In her early fifties, Julie Stocca’s life did a complete 180. She found herself in the middle of a divorce, financially unstable and searching for a job after 13 years away from the workforce.
Though she’d once held an exciting career as a flight attendant with Ansett Australia, Julie and her husband made the decision that she should stay at home and raise their sons rather than continue working. For years, she lived for her family; forsaking opportunities to pursue her own ambitions and forgetting work-life altogether. When her marriage fell apart, Julie says her “self-confidence was completely eroded.”
“I had lost my financial independence and I had limited computer skills. It was very confronting,” she explains.
But falling into a heap of despair wasn’t a viable option. Instead, Julie enrolled for an outreach course with TAFE called Working Opportunities for Women. It was through this course that fortunes changed and she was introduced to Dress for Success Sydney.
“On my first visit to DFSS, I was beautifully styled by the amazing volunteers,” Julie shares with us. “One particular outfit brought me to tears, as I looked in the mirror and I saw the “old Julie”– the Julie I had forgotten existed. I felt beautiful.” She says.
Through DFSS Julie attended free workshops which helped her master practical skills like writing a resume and managing money. She was also introduced to a support network of women experiencing similar upheavals to her own.
“Meeting other women from all walks of life helped me not feel so alone,” she says. “I didn’t feel so isolated, and we supported and helped each other.
Julie describes her experience with DFSS as life altering. The organisation helped her secure an initial role cleaning rental properties for a real estate agency, but she soon established the confidence to ask for another position in-house. A year after that, Julie applied for a role online which she felt was “perfect” for her.
“I wore the outfit from DFSS and walked into the interview feeling confident and poised, I knew first impressions count. The interview went well and a few days later, to my surprise, I had the job!”
“Dress for Success Sydney gave me the courage to believe in myself,” Julie says simply.
Despite being in a confident and positive space now, Julie offers some sage advice to other women going through similar challenges.
“Financial literacy and economic independence for women is extremely important,” she says. “Years away from the workforce, caring for children and family, lower wages and longer life expectancy. We need to take control. It’s empowering and you never know what life will throw at your own destiny.”
She emphasises however, that life is a complicated road with plenty of potholes. Women need to stop putting pressure on themselves to be infallible.
“You don’t need to be strong, just strong enough,” says Julie.
“It’s okay to feel vulnerable and it’s okay not to be perfect. Believe in yourself and most of all ask for help. Because wonderful organisations like Dress for Success Sydney are there, just waiting for you to be the next one to walk through their door.”