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Ready for work, from tip to toe

Fitted for Work is a non-for-profit organisation that assists women experiencing disadvantage to obtain employment and to navigate the complex world of work.

In the 2021 Round of Community Grants, Freemasons Foundation Victoria (FFV) supported Fitted for Work with a grant to deliver their Women’s Economic Empowerment Program. This program is delivered through a hybrid model of face-to-face and virtual support services – including resume and job application support, career counselling, provision of appropriate work attire, and skills development workshops - that empower Victorian women with the skills, knowledge and confidence to enter the workforce and maintain their employment.

We asked Caitlin Mountford, Fitted for Works’ National Marketing and Communications Manager, to tell us more about Fitted for Works’ story and the programs achievements.

How did Fitted for Work start?

It all began in the city that never sleeps, New York. In late 2004, our founders Marion Webster and Renata Singer were volunteering at the Bottomless Closet, an organisation that supplied business clothing to women experiencing disadvantage.

A service like that didn’t exist in Australia in 2004. Renata and Marion returned to Melbourne determined to create one. With the support of some friends, they opened the first Fitted for Work Dressing Room on Swanston Street in July 2005.

As publicity grew, Fitted for Work provided free work outfits to more and more clients. In an intimate space, they witnessed women blossom. With a bit of compassion and encouragement, clients left the Dressing Room feeling confident and motivated.

But from the beginning, our founders knew getting a job was about more than just the right clothes. It wasn’t long before Fitted for Work launched services for resume support and interview preparation, developed workshops for confidence building and introduced a mentor program to help women at every step of their journey into work.

How many women are taking part in the Womens Economic Empowerment Program?

With the support of FFV, Fitted for Work has delivered our Women’s Economic Empowerment program to 200 women in Victoria. This program has supported women to establish the tools, skills, mindset and support network to become work ready, gain employment and achieve success in their careers.

This year, we expect we will deliver our holistic job readiness programs and services to approximately 3000 women. Since 2005, Fitted for Work has supported over 38,000 women on their journey into work. On average, women find work within 73 days of accessing our services.

Which aspect of Fitted for Work’s program do women find the most crucial for their job readiness journey?

Each woman is different, and every journey into employment is unique. There is no one-size-fits all solution to finding work.

At Fitted for Work, we believe the most crucial aspect to helping women succeed in their job search is offering a tailored model designed by women, for women.

Our team has 17 years of experience and understanding of the unique challenges and barriers to employment that women face. We tailor each journey to the individual needs of our clients, and women often comment on how our team made them feel understood and respected.

One of our clients, Susan*, remarked on her experience, “it is so rewarding to speak to someone who knew what I was talking about, who understands how labour intensive it is to apply for multiple jobs a day & had some great tips on how to edit my resume and have my cover letter reflect my best attributes.”

Another client, Kris*, reflected on how Fitted for Work made her feel heard, explaining, “my heart had been broken for a long time, I had been feeling like no one heard me… [Fitted for Work] made me feel like a human”.

Which aspect do they find the most enjoyable, if any? Why?

As Maya Angelou once said, “at the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” Our clients often share with us how their experience with our team made them feel confident, empowered and motivated. We’ve included some beautiful examples below:

“Trying on the new clothes was definitely one of the best moments in the last decade. It was like Santa came early this year; you are so extraordinarily generous. I haven’t felt so great in ages!!! I feel empowered and more positive to find a way back into the working environment.” *Emily

“I can’t thank you enough for your support and the incredibly generous gift of reasserting and remembering how to be confident within myself.” *Vanessa

“After the amazing workshop you ladies did, I’m feeling motivated to go and find the job of my dreams. I’ve been working the whole week on my resume!” *Veronica

What is something that you believe employers should focus more/less on when recruiting?

We would love to see more employers focus on attitude over aptitude. When recruiting for a position, understanding transferrable skills and what parts of the role are teachable can help employers identify suitable candidates that often fall through the cracks of traditional recruitment.

We encourage employers to think critically about their recruitment process and how they are filtering candidates. One common example is automatically disregarding applications with spelling or grammatical errors. In the last financial year, 60% of our clients identified as being from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Often, English is their second or third language and while their spelling and grammar may not always be perfect, their communication skills are sufficient for the role being advertised. By using generic and arbitrary filters for applications, recruiters miss out on interviewing fantastic candidates who could be perfect for their team.

One final story from one of our clients who recently found full-time employment:

“I am sooooo thankful for the last minute interview preparation videos you sent me yesterday and how you talked me through a time last week where I was feeling distressed. I got the job! You gave me confidence and I really appreciate your follow up to check in on me. I want to let you know that Fitted for Work changes live with the caring support you provide.” Gupreet*

*Names have been changed for privacy.


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