The big read: Behind the scenes of Sheffield charity which helps job seekers make a great first impression

A Sheffield charity that provides job-seekers with a free interview outfit and advice is focusing on fundraising to ensure its work can continue.

Thursday, 28th October 2021, 6:00 am
Faye - Project Lead at The Suit Works on Division St. Picture Scott Merrylees

The Suit Works, which moved to Division Street last month has fitted over 700 Sheffielders for an interview outfit since it opened in 2016, and is in the middle of a fundraising campaign.

The charity has just two paid staff and four volunteers helping to sort outfits and work with people providing suit fittings and interview advice, and the number of referrals they receive is ever growing.

Over a one hour session, staff will take a clients measurements, fit them with an appropriate free outfit to keep, and help build up their confidence so that they look and feel their best for their interview.

Faye - Project Lead at The Suit Works on Division St. Picture Scott Merrylees

Faye Mellors, project lead at The Suit Works, said: “First impressions count in an interview - especially the first 30 seconds. It’s not only about how others perceive you it’s about an internal mindset. This is about empowering people and it’s amazing how much an outfit can change that.

"People come in every week with low self esteem and you can physically see that confidence come back. We are helping people reach their potential and unfortunately we are needed now more than ever.

"We work with people who have been homeless, that have gone through substance abuse, we work with veterans – it speaks volumes about wider issues. No matter where we are in society we all need a little bit of help sometimes to move forward.”

People are referred to The Suit Works by outside organisations, usually job centres. Before the pandemic, demand was increasing, and following the affects of lockdown, it is now even higher.

The Suit Works on Division St. Picture Scott Merrylees

Staff and volunteers are fundraising to secure money so that The Suit Works can continue long into the future. Faye and three trustees took part in a sponsored abseil over Millers Dale viaduct, while Ben, another trustee completed the Sheffield 10k race wearing a suit.

Two fashion students from Barnsley College also volunteer their time reworking older items of clothing that would otherwise be sent to landfill. These, in addition to high quality and designer donations, are sold through the recently launched Boutique Works website, which provides another avenue for fundraising.

All of the outfits are sent in through donations from organisations or individuals, and the building next door to The Suit Works is currently holding a suit drive for them.

Faye added: “We have a high turnover and we always need clothing. We struggle at the smaller and larger end of the scale. We have really high standards.”

The Suit Works has been in operation for over five years and was founded by Vanda Madison who took the idea to crowdfunding group Sheffield Soup where she gained her first few hundred pounds of funding.

The organisation continued its work throughout lockdown, taking people’s measurements online and establishing a click and collect service before opening again when restrictions eased.

Faye said: “We have success stories - recently a lady came to see us and she wasn’t really prepared for the interview. She had low self esteem. She had a great session with us, stepped out of her comfort zone and by the end of the hour she was doing a catwalk. She got the job, then in a few weeks she got a promotion. She has donated a few bits back to us.

“If you are successful at interview we can provide a capsule wardrobe of a few outfits, because you can’t just wear the same clothes for the first month of your job.

“It’s absolutely amazing to see the change over the hour in front of your eyes, to see someones confidence sky rocket in such a short amount of time. Some people might not be successful on their first or their second interview, but this gives them the potential, they leave here with that absolute can do attitude. We are not doing the work for them, we are empowering them to succeed.

“I think as a small charity we can get caught up in the work behind the scenes, but then after we see a couple of clients we come back at the end of the day in tears because we are so moved.

To support The Suit Works in their fundraising mission, click the link here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/abseil-for-the-suit-works.