By Nancy Schneider, Co-Founder
We at Dress for Success Boston are proud of our roster of partnering agencies. Numbering almost 500 job training and social service providers, we take special pride in our history with Operation ABLE.
Founded in 1982, it specializes in supporting the mature worker who has been displaced or workers who need to update their skills for the modern business office. This agency sends us about 100 clients a year who are retrained and anxious to return to self- sufficiency.
Recently I asked Shirley Fickett, Manager of the Skills 2 Work Program at Operation ABLE if a visit to Dress for Success Boston made a meaningful difference for her clients
“Absolutely!” she responded without hesitation. “It is an very important addition to what we do,” she went on. She described shaky confidence as one of the biggest obstacles that her clients face. She also went into detail telling me about the “mini fashion shows” that clients provide her when they return from their appointments at the Dress for Success Boutique.
She believes that confidence enhances the skills they have acquired and encourages them to dream bigger and bigger dreams.
Shirley introduced me to Marilyn during our phone conversation who has just finished the twelve- week program and will be interning with Shirley before she heads out on her full time job search.
Marilyn left a twenty-year job in another part or the country to come to New England with her husband. She accepted a job here that just did not work out for her and her confidence was shaken. She began the process of beginning again and found Operation ABLE and the Skills 2 Work program and has thrived there under Shirley’s guidance.
Marilyn then came to the Dress for Success boutique and was encouraged by the welcoming attitude of the personal shoppers. “The experience was so positive,” she recalled. “It was fun.”
I asked her if the confidence challenge was worse for someone over 45 trying to begin again. She said it was and she felt that ageism was a very real obstacle for her. She said the boost of looking professional helped her believe that she could be successful again.
Operation ABLE has many training options for the mature worker. There are Workshops, a Resource Center and short term training. Their website lists six week trainings in MS Word and Excel and the twelve week Skills 2 Work Program that Marilyn was enrolled in.
That is divided into six weeks of administrative skills and six weeks of health care related learning. Then comes an internship—which gives practical experience and time to be in an office and gain confidence on the job.
About 1000 workers a year pass through these programs and Operation ABLE believes that the mature worker has a depth of experience that will serve an employer well. But for a client to succeed, it is not just a matter of computer skills, it is also the belief that success is just around the corner and that the client has everything she needs to succeed.
A significant part of what a client needs is professional clothing that gives her confidence to present herself as a competent and capable candidate for the job.
With this agency providing the skills and training and Dress for Success Boston providing the clothing and confidence boost. These job seekers are truly
READY—WILLING—AND ABLE to begin a new chapter of their lives.
One that is productive and self sufficient.