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  • How Career Services Helps Students to Dress for Success

    March 06, 2019 | By NACE Staff

    Best Practices

    TAGS: best practices, coaching, interviewing, nace insights, career development

    Spotlight for Career Services Professionals

    Recruiters return to college campuses in the spring for recruiting, so some students return to the career center hoping to find clothes for interviews.

    Recently, career services professionals in the NACE Community discussed how they fill their career clothes closets and maintain them for students. Most of the clothes mentioned were donated by faculty, staff, and community members. Many offer the clothes to students on loan and require the clothes be dry cleaned before being returned. Others give students the clothing to keep.

    How each operates the clothing closet, however, varies widely and offers ideas for career centers looking to open a career clothing closet. Here are some of their thoughts:

    • One state university took donations and crowdfunded $4,500 to purchase clothing for its career closet. Students may choose up to five items per semester and can keep the clothes.
    • Another university closet receives funding from the student government and has paid managers and student volunteers run the closet. The career center markets the closet before networking events, career fairs, and interview days.
    • One employer organized a professional clothing drive and donated clothing to a career center’s clothing closet.
    • Another state university serves 500 to 600 students each semester who need interview clothing. Service learning students in nonprofit management, marketing, and fashion merchandising operate the closet.
    • Several career center professionals said the dry cleaning required makes loaning clothing too costly, so they give clothes to students free.
    • One college holds a clothing sale each semester, selling items for $1 each. All money earned goes to fund $500 scholarships. Students who attend a professionalism workshop get gift certificates for free clothing.
    • A New England university closed its closet when the career center needed renovating. The staff contacted a community thrift shop within walking distance of the school and now that shop offers professional clothing free to students who can’t pay. In turn, the career center staff holds an annual clothes drive for the shop.
    • Another college noted that its career closet got too big to handle, so staff worked with the local Goodwill to take donations. In turn, the shop gives the career center $20 vouchers for professional attire.
    • Several schools mentioned the JCPenney Suit Up program, which offers free consultations in hair and makeup, and discounted prices on suits, dresses, and other items that are needed in a career wardrobe.

    An earlier discussion of career closets offered additional ideas:

    • A donor offered money to set up the closet. A graduate assistant, student assistant, and staff member cataloged each item of clothing and added it to a database. Students borrow clothing and the items are tracked in the same way the career center tracks appointments.
    • Another state university taps a special fund to help financially challenged students who have an interview date set. Students use a university procurement card to make purchases. Students who take advantage of the program are encouraged to donate to the fund when they are financially able to do so.
    • When one business school career center found that donated clothing was outdated or in sizes that didn’t fit the students, it added a small fee to the career fair to offer “suit scholarships.” To qualify for a suit, a student must attend a workshop and the career fair. The budget is $160 each for men and women.
    • Mannequins—Alex and Charli—model new outfits weekly in the career center and around campus for another career clothing closet. The career center tags each item in its inventory and keeps track of what comes in and goes out so that staff know what to purchase when there aren’t enough donations.
    • A yearly “Dressed for Success” event pulls students into one college’s career center to “shop” among the donations. At another, students participate in career readiness workshops and, at the end, get attire for interviews.

    Join the discussion on the NACE Community or start one of your own.

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