by Eve Fontenot
If you’ve ever been unemployed, especially involuntarily, you know how the feelings of terror, insecurity, and depression can be overwhelming. Just to walk into a place to ask for help can be an especially daunting task. You might ask yourself ‘How do I even begin to look?’ ‘What do these jobs even mean?’ ‘How do I know if I’m even qualified?’ ‘Will I like it, will they like ME?’ That is why organizations like SmartWorks are so important and why Duchess Meghan was drawn to, not only becoming a patron but dedicated herself to creating a Smart Set capsule collection of interview clothes collaborating with John Lewis and Partners, Marks and Spencer, Jigsaw and her good friend Misha Nonoo.
If you’re just catching up, SmartWorks is a London based charity that helps women find employment with coaching tips and professional attire for job interviews. Literally a one stop shop for all employment needs to be designed specifically for women and they have recently celebrated the one year anniversary of the Smart Set collection. The two-week fundraising event was a massive success. Did we crash the site? I think we crashed the site and I’m still salty that the Misha Nonoo blouse I wanted was sold out in my size and the brown leather bag to go with my favorite pair of boots was sold out like 5 seconds after the event started! (woosah)
For every item in the collection purchased during that time, one of the same sizes were donated to SmartWorks. When it was over, SmartWorks had enough brand new pieces for an entire year.
The impact of Meghan’s collaboration with SmartWorks was immediately seen and felt, and not just by the participants. Many the world over got to see the boundless dedication Meghan had to get to know the women involved, coaching them as they prepped for interviews and even helping them pick out their clothes. Even with her move to California, she has still been active, surprising a participant with personal coaching via Zoom. I would have needed smelling salts and a stiff drink if someone told me that Duchess Meghan was going to be speaking directly with me on a Zoom call, I’m jus sayin. Yesterday we were treated, again, to Meghan speaking with three SmartWorks clients who have been successful in finding employment through the program and the interview clothes they had chosen. During the call, Meghan said, “People can say that so much of Smart Works is about the clothes themselves but it’s really not … all of that stuff is the exterior but it’s what it does for you on the inside that ends up being the best accessory. It’s the confidence, it’s what is built within, that is the piece that you walk out of that room with and walk into the interview with.”
This is why SmartWorks is such a natural fit for Meghan. The program empowers women from the inside out, replacing terror and insecurity with the strength and confidence that was always there but brought out by the compassion, understanding, and community of other women. It is that Community that makes SmartWorks successful. It is that Community that made the Smart Set collection such an amazing fundraising event. It wasn’t a charity that we just threw money at. We knew that the blouse, the bag, or the dress we purchased for ourselves would also be worn by another woman who needed just that extra layer of confidence to get the job she wanted. And she went into that interview knowing that another woman, whom she didn’t even know, believed enough in her to make sure she had it. Imagine walking into an interview with an army like that at your back. Meghan and SmartWorks remind us all that we each have the ability to impact and empower each other. That as women, we can think not just in terms of charity, but a community. What piece of success can I share that may help another woman reach her own success? How can I replicate what was done for me? For every hand we clasped on our way up, let us not forget to turn around and reach a hand back as well. The ripple effect of one small gesture is sure to have a lasting impact, whether you know them or not.