next time