Looking for a job is never easy but, for many, it’s truly an uphill battle, such as a woman who has left a bad relationship and lost everything, or someone with a drug addiction or criminal background. Career Wardrobe helps unemployed/underemployed people – the majority are single moms – by providing professional clothing services and job readiness education.
For the past four years, Vivian Williams of the Center for Health Care Innovation has volunteered with the organization. “We have a collection of suitable work clothing and will provide a full outfit,” head to toe. This includes the finishing touches as well – jewelry and a handbag. “We give them two outfits but if they need a third for another interview, we can get that as well.”
Career Wardrobe also holds two workshops a month. “People help create and critique a person’s resume and do mock interviews,” Williams said. “They also have representatives from many businesses who explain what they’re looking for.” And there’s also a makeover day once a quarter, which not only provides a new look for these women but also includes a photographer to take photos for a LinkedIn or social media presence.
Purchases from the organization’s “boutique” help fund the many programs they offer, as do grants, such as the Penn Medicine CAREs grant that Williams received to “expand the work of the nutritionist who teaches healthy living and self care to the women.”
Williams knows the program works because she herself was a recipient of their services, after she lost everything in a fire in Tennessee. She began volunteering for the organization shortly after that, at the boutique store on weekends, or as a “personal shopper” in the workshops. “I give the women pep talks. Many are so nervous – some have never worked before or haven’t worked in more than a decade.”
Although Career Wardrobe focuses primarily on women, in the last year, they’ve opened their services to men and will create workshops for them as well.
“We have proven that a professional image, the right skillset and confidence can level the playing field for these individuals looking for work,” she said. “It can make the difference between a low-wage position and a first step to a new career, long-term job success, and, ultimately, independence.”
Click here to learn more about the Penn Medicine CAREs grant. If you’d like to donate or volunteer your time to the Wardrobe Boutique, email CARES@uphs.upenn.edu.