Knowing how to dress professionally is often a first step to launching a successful career.
When entomology student Jacob Hornfeldt (3 CALS) came to Gainesville from Lake Worth, he didn’t think he’d need to pack a suit and tie to study owlet moths.
Then, the Doris Duke Conservation Scholar decided to present his work at UF’s annual Undergraduate Research Symposium. Suddenly, he needed a headshot and presentation-worthy attire.
“I have a shirt and jacket … but I need something better for a headshot,” said Hornfeldt, who visited the Molm Family Gator Career Closet in a T‑shirt and shorts.
He honed in on a fitted grey pinstripe jacket and a crisp blue Oxford shirt, paired with a striped silk tie. Then, wearing the borrowed duds but still clad in shorts, he stepped outside to have his headshot taken.
“This place has a lot of variety,” said Hornfeldt, returning to the Closet a few minutes later. “I might come back to borrow something for the symposium.”
Hornfeldt is one of hundreds of UF students each month who rely on the Molm Family Gator Career Closet, a free lending service that supplies “gently worn” business attire for job interviews, academic conferences, networking events and more.
Students with a valid UF ID can stop by the Career Closet boutique on the ground floor of the J. Wayne Reitz Union Monday through Thursday to browse its extensive selection of clothing, shoes, and accessories. Items can be borrowed for up to seven days.
Career Closet staff members are stylists and educators, says Ja’Net Glover, senior director of career services at the Career Connections Center. As well as explaining the difference between business casual, business professional and business formal, “they make suggestions and help students understand what can and can’t be worn to certain events.”
Students served in the first six months after reopening
Top-name items available, such as Hugo Boss, Loft and Kate Spade
Women’s sizes on hand; men are measured to ensure a great fit
Average monthly dry cleaning expenses
Addressing a Need
UF students have structural engineer Sue dePaoli Molm (BSCE 81) and her sons Hays (1 Finance) and J.R. (4 Accounting) to thank for the revamped Career Closet, as their gift funded its expansion.
Sue Molm recalled a pivotal moment from her own college days when she heard about the Career Closet’s mission. As an undergrad preparing for a job interview, she realized she lacked anything appropriate to wear.
“That realization shook my confidence,” she recalls. Fortunately, a friend loaned her a suitable outfit, enabling Molm to relax and focus on her qualifications.
“To this day,” says Molm, “I remember what I wore, how I felt about my outfit, and what it was like walking in and out of the interview.”
to avoid common personal presentation missteps
Focus on fit
Saggy, baggy clothes, too-short pants, teeny skirts and snug tops detract from a professional image.
Forego the flash
Focus on your accomplishments, not on your bling, your smoky eye shadow, funny tie or tatted triceps.
Don’t forget your feet
Appropriate (and polished) footwear tells your future boss that you pay attention to the details.
Pump that iron
The just-rolled-out-of-bed wrinkled look is out. Also, guys and ladies, make sure hair and nails are tidy.
Substance over style
You may have great personal style, but for most interviews, neutral colors, simple and understated patterns and classic clothes set a more professional and less distracting tone.
If the Shoe Fits
Think “Uber for fashion” — and it’s free. Older generations may attach a stigma to borrowing clothes, but that’s not how today’s teens and twentysomethings see it, says Dana McPherson at UF’s Career Connections Center. They’re practical and thrifty, and they embrace renting items — from rides to rooms — as a sustainable, eco-friendly way of meeting their needs. Why should dress clothes be any different? “This is a generation that uses Poshmark,” McPherson says.
“It’s our way of [giving] students confidence … at interviews. That frees their mental energy to concentrate on conveying their academic, involvement and personal accomplishments.”
Sue dePaoli Molm (BSCE ’81), whose family gift expanded the closet and its offerings
“Most undergraduates don’t realize they need to bring professional clothes … to school.”
Jessica Phillipe, UF Career Closet operations specialist
“Knowing how to tie a tie and choose correctly fitting, professional attire are transferrable skills that students … take with them.”
Ja’Net Glover, senior director of UF Career Services
“We coach them through the whole career-development process and make sure students feel as confident on the inside are they are on the outside.”
Lauredan Official, Career Closet fashion advisor
The Shirt Off Their Racks
The Career Closet is piloting Free Clothes on Free Fridays, a giving program for needy students. After consulting with a wardrobe advisor, students may select one item from the racks, for keeps.
“We’re beginning with pants and shirts because that’s what we have the most of,” says Jessica Phillipe, operations specialist for the Gator Career Closet, “but in time we’d like to offer suits and dresses. We need more donations to do that.”
Lend a Hand
The Molm Family Gator Career Closet wecomes donations of clothing, shoes or cash. Some alumni have even made per-semester/year pledges to cover dry cleaning and item replacement costs.
UF Association of Black Alumni members are conducting a Molm Family Career Closet clothing drive competition. All Gators are welcome to contribute through any ABA chapter (Atlanta, Gainesville, Jacksonville, South Florida, Tampa Bay, Washington, D.C.) by Homecoming weekend. Results will be published in the winter issue of this magazine.
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