Smart Works: a charity that combines fashion and coaching

“It was a confidence booster when I went to Smart Works”   

Fashion North speaks to Fey Young about her experience with Smart Works, a charity that provides interview clothes and coaching to unemployed women in need.

Rehearsing the all-important question of why you’re the ideal candidate and piecing together THE outfit, it’s undeniable that most of us follow particular routines prior to any job interview. Despite strategic preparation (such as memorising the company’s ‘about’ page) most job advertisements attract various hopeful candidates. That is why seeking employment can often feel daunting, particularly for women in need.  

In a bid to help these women, Smart Works was established in the UK. The charity now has centres located up and down the country in North London, West London, Edinburgh, Greater Manchester, Reading, Newcastle, Birmingham and Leeds.  

The charity helps these women following referral by job centers, mental health charities, homeless shelters and prisons. Prior to Smart Works most women have been unsuccessful in over 20 applications and been turned down from over 50 jobs.’  

The purpose of each visit is to provide clients with interview coaching and styling to boost confidence.  

Fey’s experience

Fey Young from Gateshead visited the Newcastle center in April of this year. After volunteering on farms throughout the winter, Young felt that none of her clothes were appropriate for the upcoming interviews she had scheduled with the National Trust.  

Fey Young

Fey Young, 29, explains:  

“I was on Universal Credit, so I went to one of their (Universal Credit) days and got a flyer for Smart Works. I got in touch with them (Smart Works) as I didn’t have enough money at that point to buy professional clothing.” 

Magnified by her dislike of trying on clothing in more usual circumstances, Young admits that the idea of being “given clothes to try on by people was a little odd.”  

Although “a little nervous” upon arrival Young explains: 

“I was welcomed by the team who were all lovely, that asked me what I was doing and what type of job I wanted. I was offered a glass of water and filled in a couple of question forms, and asked what I wanted to wear. At first, I said trousers as I’m used to wearing trousers and a shirt, then the two women showed me a black dress. I tried that on and liked it better than everything else. It was a confidence booster. It 

was great.” 

The visit concluded with Young being able to keep a blazer, trench coat, dress and shoes originally from M&S.   

“They also gave me a bag of toiletries as well, which I thought was good for preparing the day before an interview to give yourself a pamper. And feminine hygiene products just in case,” explained Young.  

Interview ready

Following our talk with Fey, and scrolling through the Smart Works Instagram feed, we were inspired to style some interview appropriate looks.


Why is this charity important? 

Although an outfit (no matter how fabulous) does not have the ability to secure you a job role, feeling put together appearance wise has the ability to boost confidence and self-esteem 

Clinical Psychologist, Emmah Jassim explains:  

“If you have not got anything appropriate to wear and you feel that you are unprepared for the interview, it can be even more anxiety-provoking. It appears that the services that this charity provides can really help to take those extra weights off ahead of the person’s interview.” 

Aside from styling, one of the most beneficial experiences offered at Smart Works are coaching sessions. Each client is offered a one to one interview session by someone within the PR industry or a senior member of management. These sessions consist of mock interview questions and techniques that can be applied in the future.  

“When somebody has a job interview coming up, they may worry and ruminate about it for weeks in advance. This worry and rumination can then spiral and become worse. Coaching and mock interviews may be helpful to reduce interviewees’ anxiety responses, as they can get a sense of what the actual day may be like (and hopefully, that it won’t be as bad as they expect)” explains Emmah Jassim 

“Having a sense of purpose and role is one of the key factors in maintaining good mental health.  For many women, being supported back into work may help to boost their mental health. Some women may have been affected by the stigma of being unemployed, so obtaining employment may help rid them of this.” 

Clinical Psychologist Emmah Jassim’s insight emphasises that a charity such as Smart Works benefits the community by helping women in need find employment.  

As the Smart Works’ community and social media platforms continue to grow throughout the UK, this charity still relies on donations from the public in order to style clients.  

If you’re a self-confessed hoarder like many of us when it comes to your shopping habits, your once beloved (perhaps forgotten) blouse could contribute to someone in need finding employment.   

How to donate and help the cause





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