Women’s group offers job-search boutique

By Wayne Bryan Originally Published November 18, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated November 16, 2012 at 11:18 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Curt Youngblood

Kathleen Travis-Neal, left, and Sarah Torres look at clothes that are available in the Dress Up boutique. Women In Networking and Goodwill partnered to offer the boutique, which provides business attire to women looking for a job.

— Dianne Jester, now a vice president with Bank of the Ozarks in Saline and Garland counties, remembers a time when she needed work and knew nothing about how to find a job or succeed in the workforce.

“My husband was killed in an accident when my daughter was right at a year old, and I had no clue about finding work,” Jester said. “There didn’t seem to be any kind of help that could show me how to get out there and get a job.”

While she now heads Bank of the Ozarks’ business-development efforts in Saline and Garland counties, Jester has not forgotten her early struggle, and she has brought together partners for a new way to help women become better prepared for finding a job.

On Tuesday, Women in Networking in Saline County, an organization working to empower women in the workforce, along with Goodwill Industries of Arkansas and other partners, opened Dress Up, a career closet, at the Goodwill store in Bryant, offering clothing for women looking for work.

“Job seekers are able to get free career help every day at Goodwill,” said Rebecca Brockman, community engagement manager for Goodwill. “And now, women in Saline County and surrounding areas will be able to choose a professional outfit to wear at interviews, after completing Goodwill’s Computer Basics Literacy program.”

The idea for a source for professional clothing came to Jester during a WIN meeting about four months ago, she said.

“We were talking about women needing jobs in the area and about the need for the right clothing for the job,” she said.

Jester and Kathy Pannell, branch manager of Bank of the Ozarks in Bryant, developed the idea of the career closet and contacted Goodwill of Arkansas.

“Goodwill is a very well-kept secret,” Jasper said. “They offer free training, such as resume building and interview skills, and they have lots of clothes.”

Pannell said women who come to Goodwill for training can also get help from WIN members in the pursuit of employment.

“We can talk to them about how to conduct themselves in an interview and be a kind of fashion adviser about finding clothes that fit the job they are seeking, but also make them feel good about themselves,” she said.

Adding some fashion and money-saving advice is Meredith Corning of Compassion Fashion Events & Design in Beebe.

“We want job seekers to build a wardrobe around a jacket, maybe two skirts, pants and a couple of tops,” Corning said. “That will give someone a lot of different ways to mix and match with something they might already have in their closets at home.”

Valerie Nix, who runs the career center in the Goodwill stories in Benton and Bryant, said anyone can receive

job-readiness training and career services there.

“We talk about job-search strategies, and some do’s and don’ts about interviews,” Nix said. “One thing to do is always bring your resume, and the biggest don’t is not to be late.”

Brian Itzkowitz, CEO of Goodwill of Arkansas, said he was eager to support the partnership with WIN and offered room at the Bryant store for the career closet.

“It fits what we do and who we are trying to help,” he said at the ribbon-cutting for the closet. “This partnership with the new WIN Dress Up boutique will help women move forward in their careers, help their families succeed and ultimately improve the communities in Saline County.”

Jester said WIN members donated the clothing, and she thanked Saline County businesses for decorating the career-closet area.

“We want women to come into the place and feel the same as if they were coming into any nice shop,” she said.

The WIN Dress Up, a career closet, is behind the computer training room of the Bryant Goodwill Store, 5914 Arkansas 5 North.

For more information about job training or to donate items to the career closet, call Goodwill in Bryant at (501) 653-2209.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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