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Assistance League helps job-seekers dress appropriately for interviewers

Dressing for Success features personal shoppers
By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Journal Features Editor
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There’s a lot that goes into the job hunt – poring over the want ads, pounding the pavement to turn in resumes and applications, preparing for the questions that could be asked during an interview. The Assistance League of Greater Placer is here to help take at least one thing off the minds of a nervous job seeker – the cost of looking appropriate during an interview.

Through the Dressing for Success program, league volunteers pair up with clients in need of interview attire or work clothes once a job has been attained. Through various county agencies, those in need of clothing are referred to Shirley Barton, committee chair, who lets the rest of the committee know that a client is in need. A “personal shopper” is selected, who gets in touch with the client and meets up with him or her at the Assistance League Thrift Shop, 1263 Grass Valley Highway, Auburn.

“A lot of these people who we help, they haven’t worked for several years, maybe because they’re stay-at-home moms, or maybe they got laid off or something,” said league member Jessica Swanson. “So when they finally do have an opportunity for an interview, they don’t have the appropriate clothes for an interview. That’s where we come in.”

The personal shopper helps the client select interview- or work-appropriate clothing, working with them to select style and correct sizes. The shopper and client discuss the situation beforehand, whether it’s a blue-collar job or something more office-oriented, and the shopper often arrives at the store before the client to put together some possible outfits.

Dressing for Success began in 1996, and clients are referred from 13 agencies. Between 50 and 60 people are served each year.

“It just helps the people in the community who are needing to get back to work and don’t have much of anything,” Barton said. She added that some clients don’t even have jackets for themselves.

One client, Barton said, was referred to Dressing for Success after an unsuccessful job interview, in part, she said, because she did not have the appropriate attire. Barton said shoppers have a keen eye for outfits, from blouses and skirts to slacks and jackets. If a work uniform is needed that the thrift store doesn’t carry, the league will “outsource” to appropriate stores, and if shoes are needed that aren’t in stock, the client will be given a gift card to buy shoes at Payless Shoes.

Pizazz Hair Salon, in the same shopping center as the thrift store, will even offer free haircuts to those benefiting from Dressing for Success.

Auburn resident Chris Ruffin recently benefited from the program, as he needed an outfit for a job interview. The father of six was in the apartment maintenance business for five years, but now works part-time and is looking for full-time work.

Ruffin said he was expecting to just get a pair of pants and shirt, and was grateful to receive two shirts, a couple of pairs of pants, shoes and a jacket, and added that the league members there were very nice and helpful.

“A lot of people like me just can’t afford to go buy new clothes,” Ruffin said. “Most of the money goes all toward the kids, so being able to get a nice set of clothes, where I can go into an interview and I’m looking like I deserve to work, not someone just walking in off the street, that definitely helps.”

Reach Krissi Khokhobashvili at krissik@goldcountrymedia.com.

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Dressing for Success

What: Assistance League of Greater Placer program helping clients in need who are seeking employment, or who have recently started work, and lack appropriate clothing.

Info: Dressing for Success clients are referred through 13 county agencies, including Welfare to Work. Call (530) 889-7610.

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Dress right for your interview

• A two-piece matched suit is always the best and safest choice.

• Even if the job is in a “non-suit” work environment, wearing a suit to the interview shows you take it seriously. Dressing well is a compliment to the interviewer. If you think the industry you are hoping to obtain employment in would frown upon a suit, look for advice through job-placement organizations, or by asking the employer directly and politely. An alternative is to wear pressed pants (like khakis) and a dark jacket – less formal, but still appropriate.

• Choose conservative colors and fabric – navy, dark gray and black are safe, as are solids or subtle weave patterns or plaids. Wool, wool blends or other good-quality natural and synthetic fibers are the best fabrics.

• You are not expected to be able to afford the wardrobe of a corporate CEO. Invest in quality that looks appropriate during your first two or three years on the job. One good-quality suit is sufficient for a job search if that is what your budget allows. You can vary your blouse/shirt/tie/accessories.

Everything should be clean and pressed. Inspect clothing for tags, dangling threads, etc.

~ Source: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Career Center