What I learnt from my first day volunteering in the third sector at Suited & Booted

Written by EO Executives on Nov 08, 2016

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Through the introduction of a business contact I have recently started supporting a wonderful London charity called Suited & Booted run by the passionate Dr Maria Lenn and her team of talented volunteers.

The team and I at EO have always been looking for ways to use our skills to deliver some positive social impact. Recruitment as an industry tends to get compared culturally more to Wolf of Wall Street than Comic Relief so when the opportunity came up to use my executive search skills to coach those in need I jumped at the chance. 

It was a rewarding experience and I am back in with the team tomorrow to offer support – for others in the corporate world considering this type of work, I wanted to share some of my learnings below.

So, who are Suited & Booted?

Suited & Booted (http://www.suitedbootedcentre.org.uk/) is a charity that helps vulnerable, unemployed and low-income men into employment by providing interview clothing and interview advice – they will help and clothe more than a 1000 men this year.

Suited & Booted aim to make a difference so that their clients can move forward with the ability to succeed and find their own way in society. Based in the City of London they are a new charity and rely upon the help of volunteers, financial contributions and clothing donations to continue the work that they do.

Learning 1 – There is always more to volunteer work than meets the eye

To change your job prospects you must work on your psychology.

The particularly great thing about the work Suited & Booted (and Smart Works who deliver a similar service for women) undertake is the transformation in confidence that their clients experience in one 30-minute session.

Yes, they are putting on a suit and shirt expertly matched by a stylist but they also putting on a suit of armour internally to set them up for success in the job market. “Very quickly the clients start walking and talking differently” explained Jacqueline who is one of the volunteer stylists, “and often they ask if it is okay to wear the suit home!” such is the change in their mindset and level of confidence.

I am a big believer that what you believe becomes your reality and hence the shift that Suited & Booted provide doesn’t just help their clients look good it also helps them perform better under interview assessment.

Learning 2 – Be prepared to change your preconceptions

It is amazing the utter rubbish we build up in our minds in terms of preconceptions of people who have hit hard times. The clients I met were from a wide range of ages, ethnic backgrounds and histories – sadly anyone can find themselves in a negative position quickly these days.

I left feeling more compassion than ever for those who are in a time of struggle and reminded myself of that timeless cliche not to judge a book by its cover. The personal stories behind the clients at Suited & Booted  were varied and surprising. Some had been discarded by big corporates, others had a marital breakdown that sent them on a downward spiral and others in a split second had made some bad decisions that they were now paying for in a big way.

My preconceptions were a mile wrong. I now know that there are physically dominating and intimidating guys who almost cower at the thought of a basic job interview and that some of the best-spoken men you will ever meet are living in hostels – this was a very thought provoking experience.

Learning 3 – You will learn as much from the experience as the people you help

Another potentially overused cliche but again a very true one as you can probably tell from my learnings above.

Unsurprisingly when researchers at the London School of Economics examined the relationship between volunteering and measures of happiness, they found the more people volunteered, the happier they were.

Working with the right charity can help you to reduce stress, reach out to the community, learn new skills, and even advance your career. I am not surprised that several corporate companies are now mandating skills based volunteering as part of their executive development programmes.

How can you help the great work at Suited & Booted?

Well for a start please do drop in any shoes that you no longer need to St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe, St Andrew’s, City of London EC4V 5DE. There is a particularly strong and urgent need for quality men’s shoes. After the new Year, Suited & Booted will be in new premises, and I will update you on their new location in January.

You should also attend the fund raising event that Dr Maria is hosting on Wednesday 23rd November. Tickets are only £30 and the event will be key to helping the group secure some new premises.

Register here: http://bit.ly/2fOGFDj 

If you want to find out more, please get in touch at: andrew.macaskill@executivesonline.co.uk

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