Dress For Success Luxembourg is a voluntary organisation that helps women improve their chances of finding work through a pre-interview consultation including a gift of clothes. Nikki Evans met their president, Jill Griffin, to find out more.
Women helping other women
Dress For Success Luxembourg has a clear mission: to help unemployed women find and keep a job. During a private one-to-one session with a volunteer at their office in Hamm, clients are given an appropriate professional outfit to wear for job interviews, and also receive advice on body language and interview techniques. Women who are successful in finding work are then also offered a 3-month coaching programme, in collaboration with the European Mentoring and Coaching Council, covering work-related topics such as work-life balance or office politics.
It’s women helping other women, and the purpose is to help women on a journey to economic empowerment.
Dress For Success’s name might suggest that the focus is on the gift of clothing, but for Jill Griffin (co-founder & President), the confidence their clients gain is even more important: “the clothes are really the cherry on the cake”. When Jill first heard of the Dress For Success model – via a magazine article that mentioned the New York-based parent charity – she was impressed by the power and simplicity of the idea. Since she had some relevant experience (co-founding Stop Aids Now in 1991 during a previous stay in Luxembourg), she decided to take on the challenge of bringing Dress For Success to Luxembourg, gathering a team of 7 other professional women to launch the charity here in October 2013.
A team of volunteers
Since seeing their first client in 2014, Dress For Success’s team of volunteers – who between them speak 17 languages – have assisted almost 180 women, and around 65% of these women subsequently found a job. Any woman who is unemployed and has a job interview booked is eligible for their help, but most clients hear of them through their partnership with the state employment agency ADEM. Many of these are young women struggling to find their first ever job, or women trying to return to employment after a gap of many years. Jill is proud of how responsive the volunteers are when a referral comes in:
When a lady’s got an interview, it’s next day normally, so we have to be very sharp – but we’ve never had to turn anybody down, we’ve never had to say, ‘I’m sorry we haven’t got anyone available’.
Jill doesn’t get to do many pre-interview consultations with clients herself, but when she does, she finds it hugely rewarding. She feels that these sessions make a big difference: women may come in appearing “worn down”, but after taking time to discuss their goals and strengths as well as helping them select an outfit, she takes great pleasure in seeing how their body language changes, whether it’s a more confident posture or a renewed spark in their eye. The most common feedback she’s heard is about the confidence boost the experience provides: many women say, “I came out of there feeling that I can get this job”. In at least one case, a client who successfully found work was so impressed by the organisation that she later returned to Dress For Success as a volunteer.
Their volunteer community’s enthusiasm and breadth of experience has been instrumental in shaping Dress For Success’s new project: a “ready-to-work” course aimed at helping refugee women prepare for the world of professional work in Luxembourg. This initiative will offer a series of workshops covering subjects like Luxembourgish employment law and workplace culture as well as the charity’s core expertise of interview preparation and presentation advice. The project will be implemented through the mateneen (“together”) programme of l’Œuvre Nationale de Secours Grande-Duchesse Charlotte.
I left my meeting with Jill with my preconceptions about Dress For Success flipped upside down: despite the makeover-like aspect to the charity’s initial consultations, there is nothing at all frivolous about their aim of helping women to build “the confidence and empowerment to get a job and to stay in a job”. Much of the focus of the charity’s work is on confidence-building, whether through the informal positive chat that permeates the outfit selection process, the tips on interview skills and body language that accompany it, or the coaching sessions that follow.
As Jill points out, even the work they do to help women “bring their best image forward” actually aims to take appearance out of the equation, similar to the “uniform” of a man’s suit: “so that a woman can really put through her skills, what she knows, what her personality is – to take away the distractions of what somebody looks like so that they can actually prepare and present what they are.”
How you can help:
- Give cash: Support Dress For Success Luxembourg by making a donation on their website https://luxembourg.dressforsuccess.org/
- Give clothes: Do you have any clothes you no longer wear that would be suitable for a job interview? Dress For Success welcome donations of (clean) “gently used, nearly-new professional attire” – for a more detailed list see the website.
- Give time: Could you contribute as a volunteer?
- Training is provided if you’d like to help with client consultations.
- Help is always needed with the practical details of sorting & transporting clothes.
- Other skills & ideas are also welcome – this could involve assistance with admin, social media, or anything else you’d like to offer!
Photos courtesy of Dress For Success Luxembourg.