Looking confident and professional in career-ready clothing is an essential part of preparing for any job interview, however for college students this can be more difficult than it sounds.
“A lot of times students can’t afford to go out and buy something,” said Maggie Smith, a career resource specialist with the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s Career Services office. “We provide a great way to start building a wardrobe so they can present themselves and brand themselves professionally.”
Career Services, located on campus at 759 Elmwood Ave., offers students resources on interviewing, networking, resume building and career planning to help strengthen their confidence and professional image in the job market.
The Career Closet is a popular resource within Career Services, available at no cost to all current students as well as recent alumni who have graduated with the previous year.
Career Closet visitors can take home up to four pieces of professional clothing per semester at no charge. This allows students to build a wardrobe of suits, blouses, ties and dress pants for current or future interviews, career fairs, internships, and jobs.
“In the first eight months following the launch of the Career Closet in October 2013, 1,450 items were donated by employer sponsors and community members and over 1,000 items were taken by UWO students,” Career Services director, Jaime Page-Stadler said. “To date, over 10,000 items have been donated and taken by our students.”
The addition of an array of gently used shoes is planned in the future.
“We saw a few students in jeans at the (recently-hosted) Career Fair and it may be an object of money,” Smith said about the lack of career attire. “It’s exciting when you get a collection of professional clothing going.”
Students of all backgrounds are encouraged to use the Career Closet as it is always stocked with clothing for men, women and students who are gender nonbinary.
“We strive to make sure the Career Closet is inclusive for all students,” Page-Stadler said. “Accessibility hooks are available for shoppers to reach upper racks, we’ve removed gender labels from racks and private shopping events are held to ensure gender nonbinary students
may feel safer and more welcome while using the Career Closet.”
Echo Watters, a freshman from Iola, who is majoring in radio/TV/film and minoring in anthropology, has visited the Career Closet twice since starting at UW Oshkosh in the fall 2017.
“I went to the Career Closet in order to find some professional clothing for two job interviews I had,” Watters said. “The clothes I got from there made me feel more confident—which is an important part of landing a job.”
During her visits to the Career Closet, Watters picked up two pairs of dress pants and three blouses.
“It’s nice that it’s a free resource,” Watters said. “I really haven’t had a chance to build up a professional wardrobe of my own because of how expensive it is.”
Andrew Gawronski, of Menomonee Falls, is a junior at UW Oshkosh double-majoring in criminal justice and anthropology. He visited the Career Closet for the first time to prepare for an internship with a police department this summer.
“Having more professional clothing will allow for a more professional look at the internship,” Gawronski said.
At his visit to the Career Closet, Gawronski expanded his collection of professional wear by picking up a few button-up shirts.
Working world success
Beyond offering students professional clothing for their interviews, internships or job there is an effort to ensure students are the “whole package.”
“UW Oshkosh Career Services coordinates a robust professional skills program,” Page-Stadler said. “Students participating in the professional skills program learn how to conduct job and internship searches, engage in networking contacts, create a successful resume and refine their interview skills. They are equipped, confident and connected when finishing the course.”
By providing access to professional dress and skills, Career Services staff work to ensure students have all the tools they need to succeed in the working world.