One hundred job seekers benefited last year from USC’s first Professional Clothing Drive. Fifty of them found a job during the toughest economy in decades.
Those are numbers worth emphasizing during the last week of USC’s second drive, which ends Friday.
Donations, which are tax deductible, will be accepted from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Apparel can be dropped off by the University Park campus at 3535 S. Figueroa St., Room 100 (entrance on Figueroa) and on the Health Sciences campus at 1975 Zonal Ave. (KAM 420).
Irma Chavez, one of those who benefited, said she believes the new outfit put her over the top.
“You feel the way you look and my clothes made me more confident,” said Chavez, who wore a donated charcoal blazer and slacks to her interview.
The 29-year-old had been out of work for about five months when she underwent an intense weeklong boot camp for the unemployed at the Southeast L.A.-Crenshaw WorkSource Center, which benefits from USC’s clothing drive.
“My savings were not good, and I wasn’t getting any responses,” said Chavez, who had worked as a housekeeper, administrative assistant and in customer service.
After learning job interview techniques and taking a workshop on work readiness, Chavez sat down for a mock interview with Phil Barajas of the Worksource Center.
It was during these dress rehearsals that Barajas noticed a recurring flaw – the job seekers were not dressing the part. This wardrobe malfunction, Barajas said, would turn off many prospective employers.
So when USC recruiting manager David Brown asked “What do you need?,” Barajas had an answer: quality clothes.
The request was a bit outside of Brown’s purview. Then Brown realized he could do a lot more than donate one of his old suits because he belonged to the Trojan Family.
“Why not a professional clothing drive at USC?” Brown said. “The Trojan staff, faculty and students are committed to making a difference in our communities. Read the mission statement: ‘development of human beings and society of a whole.’ That’s why I work at USC.”
Brown credited his freedom to think beyond his job description to his work on Transform L.A., a Community Hiring effort led by Roberto Blain, director of USC Talent Services, in partnership with USC Government and Civic Engagement.
While Brown’s aim is to increase local hires at USC, his ultimate goal is to empower the local community in finding careers whether or not the individuals are at USC.
The impact of the clothing drive has led to donations and partnerships with JC Penney and Macy’s, as well as makeovers by L.A. Trade Tech cosmetology students, Barajas said.
“The donations we got from USC have gone a long way,” he said. “Honestly, it makes me feel like I’m giving back. It’s my job to help them get a job. But this is an extra step.”