Dress for Success Indianapolis seeks to help women not only look great, but feel great. It’s the right professional appearance and the accompanying confidence that impact her ability to secure employment. Even after she’s employed, however, a woman advancing out of poverty often finds that her support network may be inadequate as she faces new challenges, and that she needs to keep developing her skills and knowledge in order to advance in the workforce. The Professional Women’s Group (PWG) provides networking and support opportunities combined with educational sessions and resources in order to help women step closer to self-sufficiency.
PWG began in 2006 and promotes employment retention and career advancement by providing networking opportunities and career resources in a safe, supportive environment. PWG hosts monthly meetings, as well as workshops on topics such as goal setting, preparing for home ownership and financial literacy. After PWG members attend meetings for one year, they graduate to Lifelong Membership status and concentrate on leadership and community involvement opportunities. PWG empowers employed women to experience self-defined success in work and in life as they develop friendships and find encouragement through participation in the group.
Meet Clara S.
With one day’s notice, Clara was forced to say good-bye to her beloved job of 22 years. On May 21, 2003 Indy News closed its doors for good. For Clara, the small bookstore, of which she owned five percent, was more than a job. She counted the money, ran the registers, made bank deposits. Her colleagues were like family. In fact, she says she grew up at Indy News. After all, she had worked there since she graduated high school.
Unfortunately, Indy News could not make it another day. Clara quickly had to face up to the fact that not only did she have to find another job, she would have to learn the ropes of the 21st century workplace. A daunting task considering she was a stranger to the computer.
“I can remember going to Galyans to apply for a job there. I’m a hard worker and love people, so I knew I could do a good job. They asked me to apply online. When I said I didn’t have a computer, they let me use theirs. But I couldn’t fill it out. I didn’t know how,” Clara recalls.
A positive and determined soul, Clara went to Mary Riggs Neighborhood Center and learned to type. She started at a pace of seven words per minute, but with persistent practice, she soon graduated typing more than 35 words per minute.
Her success didn’t stop there. Though her road to stable employment was rocky, she has landed on her feet – 21 floors above ground in the City-County building.
Clara works for the Mayor’s Action Center as a customer service representative. Nicknamed “Miss Happy,” it’s no secret that she loves her job. “The people there are so nice,” she says. And she’s continuing to improve her knowledge of the computer. “I get so excited when I learn something new, and I feel like I’m learning every day.”
Clara is quick to give recognition to those who have helped her this past year. Not the least of which is the Dress for Success team.
When she first entered the boutique, Clara admitted that she was apprehensive, but she knew she needed help. “I was like a kid in a candy store. At first I would only look, but by the end I was trying everything on. It was so much fun.”
“The girls (at Dress for Success) really helped,” she says. “I had been trying so hard to get a job, but just could not get one. Dress for Success makes you feel like a person and feel like you’re going to be a success.”
Like so many women, when Clara lost her job, she lost her identity. Dress for Success truly helped her regain confidence and feel good.
“Every time I got a call for a job, I immediately wanted to call Dress for Success and let them know about it. When you get news like that, it’s the most important people you want to tell. That’s really saying something,” she says.