When Leonel Torres started working at DePaul’s Career Center as a customer service coordinator, he had the idea of creating a program designed to offer students professional clothing for interviews, job or internship fairs, and networking events.
“Working through all of these obstacles that come with finding your first job, you find that what you’re wearing isn’t always at the top of your list,” he said.”
With graduation coming up in June, students are beginning to search for post-college internships and jobs. They’re gathering materials such as resumes, cover letters, portfolios, references but they’re not focusing on how to dress for an interview. The real issue is not many students know how to dress for interviews nor can they always purchase the appropriate clothing. Now, two years after Torres’s initial idea, the Career Center is offering a new solution: Career Closet.
“When I first started here as a full-time employee, I was looking to donate some professional clothing to DePaul students,” he said. “But I found that there was no program or source on campus to do that at.”
Torres then sought out to create a program designed to offer students free professional clothes for their interviews and networking events. He began looking around DePaul for funding opportunities and someone who might help him get the funding for the program. Two years later, he and Jen Fleming, the College of Education Career Advisor, were able to find a grant, receive donations from various DePaul staff members and purchase the necessary items needed to pilot Career Closet.
The new program is located in the Schmitt Academic Center in room 151 and is currently in its pilot phase, working out minor kinks and testing how students use it. Career Closet opened on April 16th and Torres said there were several students who found the appropriate clothing they needed within the wardrobes and shelves.
The closet contains two wardrobes: one containing women’s clothing ranging from professional blouses, dresses to blazers, and the other contains men’s clothing with dress pants, shirts and jackets. There is also a storage shelf that contains a variety of dress shoes and ties. Students are entitled to four items an academic year.
“The point of this is to help students make a great first impression and if the clothes aren’t up to par, we’re doing them a disservice,” he said.
Showing up to an interview dressed inappropriately is a good way to get off on the wrong foot with a potential employer. Becky Thomas, an adjunct professor at the Driehaus College of Business who specializes in career development, agrees.
“That day is about showcasing how professional you are, not how stylish and flashy you are.” She said that an interview should be focused on your experience and the contribution you can make to that organization. “Dressing too flashy or too casual could distract from that or worse, lead to the employer tying in how you dress with how you are as an employee.”
Thomas says she advises students to ask what the dress code is before going in to an interview. “Even if the employer says casual, I suggest dressing your normal casual looks up,” she said. “Pairing a pair of pants with a nice blouse and blazer or button-down shirt with a tie if you’re a man would be a great casual yet professional outfit.”
Thomas also says students should consider the age of the interviewer. “The hiring staff or interview are likely a generation above students searching for jobs right now,” she said. “Generation X are used to interviewing in suits so they’ll likely be looking for the same in their potential employees (male and female).”
Torres agrees that suits are the ideal outfits for men but a good, reasonably priced suit is hard to come by for college students.
“Right now, we’re really lacking suits because they’re hard to find for all the students.” He’s hoping within the next few months they get more suits in the donations for the next academic year as well as a variation of sizes. Donations are accepted at the Career Center Monday through Friday.
Amenah Jaffrey, a senior at DePaul majoring in Finance, says the Career Closet is a great resource needed amongst students. Though she hasn’t used it, she heard about it from friends and wished it had been available earlier on in her academic career.
“If Career Closet was there when I was a sophomore I would totally use it! I’m graduating this spring so I probably won’t use it but think it’s a strong resource.”
She said that freshman and sophomores would get the most use of it since they have no real knowledge of how to dress for interviews or networking events. “For students attending the career fairs, the career closet is really useful,” she said. Additionally, she thinks it should be better advertised to students.
“I think students will use it if its advertised during classes or student organizations host the founder to speak about it.”
Career Closet is currently available to all students. Walk-ins are welcomed during Career Center business hours or an appointment can be made with email@example.com. Torres is looking to set up specific hours for the program once he learns more about student needs. Additionally, he’s hoping to expand Career Closet to the loop campus but will wait to see how the results from the pilot phase come out before seeking additional funding.
“It’d be a dream to expand to both campuses and offer everything that student’s need,” he said.