Dress for success

Make a great first impression

By KIM LOCCISANO – Staff Writer
(kloccisano@timesleaderonline.com),Times Leader

You only get one chance to make a first impression, especially when it comes to meeting a person you hope will decide you are the right person for a job needing filled.

Like any other important event in life, the process of looking your best for a job interview or to attend a job fair will always prove to be a good investment of your time, effort and resources.

Among the resources you can count on dedicating toward securing a new employment opportunity will often be some money.

However, when getting your resources together in advance of an interview or a job fair, make sure to consider thinking, just a little, outside the box, particularly in an effort to protect what might already be over-stretched personal resources such as time and money.

When gathering your interview ensemble together or your work clothes for the start of a new job, take the time to learn what clothing styles are appropriate for a particular work site scenario.

If you are completely unsure what is right to wear, it is time to get in personal contact with someone more knowledgeable and who would enjoy helping you get on some firm footing where workplace wardrobe matters are concerned.

When it comes to women and our willingness to help out someone in need of just the right thing to wear, the American tradition of extending a hand to offer help to a total stranger or close friend is more often than not what will be found.

Women of the Ohio Valley area have a long tradition of helping each other through local resources. Donations of all types of clothing are made to area agencies and assistance programs on a daily basis, and women in true need of accessing those items will readily find they have direct access to available needed clothing programs.

The challenge of preparing to enter or reenter the workforce is a process which can be helped immensely if an individual is given access to the right clothing types and styles to wear for initial experiences such as job fairs, interviews and an initial period of work at a new job.

This should never be considered the time to take the idea of investment dressing to the limits of your financial situation.

In today’s world of gently used clothing boutiques offering top quality items for just a few dollars, there should be no need to even consider spending big bucks on an interview suit or a work week wardrobe when your foot is barely in the door.

Most communities in this area have well established women’s clothing consignment or charitable organizations based on gently used clothing resources available to one and all.

A stellar example of one such resource available to all area women is the Wheeling YWCA and its outstanding program, “The Y Not Repeat Boutique.”

Don’t think the merchandise is up to your standards? Think again.

If you are comfortable shopping for line labels you easily recognize, the Y Not Repeat Boutique is the perfect place to shop – yes shop – for gently used and never worn items from a wide range of companies.

Often included among the shop’s inventory are items from Pendleton, Ralph Lauren, Ann Taylor, Neiman Marcus, Evan-Picone, Jones of New York, Gap, Izod, Liz Claiborne, Talbots, Miss Pendleton, Pendleton Classic, ON by Leboff and more.

On any given day, the merchandise available there will change, as donations of clothing for women is being brought through the doors destined for some TLC and a place among the unique boutique’s well maintained display racks.

A vital aspect of this program is giving women in need comfortable access to quality clothing and sound advice when making choices of elements that they want to come together as an outfit, an ensemble or a suit.

Local libraries can provide free access to internet resources and to current magazines which hold limitless suggestions for making clothing decisions for various interview and job seeking scenarios.

What they seldom offer is information on how to pull together the right attire without spending more than you can intelligently afford to; enter organizations such as the Wheeling YWCA.

Such opportunities for painless, quality shopping experiences are a goal met every day through the YWCA’s boutique offerings to the public as well as the individual clients they serve through various efforts, one of the most successful is the personal shopper program.

Volunteers traditionally staff the shop, and through their regular interactions with women walking through the shop door with a limitless variety of challenges and goals, they become well informed on points of style trends and traditions.

Many of the volunteers on the boutique staff bring a career’s worth of knowledge about fashion and are there to help customers by suggesting items for their consideration, and to provide reliable feedback as a person goes through the sometimes overwhelming process of preparing to enter or reenter the workforce, step into a student-teaching assignment, attend a business formal event or the like.

But the idea of dressing for success is not something that needs to wait for a particular opportunity to come about. Shopping at the Y Not Repeat Boutique has the possibility of being every bit as enjoyable an experience as does an outing to a mall, but it will never bring with it the financial pitfalls that can readily come from thinking your perfect interview suit, first day on the job attire or even a homecoming or prom formal or suit can only be found by shopping at traditional retail resources.

In addition to the clothing items donated to the boutique at the Wheeling YWCA, there is an always changing inventory of accessories, coats, sweaters, shoes, scarves, jewelry and more.

It is a very special shopping experience, and a great avenue to share with others the items you no longer find doing anything for you other than taking up space in your closet or dresser drawers.

Volunteers and donations are both always welcomed and appreciated, according to Rhonda Hayes, the YWCA staff member in charge of the operations of the boutique, its volunteers, and more.

“The next time you clean your closets, think of us for those gently used clothes,” offered Hayes.

“But make sure also to take a moment and look around the boutique. There are always new items to be discovered and ways our volunteers can help customers no matter their needs,” she said.

“In the past year, we have seen almost 6,000 women come through the boutique, almost a quarter of them with referrals. However, in all of this business, and with an all volunteer staff, we have raised over $7,000 in profit. This is amazing,” shared Hayes, referring to the resources of the boutique being certainly some of the most cost effective to be found among shops in the area open to the public.

Shoppers, browsers and donors are welcomed during regular business hours, with detailed information available for the asking by calling Hayes at 304-232-0511.

Two dress for success points experts routinely share for women working on getting into the workforce or returning to it include these basics:

The first thing a hiring manager sees is the way you look and the way you carry yourself. Being correctly dressed for the interview may very well help get you called back for a second interview.

Select an interview outfit a couple of days before the interview or starting your new venture and try it on to make sure it fits, that it is comfortable and that you feel as though you look good in it.

Feeling like your appearance is well put together for any event will help you to be more confident and carry yourself with more poise.

Remember to look a person in the eyes when having a conversation or during an interview.

Things like remembering to exchange a solid handshake, to sit forward and comfortably in a chair, and to not fidget may sound like directives for children, but they have a very real value in many of life’s scenarios.

Just for the record: cell phones are not wardrobe accessories for the average person.

And though we routinely have cell phones in hand almost 24-7, remembering to turn it off and leave it in your car, purse, brief case or someplace similarly out of sight, is a much more welcome image than the look on your face when it sets off during an interview or initial meeting with potential or new employers.