A good education and a solid résumé aren’t always enough to make a positive first impression. To bridge the gap, a group of Kent State University faculty and staff members have come together to establish the Kent State Career Closet, a project to collect, organize and distribute professional attire for students in need of something suitable to wear for a job interview.
Tabitha Martin, venture initiatives advisor at LaunchNET Kent State, says the idea came up during a conversation at the grand opening reception for the Women’s Center at Williamson House last year.
“You can’t go on an interview if you don’t have anything appropriate to wear,” Martin says. “Someone at the gathering said, ‘I have all these clothes I don’t wear any more, and we have this great, new Women’s Center.’ So we said, ‘Let’s just do it.’ We have such a huge campus full of faculty and staff, who I am sure would be happy to have a vehicle to contribute and help the students like this.”
Students like Aliyah Moyé.
“It was enticing because it was free, so I wanted to look at it first,” she told WEWS-TV News 5.
Watch Moyé share her story on WEWS-TV
Moyé is a junior at the university, who just moved off campus and is now paying real bills, which has her on a tight budget. So when it came to interviewing for the president position of her organization, Moyé says part of her secret to nailing the job was the career closet.
“To be able to get something on the fly more so was nice," she said.
The Kent State Career Closet is housed in the lower level of the Williamson House. But the free boutique also will host pop-up shops around campus to raise awareness and take its inventory to a wider audience.
Martin says she and her colleagues – Lori Bodnar, senior advancement officer in the Division of Institutional Advancement; Alicia Robinson, assistant director of the Women’s Center; and Kristin Williams, executive director of Career Exploration and Development – were motivated to open the Kent State Career Closet by memories of their own college-age wardrobes: heavy on sweatshirts and sneakers, light on suits and briefcases.
“This isn’t something students are going to ask about,” she says. “It’s just kind of a gut feeling we’ve all had.”
The founders of Kent State Career Closet envision a welcoming place where anyone with a FLASHcard – student or employee – can go to find pieces of clothing to round out a professional ensemble. Shoppers will be asked to sign in, but there will be no requirement to prove financial need.
Robinson, who is an alumna of Kent State's School of Fashion Design and Merchandising, says she hopes to engage the Fashion School in the Kent State Career Closet project. She says students could gain valuable experience by designing displays, organizing style shows and repairing and altering clothing.
Williams says the Kent State Career Closet also will offer tip sheets with advice for boutique patrons about how they can best present themselves to potential employers and information about other career-preparedness resources on campuses.
“We want to make students feel comfortable so they can come in, pick some clothes and feel comfortable going to career fairs and expos and job interviews,” Bodnar says. “We want them to know there is no stigma.”
Kent State faculty and staff members dedicate themselves to helping students obtain the knowledge, skills and experience they need to achieve their career goals. By supporting Kent State Career Closet, they can help give students the additional boost they need, Martin says.
“We have to reinforce the idea that college isn’t just about preparing you skillwise for being out in the career world,” Martin says. “All of these other pieces go into it – knowing how to dress and act and how to present yourself in general.
“As much as we would love for no one to ever be judged by how they look, the fact is, how you look when you walk into an interview makes a difference,” Martin continues. “There are so many of these soft skills that go around what students learn in class to help them be successful when they leave here or even maybe while they are here.”
The Kent State Career Closet is seeking donations of new or gently used professional clothing, including blazers, shirts, blouses, skirts, pants and ties. The project also is in need of hangers, clothing racks, storage items and gift cards or donations for laundering. The Kent State Career Closet is unable to accept donations of undergarments, shoes and any clothing item that is damaged or outdated.
All donations will stay within the community, Robinson says. Anything that is deemed unsuitable for the Kent State Career Closet will be donated to other local nonprofits.
Sponsors of Kent State Career Closet include Kent State’s Women’s Center, LaunchNET Kent State and Career Exploration and Development.
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