Santa Ana Dress for Success event builds sense of self-worth
By Luis Patino, CDCR Public Information Officer
Dressing for success is much more than a catch phrase. Experts say it’s a concept that can be transformative. “People dress up for job interviews because how they dress affects the impressions that other people form of them,” said Ohio State University Professor Jennifer Crocker.
Professor Crocker, Ohio University’s Eminent Scholar in Social Psychology, is a firm believer in dressing for success. She also studies self-esteem and how people develop their sense of self-worth.
In a recent issue of USA Today she said, “Clearly we can dress up to try and manage how other people see us, and we can also dress up to manage how we see ourselves.”
This concept was exactly what the staff at the Santa Ana Day Reporting Center (DRC) had in mind when they recently hosted their first Dress for Success event.
Natasha Tave, the site’s Job Developer who coordinated the event, said the Behavioral Interventions (BI) team wanted to “motivate those participants who are seeking employment to dress for success as they begin their quest to secure employment opportunities.”
Motivation is exactly what parolee Angelinn Botehlo got when she set aside her jeans and T-shirt for a snazzy royal blue and black outfit.
“They helped me pick it out,” said Botehlo, 23. “I felt different. I’m not used to dressing like that. It felt pretty good.”
She was one of eight participants the center’s staff took to a local department store to help them select appropriate clothing for job searching and interviews. Seeing herself in professional clothing helped her visualize herself as a successful member of the workforce.
“Yeah, I saw myself and I realized I can dress like that, and I can be like that if I really want to be,” Botelho said.
Her past mistakes and the resulting 18 months she recently completed at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla left her feeling self-conscious. But her self-help work in prison and through the center has helped her, as she put it, “Be honest with myself and everyone else.” She’s about to earn her GED and dreams of getting a stable job and much more.
“I hope to be successful in the future, attend college, eventually have a house, a car, and a family,” she said.
The event helped her believe those goals will become reality.
The same goes for Johannes Warnar. He made some mistakes that got him a year in prison. Now that he’s almost 50 years old, he said he’s trying to get “back to work, be a part of society, move forward and put this behind me.”
Warnar has been an air conditioning maintenance and repairman most of his adult life. But for almost a year since his release, he says he’s just been “doing odds and ends for a temp company.” For Warnar, the event “boosted my ego, made me feel good, and I felt like somebody important.” And it reinforced an important message: “Don’t give up. There is always hope. It’s not the end of the world.”
As part of the project, BI staff at the Santa Ana DRC also hosted a motivational speaker luncheon. Participants took before and after pictures and even had a necktie-tying session for participants, hosted by one of the DRC Client Services Specialists. Like Warnar, many of the men participating had rarely, if ever, tied a tie before.
“It’s good. It gives you inspiration (and) boosts your confidence level,” Warnar said.
Helping parolees take that message to heart was exactly what the organizers intended. Experts would agree it’s exactly the kind of boost people need at critical times.
As Dr. Crocker said, “Everybody has had that time when they feel like ‘I look really good today’ and that’s really a feeling of power and a self-esteem boost.”