What We Do

At the heart of Smart Works sits a two hour dressing and coaching service for unemployed women with confirmed job interviews.

Each client has a personalised styling session with two Smart Works volunteer stylists, receiving a complete outfit of high quality clothes and accessories for their specific job interview, which are free and hers to keep.  We make sure that our clients look fabulous, feel confident and have everything they need, from a winter coat to a pair of tights.

After her dressing, each client receives a one-to-one interview preparation and coaching session with an experienced HR professional or senior manager. The interview session focuses on increasing the awareness of her own strengths, answering questions effectively and understanding what is expected of her at interview.

Once a client is successful at interview, they are welcomed back for a Second Dressing to receive five additional pieces of clothing. This means that they can start their new role with a capsule working wardrobe which will see them through until their first pay cheque.

When our clients re-enter the workplace, we encourage them to join the Smart Works Network, a membership group of women who have recently returned to work. The Network meet on a monthly basis to further their professional and personal development, helping and motivating one another to succeed.

Over 93% of our clients reported that a visit to Smart Works significantly increased their confidence in succeeding at their job interview.

Our clients

Andrea

When Andrea came to Smart Works, she had been  unemployed for six months. ​ After struggling to secure a job, Andrea sought help  from an organisation that supports care leavers. Her  advisor helped her to apply for jobs and she got an  interview at Virgin Active.​ 

This is Andrea’s story.  

“When you’re a care leaver, there can be a lot of  financial issues and barriers that stop you from  getting employment. ​ 

I thought I would just be given one pair of black trousers or something, but they  showed me into what was like Aladdin’s cave…the cave of wonders! I found it so  difficult because there was so much to  choose from. Everything was so  amazing I didn’t know what to pick. ​ 

I had two amazing women there who  were helping me with everything and  telling me I look great. It was  really  nice.  After the appointment I felt amazing, I felt so confident.  ​ 

The best thing about Smart Works for me is the  people.  The first day I came in I was really  scared because I had no idea what Smart  Works did. I came through and everyone was  really  really  nice, from the moment I stepped  into the office. Just complimenting me, they  make you feel really  really  great. For somebody  who comes from a care leavers background,  you don’t hear people compliment you every day, telling you how great you look… and  actually trying to help you.  

Smart Works has given me a lot of  confidence. The experience that I had putting  the dresses on, I feel that every time I put my  coat, or blazer or shoes on – that’s the feeling  I carry around with me every time I wear  them.”

Caroline

When Caroline came to Smart Works she had been unemployed for over five years after being a full time carer for her son, who has autism. ​ As a single mum, she was keen to get back into work to support her family. Caroline suffered from depression and anxiety and was lacking the confidence she needed to get back into the workplace. ​ 

This is Caroline’s story. ​ 

“I was referred initially by the Job Centre to Action West London and then they referred me to Smart Works. I’d been looking for work for five or six months and it was so hard trying to get back out there. I hadn’t had an interview in so long – I had been a carer for my son for years so it had been a long time since my last interview. I suffer really badly from anxiety and depression, it’s something I’ve battled with for years so I was really in need of a boost. 

We started with the styling and I was made to feel so special. I felt so confident in the outfit. I wore a really beautiful fitted jacket, some lovely trousers a nice shirt and I felt a million dollars. The clothes filled with me with confidence.  I have to pinch myself sometimes. I open my wardrobe and I think “Wow!” It was so amazing.  ​

The coaching really did help majorly. I think I went in word for word from the role play we did – it was amazing. The interview techniques I received were great. I hadn’t had an interview for so long, I didn’t know what I was supposed to say, I had forgotten. It felt good and gave me a real boost. I felt like a new me and was confident to enter my interview. ​ 

I got the job straight away and started working at Marks and Spencer’s but now I’m about to start a new job in two weeks. It was a stepping stone for me to build up my confidence.

I can’t thank Smart Works and their team enough.  What Smart Works does for people is inspirational and magical.”

Demonstrating our impact

At Smart Works, we place a significant emphasis on being able to demonstrate the impact we are having on our clients.  We have an acclaimed Theory of Change that shows how and why our service is able to help clients succeed at interview. We have also refined our service to be able to follow up with as many clients as possible, and get their feedback on the impact of our service on their journey back to employment.

We were recently awarded a Level 2 validation of our work on the Nesta Standards of Evidence, a recognised framework for demonstrating impact.  This means that we capture data that shows positive change, and can prove that correlation.

“The evaluation gives a strong indication that the Smart Works service effectively increases its clients’ chances of getting a job.”

From "Measuring the impact of Smart Works" by The Social Innovation Partnership, May 2016