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Dress for Success prepares women for jobs with more than clothes

September 21, 2018

Joi Gordon, Dress for Success Worldwide CEO, is keynote speaker at the 2018 Conquer Connect Retreat presented by Bremer Bank.

The empowerment event for women is Friday though Sunday at Oak Ridge Hotel Conference Center in Chaska. The retreat was co-founded by lifestyle expert, speaker and author Jasmine Brett Stringer and Prouty Group Consultant Adrienne Jordan, both of the Twin Cities.

I bonded with Joi when we had to sit around on the set of a photo shoot for O, the Oprah magazine when Talbots introduced a collection that raises money for Dress for Success, Stringer said Tuesday. Shes become an informal mentor and a source of inspiration. I thought she would be a great speaker because she left a traditional career path, as assistant prosecutor in New York, for the nonprofit world. Her track record for success is remarkable. She has expanded the number of Dress for Success affiliates and had a great impact not only through the clothes, the suits that are donated, but the services and support the organization provides.

Due to Gordons rigorous travel schedule, this interview was conducted via e-mail.

Q: Do I correctly intuit that following your passion to volunteer at Dress for Success helped reveal your purpose?

A: I often tell women and/or men who are looking to transition from corporate, academia, etc. into nonprofit to first find something that you are passionate about because that is what [keeps] you in the nonprofit space. If you can align your passion with your purpose, thats going to keep you in this work. While you are working in whatever industry you are working in and you find a cause that you care about, start to volunteer within that organization. See what pieces of the organization interest you more than others and what talent you can bring to that organization. Many times when you are a volunteer the organization will see you and knock on your door before you get a chance to knock on theirs. Its a great opportunity for you to lend your talent, time, and treasure to a nonprofit organization in a volunteer capacity and see if this is a right move before you make a move. Make sure it is an organization you are going to stand behind and love their mission.

Q: Is there anything you wish women knew about attire when they arrive at Dress for Success?

A: What is unique about Dress for Success is that a lot of people know us, but they only know us for the suit. Although our name is Dress for Success and people might think that means it is about the dressing, it is more important that we address and dress her inside than her outside.

Q: Do you ever miss the law?

A: My time as a lawyer has helped develop my confidence. It has also given me a platform to home in on my sales experience. When you are a lawyer, a prosecutor, or a role where you are often in front of juries, the whole trick to that is selling. You have to sell your clients case. That experience made me really comfortable in front of an audience. It made sure I was able to articulate my message and get people to listen to me. I took that into my role at Dress for Success. It has certainly helped me stand in front of large rooms or even small rooms and articulate a message, which really speaks to what we are trying to accomplish at Dress for Success. I did that as a lawyer and I brought that talent right into Dress for Success.

Q: Was being a CEO ever in the back of your mind when you were a lawyer?

A: I went to law school to make a difference and so I wanted to be part of a movement. I knew that giving women the tools they needed to succeed, i.e. the suit, would be the beginning of something great. I knew as a lawyer what it felt like to be 25, wearing a suit every day, and because of how I looked (wearing my power suits) and my role in the courts, I was seen as a woman with power. I knew that the suit was a tool for me and expected that if given to any woman it could elevate her as well and so it has.

Q: What items does Dress for Success Twin Cities really need?

A: Beyond career appropriate clothing basics, each affiliate has a different need. Please contact Dress for Success Twin Cities to identify exactly what is needed.

C.J. can be reached at cj@startribune.com and seen on Fox 9s Buzz.

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