As a female university student on the verge of graduating, there are many things to worry about — student debt, career decisions and job interviews. What to wear to that interview matters a lot, says Ayden Athwal, board director and chair with Dress for Success Calgary.

“It’s really important to understand your assets and then highlight that. Another thing is comfort, comfort is key. You don’t want to be uncomfortable during an interview.”

Dress For Success, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women in need land job interviews, is holding its bi-annual sale at 1008 14th St. S.E. on April 27 and April 28.

The agency offers a one-on-one boutique styling experience to find job interview outfits for candidates who are struggling financially. The organization helps to create an empowering experience for women before they head into their first interview.

Nisha Johny, a Calgary radio DJ host and part-time affordable fashion blogger on Instagram, says she has a lot of respect for the Dress for Success method.

Nisha Johny and her ability to dress on a budget

Johny is a bubbly individual with the gift of making you feel like you’ve known her for years, even if you’ve just met. She’s quick with a hug, downplays her achievements and reflects on her arrival to Canada from Oman as both a struggle and inspiration for her interest in affordable fashion.

She says her family had little money for new clothes but she wanted to keep up with trends like her teenage friends.

“We immigrated here when I was 13 and my parents didn’t know much about fashion. They would dress me in baggy clothes and say, ‘You know, you will grow into it,’” adding, “You get it right? The brown girl struggle,” she says with a laugh.

Johny has a growing Instagram base, with over 7,000 followers who appreciate her for her fashion and travel posts. Her Instagram strings together like a movie, keeping you on the edge of your seat to see what affordable outfit she’ll put together next.

“I would literally always look at all the stores for sales making sure that I would only shop during sales,”  Johny says. “That’s how I realized that even if you spend really little, you can still look good. Because of that, I’ve collected pieces and been able to post about these things.”

Johny is on Calgarians’ radar, and was nominated as sexiest Calgarian alongside Mayor Naheed Nenshi on the Best of Calgary website.

She helps her followers by tagging the places that she gets each item from and highlighting sales.

She also draws a lot of positive feedback from online followers, including @influencersalliance, who states, “Your content gives me life! Amazing feed in general.”

The importance and simplicity of looking the part

Some experts suggest looking great creates the so-called halo effect, which causes an employer to forgive any minor mistakes you make throughout the interview thanks to your polished attire.

But how can we achieve this effect when our wallets are empty and our minds are elsewhere? Johny says that some of the simplest items can be the best option and they’re not hard to find for a cheap price.

“Literally there are only a couple of pieces that you need to look incredible to go to an interview,” she says. “Get that one piece, that staple, which is that classy button down [shirt] and you can wear that casually as well.”

Johny also recommends one good blazer and a pair of dress pants. “These are items that can be re-used for any job interview.”

outfitNisha Johny puts together a professional outfit that works for a job interview. Her finds are typically cheaper than most. White bodysuit from Zara, $22, blue pants from Zara, $12. Photo courtesy of Nisha Johny.

How does Dress For Success Calgary help?

Anyone, including students, can apply as a candidate at Dress for Success Calgary as long as they can prove they’re in need.

Athwal at Dress for Success Calgary,  provides insights on how the organization helps female graduates.

“The most important thing is confidence, not only are women provided with professional attire, but it’s more like an empowerment session.”

Athwal is certain that a proper wardrobe is essential for a job interview because it’s a step toward confidence.

AthwalAyden Athwal, board director and chair for Dress for Success Calgary, started with the organization in September of 2016. The agency’s biannual sale begins April 27. Photo courtesy of Dress for Success Calgary.

“They’re standing a little bit taller, they’re smiling. And not only do they look beautiful, but they feel beautiful too.”

And it doesn’t just stop at one outfit.

After the interview, candidates are able to go back to the agency for an employment suiting. At the suiting the organization provides a new wardrobe which includes five new outfits to supply you for the first month of work.

Not only does the organization provide professional attire, but they also provide opportunities to create connections, have workshops to build confidence and many other experiences.

Editor: Polly Eason | 

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