STEP Summer Internship at Dress for Success Seattle in Seattle, Washington

Name: Mallory Masarik

Name.#: Masarik.3

Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. 

For my STEP project, I completed an internship out-of-state. I interned at Dress for Success Seattle, which is an affiliate of the international Dress for Success organization, a nonprofit with a mission of empowering women to achieve economic independence by providing them with resources to attain and retain employment. Services include providing women with interview and work appropriate attire, mentorship programs, and career services such as assistance building resumes, networking, completing applications, and mock interviews. As an intern, I was a stylist to many new clients, helping them feel confident going into interviews in a professional outfit. I also styled many of our clients in a second fitting once they achieved employment where they were able to return to us for a week’s worth of clothing. Generally, I assisted with day-to-day tasks, including data entry on donors and clients, scheduling clients and volunteers, managing volunteers, greeting clients, and collecting client intake forms. My long-term projects included creating corporate partnerships, assisting the affiliate director with grant applications, and eventually completing a new grant narrative on my own for a $450,000 capital project.

What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? 

Throughout my three-month internship with Dress for Success Seattle, I learned various things about myself and about the world. Since I began at OSU in 2016, I’ve been able to volunteer at a variety of places throughout Columbus. My sophomore year I volunteered weekly at Dress for Success Columbus, which is what inspired me to explore the Seattle affiliate. After experiencing each affiliate, I feel that I am so much more accepting to change. Each branch has a different way of doing things, yet their messages and impacts remain the same- they each provide the same services, but their office processes are all so different. At first, the difference in the Seattle affiliate versus the Columbus affiliate was shocking to me because some things they did were so different from what I had previously known by working with the Columbus affiliate. However, in just a few short days I saw how important these differences were. Each affiliate caters to their own community and to the women they serve and I’ve learned that there are so many different ways to get a message across.

Additionally, I’ve become a much more patient and less anxious person. Prior to my STEP project, small hiccups in the morning may have derailed my entire day. Through a variety of experiences this summer, I’ve seen how the professional world, especially in professions involving client services, require a tremendous amount of patience and an ability to adapt. When clients didn’t show for their appointments or a volunteer didn’t make it in, I learned that the most effective and helpful thing to do is to move on with positivity, and most importantly, with patience. I’m so thankful for this lesson because I know it will help me in my nonprofit future, as well as in my day-today life.

What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? As I previously touched on, it was quite rare to have a day in the office where everything went as planned. Many of our clients didn’t have reliable access to transportation and were coming from difficult backgrounds, including single mothers and survivors of domestic violence. With these challenges and circumstances, it was typical for our day to include a few “no show” clients. From my supervisor, I learned how that was nothing to get frustrated by – I learned to have patience and understanding in all situations that occurred.

I interacted with numerous clients throughout my three-month internship with Dress for Success Seattle. I would greet almost every client that came through the entrance doors, and worked with many clients as their stylist. In a styling appointment, I worked with women seeking employment and women who had newly obtained employment, finding them a professional outfit for an interview or a week’s worth of professional clothing appropriate for their new job. Styling appointments were possibly my favorite activity because I had the honor of being a small part of making a woman feel valued and confident. I heard so many stories from each client- it was amazing to see how quickly we became comfortable with each other. I live a life of many privileges as a white person being educated at OSU, and clients were often of very different backgrounds. Sometimes I was met with resistance at the start of appointments, but I was able to adapt myself to fit the needs of each client and was able to make them feel comfortable and unjudged with me. At the end of each appointment, we ask clients to fill out surveys. Reading those surveys and learning about how much the experience met to the client provided me and each volunteer with validity, knowing that the services we provide daily were serving their purpose, and even beyond it.

The final project that I completed as an intern at Dress for Success Seattle was writing a new grant narrative. I was humbled by the freedom I was given to do this on my own. In completing a grant application, I was entrusted to write a new grant narrative for a $450,000 capital project, including a project schedule and budget. The process was extremely difficult and more time consuming than I expected, but throughout the process I learned so much about the affiliate and all the success that they have. This process helped me work on my patience, and my ability to learn on my own. If there was something I didn’t know how to do I learned to find the answer for myself by using a variety of different resources. Finally, I was thankful to have had the opportunity to give back to the organization in a small way and take a task off the director’s list.

Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?

My supervisor at Dress for Success Seattle gave me a lot of freedom throughout the summer to complete projects and assignments as I saw fit. With that, she also guided me into the right direction and was always available to me when I had questions. In my final meeting with my supervisor, I expressed my gratitude for the experience and all it taught me. From customer relations to professional skills like grant writing, I feel so much more prepared for all the steps I take in the future. I was so surprised by how valuable it is to have confidence talking to clients, donors, and volunteers, and my newfound confidence in this helped me to feel worthy when applying for other internships.

The small size of the staff at the office paired with the large client base made my experience very unique. I felt like a valued asset on our small team of 3, and that I truly made a difference in the lives of each client I had. I had a strong passion for the organizations mission and saw the good that we were doing every single day. This experience solidified my passion for nonprofits and my goal to have my career be in that sector.   


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