Published May 17, 2016
Volume 24, Number 5

Wardrobe for Opportunity Celebrates 21 Years Helping

Professionals Re-enter Workplace

Wardrobe for Opportunity

By Jay Hipps

Friday, May 20 is the date for Wardrobe for Opportunity’s Spring to Success Soirée, a San Francisco Bay cruise which will celebrate the organization’s 21st anniversary. Emcee Darya Folsom of KRON4 will be hosting keynote speaker Tamika Nurse, a career strategist who provides style advice and tips to navigating the workforce.

“The theme of the event is ‘Fearless Transformation!’,” says Darice Jones, Wardrobe’s executive director, “and she's going to talk about fearless transformation not only of the individuals who may be struggling with poverty but also of our shared community: How do we all participate in the fearless transformation from a world that works for fewer to a world who that works for all of us.” 
Wardrobe for Opportunity (WFO) is a non-profit organization that works in partnership with the community to assist low-income individuals in their careers. While WFO began by providing clothes suitable for job interviews for people re-entering the workforce, it has expanded its services to include interview workshops and ongoing career development programs. Since WFO’s founding in 1995, the group has helped over 30,000 low-income individuals referred from over 40 partner social service and job-training agencies across the Bay Area.

“I think that one of the distinguishing factors between what we do at WFO and what other social services are able to offer is that we really stick with our clients long term, and that long term support provides access that clients might not otherwise have to professional support services. That means they're able to move further and faster in advancing their careers,” Jones says. “For our deepest class, which we call Success Series, we're seeing somewhere around 90 percent of participants three years after having taken the class reporting a high rate of economic self-sufficiency.”
WFO’s services begin with a one-hour professional styling appointment in one of the organization’s boutiques, which is stocked with donated professional clothing. This is followed by Pathways, a six-week job retention class “that focuses on workplace communication, etiquette, how to impress your supervisor, how to communicate your professional skills, how to stand out from your peers, and how to ask for more responsibility or a raise,” says Jones. “Those six weeks are chock full of professional development tools that will be used lifelong. You can use all of those things no matter what company you're in, which means you have more ability to navigate whatever your career goals are.”
Another popular service are WFO’s monthly, corporate-sponsored interview events. “We have these speed dating-style interview workshops where we introduce clients to the Bay Area's top employers,” Jones says. “The companies that partner with us, which include Kaiser, Google, Genentech, and Pandora, bring in people from their HR teams and our clients do these rapid interview practice sessions. Business cards are exchanged and we encourage people to call the folks that they meet at these events to set up informational interviews, because that kind of relationship building is a very important skill to have in terms of advancing in your career. We've also had people be brought in for real interviews, just from meeting HR professionals at these events.”
Tickets for the Spring to Success Soirée, as well as additional information about Wardrobe for Opportunity, are available at the organization’s web site, www.wardrobe.org.


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