People & Planet
How We’re Supporting Smart Works Charity this International Women’s Day
03 March 2023
Happy International Women’s Day to all our Radley Stories readers. To mark today, Wednesday 8th March, we’re donating £5 from every order - from full price stores and online - to Smart Works. And we thought now would be a great time to tell you more about our involvement with this fantastic charity for women.
The Radley London team couldn’t be prouder to be an official Wardrobe Partner for Smart Works, donating at least 500 handbags to the charity each year. Smart Works exists to give unemployed women the confidence they need to reach their full potential, secure employment and change the trajectory of their lives.
Each client enjoys a bespoke dressing consultation, receiving a full interview outfit for them to keep - including the perfect bag of course - followed by a one-to-one coaching session with an expert interview coach. This is where they will receive valuable interview preparation.
We were so pleased to speak to two Smart Works clients who each received their own Radley handbag during their sessions. Over to Tina first, as she tells us her story.
“I needed help with my confidence and to know someone was interested in me and my story. When you change everything in your life, it’s so important.”
“I used to work as a personal assistant and interpreter in Kyiv, but our lives were turned upside down when the war started. We spent a week in the basement of our house hiding from heavy shelling before we fled to the UK. It was the worst experience of my life. I’m so happy that the UK opened its gates and we could come here.
“When my children and I left, we had one big backpack between the three of us. I took my best handbag because I thought I would need to look presentable when applying for jobs, but at the time, it was the basic things on my mind. It was a harsh winter, so I brought warm clothes. We didn’t even think about summer. After arriving in the UK and getting the children settled with school, I began to look for work. I had applied to a few jobs but hadn’t gotten further than the application stage.
“I heard about Smart Works from a few other Ukrainian women who had used the service. I was ready to work, but I needed help with my confidence and to know someone was interested in me and my story. When you change everything in your life, it’s so important.
“In the first dressing I received a beautiful dress, and also a Radley London bag. It’s the perfect size for interviews, I can fit copies of my CV, a little make-up bag, and everything else I might need. I felt relaxed and confident after the session.
“I was a bit nervous about the interview coaching, but I felt more relaxed and confident after the dressing. It was a challenging session. We did a mock interview, but it was so helpful afterwards, I realised how important it was.
“After I came to Smart Works, a switch turned on in my head, and I realised I’ve got this, and I deserve it. Getting a job is not just a matter of luck, I know I made it happen, and it’s a great start to a new life for my family and me. I had an interview the week after my appointment and got the job. It was like being on cloud nine.”
Elena, aged 18, has just completed the Big City Bright Future programme. The scheme gives school-leavers a paid summer internship at high-profile companies in sectors such as law, technology and finance. The scheme refers female applicants to Smart Works, so that the charity can support them with the vigorous application process. She is also a carer for her father who has a heart condition caused by a gene mutation. Elena also has the gene mutation that causes the heart condition – she had to have a defibrillator fitted in 2016 and she had to shield during the Covid pandemic.
This is Elena’s story.
“I was really nervous about the Smart Works appointment, especially as we were just coming out of the pandemic. Because I have a disability, a heart condition, I stayed inside and had to shield the entire time.
“Smart Works was such a happy place. When I first came in, even seeing the way the office was set up, and the openness and transparency, the plants and the warm vibe, it takes away all the shame that one may feel when they enter a space that is a charity.
“It was really nice to see [the dressers’] vision for me - it empowered me to see myself in this type of clothing. It made me feel more comfortable in what I was wearing - how I could feel, who I could become.”
“The dressers completely took me out of my comfort zone, but in a good way. I tried a range of different things. There were loads of different colours, and different styles. I remember specifically this white shirt, just trying it on, just the feel of it was really nice and comforting. That combined with my Radley London bag made me feel very professional.
“It was really nice to see [the dressers’] vision for me - it empowered me to see myself in this type of clothing. It made me feel more comfortable in what I was wearing - how I could feel, who I could become, if that makes sense.
“[My coaching session] really helped me, because I came in with something that I was struggling with. I came in knowing that I can talk for ages - and sometimes that doesn't pan out well, because it may mean that I can connect more, but it also means that I may not be as efficient. So we worked on the STAR interview technique and speaking concisely.
“After my internship interview, I ended up being allocated a placement at Bloomberg and it was really, really interesting. I was really interested in their philanthropies department and all the work they were doing there.
“As a result of coming here to Smart Works and going on to my internship with Bloomberg, I’m now setting myself up for life after studies. I’ve just finished my A-levels and I’m going to university at the end of September. I’m going to Warwick University to study Politics and International Studies.
“I hate to admit it, but I do have a disadvantage in that I have a disability and I am a carer. I have all these things going on… but I don’t stop moving, that’s just not how I live. So if I can try and develop my skillset, and do things like this and take incredible opportunities like Smart Works, then yeah, I'll take everything I can.
“It’s nice to see Smart Works working with young people as well, because a lot of people that come through here are a bit older, maybe, or people who have been unemployed for quite a while. For younger people to come through and have that support before they reach that point, it really helps avoid the problems later on.”
Thank you so much for sharing your stories with us, Tina and Elena.
Find your perfect bag for work, or for anytime, with our latest collection. And remember when you shop today we’ll donate to Smart Works.