Maybe a teacher, a family friend or a parent helped you set it up. Probably you had a resume, career goals, even a college degree. Certainly you had a clean shirt or blouse, appropriate pants or skirt, and clean shoes. But what if you didn’t have any of those things? No mentors to guide you, no job skills to speak of, and not even a decent jacket to wear to an interview if one ever occurred.
Over the course of twenty-five years, Wardrobe for Opportunity has helped over 30,000 low-income workers find and retain employment and advance in their careers. The Strive for Change Foundation is honored to award Wardrobe for Opportunity a grant for 2020.
Wardrobe for Opportunity started as a micro-project to help underserved women secure jobs, but has since evolved to provide career development services to a diverse group of men, women and youth. 17% of Bay Area residents are living in poverty. In order to break the cycle of poverty and level the playing field, the organization offers several empowering programs to aid clients in professional image and interview preparation, job retention and long-term career planning, and financial education.
The Oakland-based organization partners with dozens of social service and job training agencies across the Bay Area and serves clients with challenges that include homelessness, recent incarceration, disabilities, domestic violence, single parenthood and gang violence. Some clients come from communities plagued by generational poverty and face a difficult and discouraging struggle to find a job and build a financially stable life.
Job seekers receive classroom training, as well as one-on-one coaching and mentoring to plan career strategies and detail the steps needed to achieve their professional goals.
Through its Find a Job, Keep a Job and Build a Career programs, Wardrobe for Opportunity provides its clients with the training, knowledge and resources needed to reach economic self-sufficiency and create a better life for themselves and their families. Core Programs (Navigate, Accelerate and Catapult) serve clients at different points in their career journey and ensure that individuals grow into solid employees or entrepreneurs, confident leaders and community role models — laying out the foundation for a successful next generation. Supplemental services to support the core programs include professional attire, image workshops, interview coaching and financial literacy training.
The Navigate program helps job seekers identify their personal skills, develop a more professional image, and connect to local employers. The Accelerate program helps newly employed and underemployed workers adapt to workplace etiquette and strengthen conflict resolution skills; they leave the program knowing how to excel in their jobs and move forward in their careers.
The Catapult program targets individuals who have been steadily employed for two to five years and can now focus on long-term career planning and economic self-sufficiency. Participants receive classroom training, as well as one-on-one coaching and mentoring to plan career strategies and detail the steps needed to achieve their professional goals.
Due to COVID-19, Wardrobe for Opportunity has moved to a virtual training format, offering Core Programs and supplemental services via Zoom, with the exception of its styling appointments which will not resume until the office reopens. Going forward, they are planning to offer a hybrid program/workshop model that involves a combination of on-site/off-site programs and virtual training to meet client needs. Executive Director Hannah Quan impressed Strive for Change with her effectiveness at adapting programs affected by the pandemic, and her strong leadership skills. During these difficult times, Wardrobe for Opportunity continues to provide job seekers with the confidence they need to succeed.