Career Closet offers students free professional clothes for interviews


 One lucky K-State student is headed to job interviews wearing President Kirk Schulz’s suit and tie, though he wouldn’t know it.

Schulz, along with Pat Bosco, vice president of student life, Frank Martin, men’s basketball coach and Bill Snyder, head football coach, donated professional clothes to the Career and Employment Services’ Fall 2009 Career Closet.

The CES Career Closet helps students dress professionally for job fairs, interviews and internships by offering them new and gently used dress clothes donated by faculty and community members.

CES is preparing for another round of the Career Closet at the beginning of the Fall 2010 semester, said LaToya Farris, assistant director of CES, located in Holtz Hall. In 2009, the Closet received more than 700 donated items and outfitted more than 100 students. Farris said she expects those numbers to increase this year.

“I’m kind of scared about the amount of stuff we’re going to get,” she said. “I can only imagine with more press attention, and I’m not sure where we’re going to put it all … I’d love to have a permanent location on campus somewhere.”

Because of spatial constraints, CES had to use several small interview rooms in Holtz Hall for temporary clothing displays and dressing rooms last fall, Farris said.

Deb Guillen, CES project manager and coordinator of career fairs, said if the Career Closet could be set up permanently somewhere on campus, students could come throughout the year, rather than just once in the fall semester.

“Our request for donations was so well received, I think the project would take off,” Guillen said.

Sheila Ellis, December 2009 graduate in print journalism, said she heard about the Career Closet through the CES listserv and decided to check it out in September 2009.

“At the time, I did have some business casual clothes, but I didn’t have as much as I wanted,” she said. “I got two blazers and a suit that was in great condition.”

Ellis said she has worn the clothes for her job as a news reporter at The Roanoke Times in Roanoke, Va.

“It really helped out,” she said. “I just didn’t have the money to go buy more professional clothes because I had extra expenses from graduation and moving from Manhattan. I’m very grateful.”

Farris said she first had the idea to start the Career Closet in Summer 2009.

“My friends always give me stuff because I can find people who need it,” she said. “So I thought it would be cool to give some of the stuff to students who could use it.”

She said many students show up to the seven CES career fairs throughout the school year looking unprofessional, because they either can’t afford dress clothes or don’t know how to look the part of a career person.

CES has no requirements for who can take clothes from the Career Closet, as long as they are K-State students. Farris said each student is allowed to take five items.

“After the first day we had to limit students because they would just walk out with huge armfuls of clothes,” she said.

Students who took clothes had the option to leave donations, and all proceeds were given to the Manhattan Emergency Shelter, Farris said.

“It was amazing how many students left money,” she said. “We didn’t have any expectations; some even wrote checks.”

In addition to receiving clothing donations from faculty and community members, about 20 apparel students helped sort and set up all of the clothing, Guillen said. They determined the condition and style worthiness of each piece and hung them on display racks and hangers donated by The Buckle, a clothing store located in the Manhattan Town Center. Guillen said students had fun sorting through and trying on the clothes.

“The men were especially fun to help,” she said. “They would come out of the dressing room and ask ‘Does this fit?’ And we would have to help teach them how to tie their ties. They would feel proud when they found something that fit, and then strut around.”

Farris said the 2009 Career Closet also helped many international students who were not familiar with professional American dress or didn’t bring anything appropriate for interviews with them to the U.S.

As for the student who fit into Bosco’s clothes, Farris said she wonders if he has landed a job by now.

“He probably didn’t even know, but he walked out of here with Bosco’s suit,” she said. “It was sharp looking.”

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