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The Career Closet: Helping Students Dress for Success

The Career Closet: Helping Students Dress for Success

Junior Amanda Vital and graduate student Carrie Skrzat at Chestnut Hill College's Career Closet. (Photo by Margaret Terzieva) by Kathleen Dolan

Even the most prepared and qualified young job seeker can experience anxiety over a seemingly trivial but significant component of the interview process: “What do I wear?” “Where do I, a recent graduate, get the money for a professional wardrobe?”

Andrea Boyle, M.S., the assistant director of career development at Chestnut Hill College, and Chelsea Farren, M.Ed., the assistant to the vice president for student life, recently came up with an answer to these questions: the Career Closet.

The Career Closet is a donation-based program where students can pick out interview-appropriate attire at no cost. Boyle and Farren established it to help students feeling discouraged or ill-equipped because they have nothing to wear on job interviews. The makeshift boutique opened April 1 at the career development office in Saint Joseph Hall, Room 350. It’s currently open to all students during the hours the career development office is open: 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Friday, with extended hours on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. The extended hours will end when the spring semester concludes.

Though it opened only a short time ago, the Career Closet is already stocked with clothes: blazers, women’s blouses, men’s dress shirts and jackets, and other wardrobe necessities. It has a boutique kind of feel, and Boyle and Farren have been meticulous and thoughtful in its set up. A color-coding system helps students easily find their sizes. A diagram hangs above women’s wear, illustrating the difference between business casual and business professional. A men’s size chart for jackets and pants is suspended near the ties. There are accessories and lint rollers to complete a sharp-looking outfit.

While working with students in career planning, which offers services like mock job interviews, among others, Boyle saw the need to provide guidance on what to wear on job interviews, a seldom-discussed and often nerve-racking concern. Similarly, Farren recalled that a student recently said to her, “I would go to an interview, but I don’t have a jacket.” It broke her heart that a student would have to overcome this barrier after four years of hard work. Boyle and Farren knew they had to find a solution.

It didn’t take long for Boyle and Farren to get the Career Closet up and running. In February, Boyle sent emails to the staff at the College and included information about the Career Closet in her weekly career newsletter. Then, the recent Student and Alumni Networking Night helped generate interest among alumni, who donated gift cards. Soon more donations rolled in, coming mostly from staff at first, but now Boyle is hearing from others, such as enthusiastic parents.

Boyle and Farren look over everything before adding it to the rack. So, along with a blouse or a blazer, students are leaving the Career Closet with something else just as valuable: fashion advice from those who’ve been in their position before.

“If we wouldn’t wear it to an interview, then it’s not going to work,” Boyle said. “We would not put that out there for students to wear.”

Boyle and Farren are excited about the Career Closet. Opening day brought a handful of students, and Farren caught some of them Facetiming with friends, showing off its offerings. One student, Farren recalled, said, “They actually have cool stuff!”

“We do!” Farren said, smiling.

For those interested in donating, you can do so in person at the Career Closet during the aforementioned hours, or you can mail items to the career development office; there is no deadline for donations. At the moment, there is a need for men’s attire and, if you have them, shoes. There is also an Amazon Wish List.

For more information, please contact Andrea Boyle at BoyleA@chc.edu. To view the Career Closet’s Amazon Wish List, please visit https://amzn.to/2D4PJNo.

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