This amazing organisation is boosting confidence and optimism and helping people out of unemployment

By Susan December 29, 2014 18:41

This amazing organisation is boosting confidence and optimism and helping people out of unemployment


The idea that you need to have money to make money is a terrible misconception that I do my best to fight. But there is one apparent exception that I absolutely need to address:

To go to a job interview, you need to “look the part” and project competence and confidence. But what if you don’t have the clothes to wear for that interview, and you can’t afford them?

Dress for Success Cork Launch

Susan HayesCulleton, MD Hayes Culleton, Carmel O’Keeffe, Founder and CEO, Dress for Success, Siobhan Finn, Cork Innovates, at the launch of Dress for Success Cork


Are you caught in a

vicious circle?


If you don’t have the clothes, you might not feel confident in the interview, because you will be wondering whether you are being judged on your appearance. But without the job you are interviewing for, you won’t have the money to buy the appropriate clothes.

This could probably be the most heart-rending incarnation of a Catch-22.

The thing is that first impressions matter. They matter a lot. So if a person is at a financial disadvantage, does it mean that they can never go over the hurdle and favourably impress a job interview panel, condemning them to unemployment?

Certainly not.

There are two sides to this coin: how do you find the right clothes to get the job, if you don’t have them? And how do you create the momentum to go to that interview with your head held high with confidence?


How do you create the confidence to ace that job



The answer to both questions is Dress for Success. Dress for Success is an organisation that helps women when they want to go back to work, by giving them the confidence to create that positive first impression. I was honoured to be the guest speaker at the Cork chapter launch in October 2013.

If you’re a woman who wants to go back to work after an extended period at home, caring for your children for example, you might be very nervous and worried that “you don’t have what it takes”. I meet women who harbour such doubts on a regular basis, and it’s all I can do to refrain from exclaiming “Do you have any idea how capable you are? A stay-at-home mum or somebody who cares for elderly or sick relatives has the workload of a General Manager – and the skills to match!

So the first step is to remember that, after all those years coordinating schedules and anticipating the needs of others, even before they themselves realise they need anything, you have superhuman organisational and project management skills, not to mention stellar team worker skills.

Find inspiration by looking to others who are doing what you want to do: role models will reassure you that you can do it. What’s more, their own personal trajectory can mean they had to deal with barriers similar to the ones you’re currently facing: look to them for practical insights. The fact that they did it, as well as how they did it: that is what you want to keep in mind.

I’m constantly dealing with companies and individuals who want to make their workplaces more family friendly, both to hold on to their staff, because they have invested so much in them, and also for the benefit of their employees, who they recognize as people with rich, multidimensional lives, not just a pay packet. There is very much a drive towards inclusiveness. The workplace hasn’t yet reached the ideal, but it’s a lot closer now than generations past.

Listen to the interview I recorded with Carmel O’Keeffe, founder and CEO of Dress for Success Cork.


You need to know about Dress for Success


The second step is to get a confidence boost by visiting the nearest chapter of Dress for Success. Dress for Success gives people clothes for the interview and for their first week at work.

Dress for Success offers several services to help you look your absolute best on interview day: a professional stylist will help you choose your clothes, and you will also receive hair and make up advice. And they offer other types of coaching, too: an HR specialist is there to help you brush up on your interview skills.

But their help doesn’t stop there: they offer a coaching programme to take you through your first month at work and they will be right there at your side when you are negotiating the journey of the first 30 days. You can then become a member of their Professional Women’s Group for life.


A rising tide lifts all boats


I think it’s an amazing charity, and I shared my views on the importance of the work they do at the launch of their Cork chapter in 2013. They make such a deep difference to the lives of their clients, which spreads a positive impact right around their communities. In DFS Cork’s first year, they helped 193 clients, of which 77 have found employment, and 37 have gone on to further education.

As an economist, I see the disconnect between the experience of many people, who question whether the recovery is happening at all in Ireland, and on the other hand the economic trends that I know are gathering strength.

People are going back to work, they are finding employment, and that has a cascading effect. If somebody who was on social welfare goes back to work, that has an impact on the amount of money the state needs to pay out benefits. If somebody starts receiving a wage, it’s going to be higher than social welfare, therefore that person will have an increased ability to pay bills, repay debts and loans, and might have some money left over for discretionary purchases as well.

That person may be more inclined to go out for lunch, to go for some shopping, and the businesses that receive that money will start to feel the impact, too. They will eventually be able to pass that on in the form of increased wages and corporation tax, and might take on additional staff.

When one person goes back to work, the effects are far-reaching – it might have been slow to come, but the rising tide does lift all boats.

Listen to the Savvy podcast with Carmel O’Keeffe for her wonderful insights and tips on self-confidence.


The untold, unquantifiable benefits of

better self-confidence


But there is also an unquantifiable benefit: the sheer difference going back to work makes in terms of somebody’s confidence. This new-found confidence has a tremendous impact on their household, their children and all around them.

Supporting women to do what they want to do by taking a step-by-step, practical approach and by building confidence completely aligns with what we at HayesCulleton seek to do with the Savvy Woman brand. I have donated copies of both The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Financial Freedom and The Savvy Guide to Making More Money, I’ve sent business clothes that I wasn’t using anymore and referred people to them.

So if you’d like to take part in their amazing effort, you can have a clear-out to donate work suits you no longer wear, or text DRESS to 50300 to donate €2 to Dress for Success Cork.


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By Susan December 29, 2014 18:41