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 94% of our clients reported that a visit to Smart Works significantly increased their confidence in succeeding at their job interview.

Our clients

Selam

When Selam came to Smart Works, she had been unemployed for six months, having applied to nearly 50 jobs.  

Being out of work had knocked Selam’s confidence, and she was lacking the self-belief she needed to succeed.  

This is Selam’s story.  

“I had a fabulous experience at Smart Works. Everyone is so kind and helpful here, I felt so much more confident going to my interview after the appointment.  

In the dressing session I got a Ted Baker coat – that was just amazing – I got so many compliments on that coat! 

 I found the coaching session really helpful. I was taught about body language, things that my employer would be looking out for. My interview coach did some practice interviews with me and pointed out what I should and shouldn’t be doing.  

The appointment made me feel motivated. It’s kind of crazy how an outfit can really change how you feel. I felt confident. I could get whatever I put my mind to. 

I got the job, and I wore the outfit I was given including a briefcase. It had a really lovely message inside saying ‘good luck, I hope you get the career you want.’ And I did.”

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’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 in retail 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