Campus Career Closet helping students dress for success

Published: April 11, 2018
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Auburn students can walk into career fairs and interviews confident that they will look their best regardless of their financial situation with the help of the Campus Career Closet.

The Auburn University Career Center, in partnership with Auburn Cares, Student Government Association and the Office of Professional Career Development, created the Campus Career Closet as a free resource for students.

“The whole idea of an interview or conference is showing your confidence and marketing yourself effectively,” said Addye Buckley-Burnell, assistant director for career development in the Career Center. “When students don’t feel confident in what they’re wearing, that’s going to come through potentially in an interview. We don’t want any student to feel like they can’t portray themselves in the most professional way.”

Without proving need, students may make an appointment through Handshake and visit the Career Closet to spend an hour browsing on their own or with friends. Career Center staff members are also available to give feedback on fit and style if needed.

Students are allowed to choose up to four items of clothing to keep every school year. Unlike a rental service, these items are for students to keep and continue using as needed.

“We figure it doesn’t help to just put a band aid on the situation if the items are just for rent,” Buckley-Burnell said. “They’re still going to need these clothes. We wanted to make sure our students are prepared.”

The room is set up like a boutique with racks of clothing, a changing corner, a full-length mirror and a steamer. Students can choose from new or gently used men and women’s business professional and business casual clothing. The closet has sizes ranging from XS-6X, and with a four-item allowance, students can walk out with a full outfit for an interview, conference or career fair. For one of the items, students can choose to put the finishing touches on a look and pick out accessories such as ties, belts, shoes, bags and jewelry.

Local community partners including Belk, Ann Taylor Loft, 4 Seasons Dry Cleaners and Mary’s Alterations have assisted by donating clothing racks, mannequins and coupons for students to use. If a student doesn’t find what they need in the closet, they can take coupons to help with the cost of a clothing purchase. The Career Center also keeps a list of what sizes and styles people need and can contact a student when new items arrive.

“We don’t want anyone to feel obligated to spend $200 on a suit when it’s not always opportune,” Buckley-Burnell said. “If we can lessen that stress for students, we find that incredibly helpful.”

More than 200 items have been distributed through the Campus Career Closet, and Buckley-Burnell said students have been “very appreciative.”

Survey results are positive, indicating that students who use the Career Closet are satisfied and likely to recommend it to their friends. Results also revealed that students appreciate having the Career Closet as a resource to prepare for job interviews.

“I think it’s a need for international students because they’re not necessarily told when they come here to bring those items, so a lot of students don’t even think about it,” she said. “They were coming to our career fairs, which was great, but they didn’t necessarily know what to wear or have what they needed. They’ve been big supporters of the effort.”

Several universities have similar programs, and Buckley-Burnell noticed the need at Auburn as soon as she arrived on campus a few years ago. This past summer, with the help of campus and community partners, they were able to design the space and get the program off the ground at the start of the fall semester.  Honor fraternities in the Harbert College of Business and the Advisors Caucus hosted clothing drives to stock the closet for the grand opening.

“We’ve received amazing donations from all around campus and the community,” Buckley-Burnell said. “There have been a few organizations really interested in it and SGA has been a big proponent as well. We’ve really been trying to spread it as much as possible and let students know they’re welcome.”

Buckley-Burnell said she would like to see more community partnerships and events for the Career Closet in the future. She would like to establish possible student discounts at local department stores, and also create an internship opportunity for apparel merchandising students.

“We want every student on Auburn’s campus to be prepared as much educationally or academically as they can be, but then also to portray themselves in the best way,” Buckley-Burnell said.

For more information or to make an appointment, sign into Handshake or call the Career Center at (334) 844-4744. The Career Center accepts donations of new or gently-used professional attire. Donations can be dropped off anytime between 7:45 a.m.-4:45 p.m., at the Career Center office, 303 Martin Hall, 211 W. Thach Ave.