Career Outfitters: Dress for Success

 

For many college students, interacting in a professional setting and transitioning into business attire is a new experience that comes with considerable doubt and frustration. Tying a tie, putting together a winning interview outfit, or deciphering the difference between business casual and business professional may be daunting tasks met with much distress. However, with their annual Career Outfitters event, The Virginia Tech Office of Career and Professional Development strives to make the experience a little less intimidating by providing access to professional attire and tips to help students make lasting impressions in their interviews.

Dedicated interns like Blythe Boyd take on the necessary labor, from organizing a closet full of donations from businesses and individuals to preparing the marketing materials and working the two-day event.

We spoke with Boyd, a sophomore majoring in Fashion Merchandising and Design (FMD), to gain insight on the event and learn more about the whole process, stealing a few style tips along the way. Read on!

1. What is your role with Career Outfitters?

Essentially, I am coordinating the event from start to finish with help from my resources and supervisor. I reach out to companies and try to get donations for door prizes, like gift cards or certificates for men’s and women’s suits, and organizations like [Her Campus] trying to get press, and I work on coming up with flyers and promotional items, getting volunteers, and setting up for the event on event day. We turn the career center into basically like a retail store!

 

2. What challenges have you faced?

We get donations year-round. So this summer, we received tons of donations. We have a closet in the career center where we organize it and when I first got here, the biggest challenge was sorting through everything -- and sizing it all.

Because we are solely donation run, all of our clothes are donations, as well as the door prizes. A lot of [the door prizes] is to help out students if they aren’t able to find something in their size.

 

3. Is the clothing mostly second-hand or newly donated items?

Majority of it is second-hand, almost 100%. Some [new] clothes come from stores if they aren’t able to donate a gift certificate. Like we got a full outfit of our choice from Belk: suit separates with pants and a blazer and shirt.

 

 

4. When is Career Outfitters?

Our event this year is February 1st and 2nd of 2018. The Smith Career Center is open from 8-5pm.

 

5. How does a volunteer get involved?

In the past, we reached out to FMD majors, since this is something that caters to our major. So we reach out to them and within the department. Other than that, we contact the department heads and provide a little blurb about the event. I am also the Creative Director of FMDS, so we reach out to our members as well.

What it looks like for volunteers is we have them for setup and takedown. Since we turn the interview rooms into dressing rooms, we have volunteers needed to work the dressing rooms, checkout and on the floor just like in any retail store. There’s a wide range of volunteer work that is necessary for this event.

 

6. What kind of items can students expect to find at the Career Outfitters event?

  • Everything from traditional -- blazers.
  • Some really awesome women’s blazers, looks like Cher’s in Clueless
  • Ann Taylor tops, mixed with blouses, all kinds of different colors and styles.
  • More creative, houndstooth patterns.
  • Dresses, skirts.

For men:

  • Ties, really get to mix it up and show their style. Basic red tie to pink + grey.

 

 

7. As a Fashion student, what tips can you suggest for dressing for a successful interview?

In our dressing rooms, we have little flyers to inform like, “How to Tie a Tie.” College is the first time a lot of people are having to deal in a professional sense, go to interviews or networking events and interact with other professionals. Some people might not know how to tie a tie. I’m also really excited about the flyer about makeup in the workplace, which is new this year. Fashion can be more creative, but the typical office job is a little bit different. You don’t want to distract from the qualities that make you a great candidate. We try to get people from the drycleaners and tailors to come and help with the fit of garments and show students that. We also have posters about what makes a professional outfit, the difference between business professional vs. business casual.

Blythe’s tips:

I am actually very passionate about professionalism. One of the reasons I like this internship is it teaches students professionalism. Just because you have to dress professionally, does not mean you have to dress boring. Still let your personality show!

*Blythe’s favorite interview outfit combination: Pixie pants, flats + blazer.

 

8. What else can we expect in the time leading up to Career Outfitters?

A lot of advertising on our Facebook page, a lot of posting about the different donations we are getting, and the businesses who are helping students to be successful in the professional world.

 

9. Anything else you want to add?

Some of our donors include Belk, Joseph A. Banks, Old Navy and Sundee Best. It’s all completely free! Get a full professional outfit.

Keep up with updates from the Virginia Tech office of Career and Professional Development through social media. Follow @VTCareerProfDev on Instagram and check out @VTCareerOutfitters on Facebook. You can reach out to Blythe directly ([email protected]) for inquiries with donating and volunteering. Check it out this February 1st and 2nd between 8am-5pm at the career center.