Photo by Cary Edmondson

What smiles may come: Dressing for success

By ELISA NAVARRO, Student Writer

Remember your first interview? Waking up that morning, getting dressed? You probably planned your wardrobe the night before, or rather, stressed about it the night before. Remember how you felt when you got everything looking just right? The confident smile that suddenly appeared on your face when you looked at yourself in the mirror? And later on, after you got the job, the even bigger smile that you couldn’t contain — that you didn’t want to contain — darting across your face?

For so many of us, those memories of our first job interview are memories we will carry with us for a lifetime. The way a good suit, a freshly pressed shirt, or the new blouse and scarf made us feel. It made us feel confident.

“I can do this.”

That’s what the Career Development Center at Fresno State is working to help students see, to help students realize. They’re working to help students get to “the smile,” to get to the “I can do this.” But it’s not something you can just talk about. It’s something that has to be lived.

It’s the Clothing Closet, and it’s something that Debbie Young, Interim Director of the Career Development Center, has long seen the need for. So when Young accepted the Interim Director position last summer, she saw an opportunity to help students get to “the smile.”

“The idea started in about September and has become a reality…it happened a lot faster than I thought it would,” Young said.

Photo by Elisa Navarro

“It’s been awesome! When you look at this and see how many people are involved, and what’s really cool is that we are being really well supported,” Young said. “There is a lot of support at the top of the organization for this because it is part of the theme of student success — [students] are trying to better their lives, for their families, they want job interviews, they want to go to job fairs…but they have nothing to wear.”

Until now.

The last few months have been a flurry of activity and development to get the Clothing Closet ready for business. Taking in donations to line the clothing racks; partnering with students from the Fashion Design program to organize the clothing and create pairings; and investing a $5,000 contribution from President Castro’s office in other start-up materials. And though it wasn’t officially open yet (the grand opening took place on April 1), Young started getting the word out to students so they knew they had a resource.

“I had a graduate student come in who has three kids and needed an outfit for an interview. She had tears in her eyes with her outfit on. It was really cool because you really are touching someone’s life,” Young said.

The Clothing Closet has come a long way in a short period of time. From the moment you walk in you see racks of clothing, donated by Fresno State staff, faculty, alumni and members of the community passionate about helping prepare students for those next steps.

Photo by Elisa Navarro

Suits, shirts, blouses, dresses, blazers, belts and accessories…all of it here to help the student get to “the smile.” Here because people know how good that smile feels when you look the part. When you get the job.

Sustainability of the Clothing Closet is in the front of Young’s mind, but she only sees opportunity, partnering with students in the Craig School of Business, Non-Profit Management class to develop a sustainability plan to bring in donations as well as create sustained awareness among students.

“It’s sustainable because we will always have students who need clothing but we will always, hopefully, have people to donate clothing as well,” Young said.

And you know what the great thing is about donating? Remember “the smile” when you got your first job? It’s the same smile that comes across your face when you make a donation to the Clothing Closet. And it’s the first glimpse of that same smile that will come across a Fresno State students face when they try on your donated clothing.

So smile, because you have the opportunity to make a difference in the life of a fellow Bulldog.

If you would like to make a donation, plan a donor drive with your company, or talk with Debbie Young about other partnership opportunities, please call 559.278.2381, or follow the Career Development Center on Facebook, or Twitter.