Do you remember your first real job interview? I will never forget mine. It was on Loyola’s campus and was with Whitney Bank. I remember feeling so confident as I made the walk from my dorm room to the career counseling office. I had in my hands a perfectly groomed resume, and I had on a brand new Ann Taylor suit that I had gotten for Christmas paired with my mom’s pearl earrings. Most importanly, I was equipped with all of the tools Loyola could provide a job seeking student. I had taken a business communications class, had participated in mock interviews, and I had assistance composing my cover letter. I was ready!
Looking back at that young, bright, hopeful and naive girl, I realize that more than anything I was lucky. I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to look for a job in the comfort of a university environment. But what about all of the women in our community who aren’t in that position? Those who are either entering the professional workforce for the first time or who are re-entering it after years of absence … where do they turn for guidance and support?
Located on Magazine Street, the New Orleans branch of this international not-for-profit organization serves to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women in the Greater New Orleans community. Once a woman who has lined up a job interview has been referred to DFS, she will visit the DFS office where she will be provided a suit “suited” for the field in which she is interviewing. After successfully landing the job, she returns to DFS to assemble a new professional wardrobe. With the confidence she feels in knowing that she has the look to match her abilities, she can begin her journey down this new career path.
Of course, that journey comes with its challenges. DFS now goes beyond providing their clients with a new suit. They also provide employment retention and mentoring programs to ensure that their client’s success continues well after her interview.
Why Dress for Success?
I have always believed in the mission of Dress for Success. I believe that women are a powerful force in our world, and when we come together with a common goal, we can accomplish anything. DFS was founded by women for women. The impact the organization makes in the lives of its clients is invaluable.I recently spoke with a friend of mine, Carter Perrilliat, who is on the board of the New Orleans chapter of Dress for Success, about why she chose to dedicate her time to this organization.
“Having gone to an all girls school, I love the idea of empowering women. My upbringing taught me that I could succeed regardless of my gender; however, I was fortunately given those tools needed to succeed. In our community, there are so many women that are not given those tools. They live as single parents – in poverty and on welfare. DFS makes our community stronger in so many ways. By empowering women, we give them the foundation and tools they need to succeed which in return helps their children succeed. When people think about DFS they think about suiting women, which is something we do, but only a tenth of it. We give them the skills to go out on their own and be successful. I think about the story of giving someone a fish for dinner, while helpful only lasts a night, but if you teach them how to fish that lasts a lifetime. That is what DFS is all about.”
Why get involved as a mom?
I am an over joiner. I always have been. But never have I seen my role as an active member of the New Orleans community as being more important that I do now as a mother. I believe in parenting by example. I want for Jane to recognize that we do not exist in this world alone. Our actions cause reactions, and our actions can create real and tangible change.
When Carter and I were discussing our roles as mothers involved in our community, she also mentioned another incredibly valuable lesson our children can learn. “It is a truly important life skill for your (my) children to learn to be “team” players, and to understand truly what that means. Sure, it means playing 3rd base when you really want to play pitcher, but it also means using your Saturday to suit women who really need these clothes to go on their big interview with a corporate hotel when there is a festival going on downtown.”
How can you help?
I mentioned that there is power in numbers, and DFS would love for you to be in that number. You can sign up today to participate in their third annual Power Walk on May 11th at 9:30. It is a fun and family friendly event where moms, dads, strollers, and doggies are all welcomed. Click HERE for more information on how to register.
Dress for Success New Orleans is hoping to impact the lives of 500 women in our community this year. You can help by joining them as a volunteer in one of their many efforts to assist their clients. Perhaps you’d like to be a speaker at one of their monthly Professional Women’s Group meetings, or you might like to be the next Rachel Zoe and be a client’s personal shopper as she picks out her new work wardrobe, or maybe you’d like to work on of DFS’s special events (The Power Walk, Success Sale, or Suits and Salads luncheon). Any contribution you make, whether large or small, directly impacts the lives of the women we call our neighbors.